NASCAR has crashed in the Northwest, but there is a Dale Earnhardt movie to console us. Or if you prefer, the invigorating sport of Rock Paper Scissors. I feel obliged to offer...
NASCAR has crashed in the Northwest, but there is a Dale Earnhardt movie to console us. Or if you prefer, the invigorating sport of Rock Paper Scissors.
I feel obliged to offer these choices. It’s escaped no one’s notice that we have a severe case of red state-blue state in our own state, as evinced by the recent racetrack caper.
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Plans for a 75,000-seat track in Snohomish County died when local officials and International Speedway Corp. executives couldn’t put together a credible financing deal.
The parting was amiable. The cultural speculation was less so.
To some local pundits, the arrival of a sport born of whiskey-running, bred on tobacco sponsorships and fueled by naked aggression and profligate consumption of fossil fuels would threaten our book-reading, hacky-sacking, cortex-driven identity.
Television may not be the cure for mutual fear and loathing. On the other hand, it’s an inexpensive way to walk on the other side.
I like to think the folks who devotedly watch National Geographic specials about tribes living 8,000 miles away would at least give a shot to “3,“debuting at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN. It puts a face on NASCAR and one of racing’s greatest legends.
Conversely, viewers that derive more thrills from confrontation than conflict resolution may benefit from a sport incorporating both: The “World Rock Paper Scissors Championships,” at 11 tonight on Fox Sports Net.
As biographies go, the late Dale Earnhardt’s is suitable for framing. He grew up in rural North Carolina’s subsistence-level world of textile mill workers. His father, Ralph Earnhardt, was an early dirt-tracker.
These starter ingredients put a nice historical spin on “3,” the racing number eventually and famously identified with Dale Earnhardt.
The movie is especially deft at depicting the early days of racing, when stock cars truly were stock cars and the majority of drivers were barely a generation removed from using souped-up automobiles to escape the law.
The casual interactions among drivers give “3” a genuineness. In this film, the more modest the attitude, the better the effect.
I do wish that same restrained approach could have been used in the scenes that shape Dale Earnhardt’s character and ambition. Unfortunately, the script has a tendency to slide into platitudes and omniscient statements that lay down the heavy hand of Destiny.
Barry Pepper, who did such a terrific job of portraying Roger Maris in HBO’s “61*,” overcomes this challenging dialogue and turns in a marvelous, uncanny interpretation of Earnhardt.
I don’t know if “3” will make anyone a fan of NASCAR. Even television’s copious coverage of the sport never conveys the smell of the grease or the roar of engines.
But it’s entertaining the racing scenes explain why Earnhardt was called “The Intimidator” with enough emotional emphasis to give this rags-to-rubber saga a universal appeal.
The “World Rock Paper Scissors Championships” are as flip as “3” is sincere. This is no slam on the sport, which it apparently is.
The championships are presented under the umbrella of “Best Damn Sports Show Period,” giving tonight’s presentation a flair for the mock-dramatic.
To wit: Contestants have nicknames like “Bonecrusher” and “Supergirl.” There is a prize of $10,000 Canadian. Copious amounts of beer apparently are consumed, therefore verifying its entry into the world of adults.
Still, it’s the same game you played as a child, according to Douglas Walker, who politely chairs both the championships and the Rock Paper Scissors Society from its headquarters in Toronto.
Speaking by telephone, Walker explained the rich history of Rock Paper Scissors.
He gave the lowdown on the game’s presumed origins (Japan), its openness and equality (no playoff divisions based on sex), and its strategic underpinnings which, he insists, are there.
“In order for it to be totally random, people would have to have no memory of what they’d ‘thrown’ before,” he explained. “The only way for that to happen is for the player to have an absolutely blank mind at all times, which obviously is impossible.”
Walker, who with his brother has written a book about Rock Paper Scissors gamesmanship, went on to explain such elements as the power of suggestion, bluffing and (my favorite) a tactic called “priming the chump.”
Far be it from me to question the fundamentals. I simply will note that during the at-home screening, a nonofficial critic kept shouting things like “It’s all luck!”
Luck may be with the RPS Society. With serious sponsors beckoning, the United States group is discussing a move to Las Vegas for next year’s championships.
Meanwhile, though, the summary experiencing of watching the “World Rock Paper Scissors Championships” is less about thrills than goofs.
In fact, it is beyond tongue in cheek. It is like stuffing your entire self inside a mouth pocket, like a baby gerbil. That’s one way to while away your TV time. firstname.lastname@example.org