“I met you. You are not cool.” – Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous”
NASCAR also is not cool.
How do I know this? No sport would be making the monumental news as we saw Monday, if everything was as cool as the backside of Pluto.
These are the signs of something feeling seemingly uncool.
And to be honest — I love that.
Many of you will start hitting your screens at this point, sending your misspelled death threats and attempting to throw me out of this sport. The fact is if NASCAR was actually “cool,” none of the 2017 enhancements would have happened (which would delight many of the longtime fans).
Over the last three years alone, we have seen changes in how NASCAR crowns a champion, how the cars are driven, set up and built … and now, how NASCAR conducts the simple matter of a race.
We are no different than the young man leaving middle school who is more interested in some fantasy role-playing game than girls. He enters high school realizing he has very few friends. So he decides to smoke cigarettes, wear a hoodie and buys overpriced sneakers.
Most of the “cool” kids will see through that, so he will remain where he started – uncool.
And that’s good.
The thing is, when you think back to your high school days, the most uncool people go on to do simply the coolest things.
NASCAR can be uncool, but revolutionizing its approach to racing could be the coolest thing yet.
As Hoffman’s character also said in Cameron Crowe’s cult classic about the price of fame and success in 1970s rock and roll: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
Which is exactly where NASCAR is as a sport. We are sharing the asocial actions together, witnessing some truly cool times.
Who’s cooler? Kim Kardashian? Or the anonymous man, three whiskeys deep at Pianos on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, playing acoustic sets on Wednesdays with a voice made of gravel and tobacco tar?
Sure, the man is not as “cool” as a reality TV show star on Instagram.
But give him two hours, as you sip on your cocktail or Pabst Blue Ribbon of choice. He will weave you through the ups and downs of a lost soul searching for what Kim Kardashian has. He will lament his past chances and the gig that made him a star for a week.
It’s his mysterious, dark and depressing reality that makes him so uncool.
His set will end, and you’ll walk up and say it was incredible. He’ll toss a glance, say, “Thanks” than go back to his phone to check a text. He’ll fish around his pocket for his Metrocard, look back at you and remind you that you can now find him on iTtunes. Although there have been millions before him in the same position, even he sees a need to change with the times.
He can remain uncool even while striving for a relevance that keeps him earnestly and genuinely appealing.
With Kim Kardashian, her life is supposed to be the coolest, but you know everything about it. We all can figure out what it’s like to be uber-rich, as you can just look at one of the million shows dedicated to their lifestyles. There really isn’t a big difference between partying with Kanye West and your best friends, aside from a possibly nicer setting.
Over time her reign as the coolest thing on the Internet will fade like the gloss on Kanye’s Lamborghini.
But the man at Pianos still will be playing on Wednesdays. And still entertaining.
It’s much the same with NASCAR.
For many years before and after the new millennium, we raced our way into the position of the fastest-growing sport in the land of the free. Many thought when they saw pop-culture stars at a race, that they would all become fans, and NASCAR would be cool.
It didn’t happen, and in my view, we are better for it.
We are not the coolest kids on the block.
We don’t find our stars on Page Six, or splashed in Internet scandals. Our races don’t draw the courtside celebrity appearances often seen at games that strive for the validation of a culture built around reality TV tastemakers such as Kardashian.
But who cares?
We have stars such as Jimmie Johnson, who is as real as any guy you might find sipping a Corona on a summer night in a tropical bar.
He also wields a beard so perfect, scientists will study it to help create lifelike robots. His athleticism, determination and simple grit have made him a legend.
Or on the younger scale, we have stars who seem to represent the very definition of individuality. Such as Ryan Blaney, whose flowing locks my sister describes as “hot.” He is a Star Wars geek with a growing penchant for New York City who, if asked, could drive his car to Mars.
Or Chris Buescher, who represents the next generation of farmer. Doing your farming (whatever that might entail) while making sure it’s all on Snapchat and Instagram. He found a way to become a rising star by sleeping on a man’s couch.
Even Daniel Suarez, who calmly has carried the weight of an entire nation on his shoulders. Through that, he has found a way to win and become a champion. Now he has a chance at becoming a star that could be a bonafide hero in his home country.
We may have lost the chance at being cool, like the man singing at Pianos.
But the fact is our uncoolness is producing enhancements that 20 years ago would have been described as lunacy. Our stars are more real and interesting than any of the supposed “cool” ones out there.
No matter which way the sport heads, I think it’s going to be an unsterilized, chaotic, glorious, hell of a time.
That’s what makes it so damn cool.
For we are not cool.