Tradin’ paint, on first down

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown

Up and over on the other side of the mountain our good neighbors to the north and west are preparing to go where no football player has blitzed before.

They’re going to try and play a football game on a racetrack.

Virginia Tech and Tennessee are going to meet each other halfway and play one of those oddball, early-season, neutral-site college football games at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday.

And how in the world are they going to do that? Without cars? They’re going to try and fit a football field inside the track infield and try to ignore a half-mile oval of concrete between players and fans in the stands.

“It’s their first football game, certainly,” Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock told The Roanoke Times newspaper. “But they have good people who have done it. I have faith in them.”

They say faith can move mountains but this, I don’t know.

Huddle up now. Here’s the play. They’ve retrofitted garages into locker rooms, hauled in 450 truckloads of rock and sand to raise the infield by three feet and laid down artificial turf. They’ve added 5,000 temporary seats to the 150,000-seat grandstand for twice the seats normally found in a football stadium. And despite sitting a country mile away from play on the field, fans have snatched up tickets for every seat.

The winner gets a trophy of a silver football mounted in the center of a replica of the racetrack.

Former Gibbs High School, Tennessee, football player Kenny Chesney will host a pregame concert. “No cars, no gas, no problem.” (My takeoff on one of Chesney’s hit country songs.)

It’s an odd mixture, racing and football. In my experience I’ve found that NASCAR fans don’t care much for football and football fans don’t care much for racing.

Racing guys got their rotund bellies full of football after washing out during hot August high-school practices. Meanwhile, blockhead football guys got their bellies full of racing when they went to the track and found nary a ball or cheerleader to follow.

When they created the Carolina Panthers in 1995 the team didn’t have a place to play. They floated the idea of playing the first season of NFL home games at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

They didn’t do it. And there’s a good reason why they didn’t do it. You have no business playing football at a racetrack.

The next thing you know, they’ll be running car races … on football fields.

Of course, it’s only Va. Tech and Tennessee playing. If Bristol screws up the game — remember the canceled NFL Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, last month? — then … it won’t matter.

The Bristol game comes just 19 days after the running of the Bass Pro Shop NRA stock-car race.

Of course, if they REALLY want to have some fun, they would play the game DURING a race. Just imagine …

Announcer: Slye lines up for a 39-yard field goal. This is for the lead. The kick is up. It’s long enough. It’s … good! Oh, the ball sails into the open window of the 88 car in the turn. And Junior is hit. Again. Can you say concussion 2.0?


Announcer: Evans drops back. He looks deep. He hits Phillips! He’s all alone! He’s at the 40. The 30. Oh, Johnson is tapped and spins out. The Lowe’s 48 car plows onto the field. And drops Phillips at the 15, stopping a sure touchdown. Nice play by the 48. Tough break for Phillips and Hokies. It’ll be first-and-10 at the 48’s bumper.

Announcer No. 2: Jimmie must be a Vols fan.

Now that’s a race/ball game that I’d drive up to Bristol and pay to see.

Let’s see Geico come up with a commercial like that.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris

Back In The Hometown Harris

Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune

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