I don't hear as well as I used to.
Part of this is age, and part of this (according to an absurd theory advanced by family members and others) is because I don't want to hear as well as I used to. This most often happens, they claim falsely, when I'm being asked to do something I don't want to do. Which they find an extremely suspect coincidence.
I have an alternative explanation: It's all those race cars.
For 40 years now I've covered auto racing as a professional journalist, and I haven't been smart about it. Which is to say, when the IndyCars/stock cars began to shriek and blare, I never reached for the earplugs. I just stood there and let the shriek/blare wash over me.
This undoubtedly has not been good for the eardrums. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
Part of the allure of motorsports, I'll always maintain, is that incredible, cosmos-rending thunder of muscular race cars coming to the green at the start of the Indianapolis 500 or the Brickyard 400. The thunder isn't the entire rush of it, but it's certainly a big part of it.
Enter NASCAR -- which, in its doomed chase of the unicorn of its own history, is apparently willing to try anything to recover the unrecoverable.
What the sport was in the '90s will never be recreated again for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that it was wildly unrealistic and therefore unsustainable. Nonetheless, NASCAR tries. And almost everything it tries, sadly, pushes it further away from everything it's chasing.
The latest: NASCAR has apparently decided the cars are too loud.
The noise, see, is a health risk, or so goes the rationale in some circles. Fans have to yell to make themselves heard, for heaven's sake. Wouldn't it be more fan friendly if they could conduct a normal conversation, even when the field is under green?
In a word (or four): No. It wouldn't be.
Nothing more indicates how out of touch NASCAR has gotten with its own fan base than the idea that reducing the noise at a NASCAR race would be more fan friendly. Wrong. The noise is part of what draws fans to the sport to begin with. They like it. They want to have to shout to be heard.
Shouting, after all, is manly. It's muscular. It's everything a testosterone junkie craves -- and at the risk of stereotyping, race fans are testosterone junkies.
They want the cars to howl. And they want to howl back.
Two guys at a NASCAR race:
"DID YOU SEE WHAT THAT (BLEEP) KESELOWSKI DID?"
"TOOK OUT LOGANO! HIT HIM SO HARD YOU COULD HEAR IT ALL THE WAY UP HERE!"
"HELL, YES, I'LL HAVE ANOTHER BEER!"
Just not the same if that conversation happens in a normal tone of voice. It would be almost ... wussified.
Or, you know, SOME OTHER WORD THAT SOUNDS KINDA LIKE THAT.
Even if I can hear that.