Friday, May 15, 2009

Nascar's Roots May Go Way Back -

Nascar's Roots May Go Way Back -

[NASCAR for Brits stands for "stock-car racing", a sport dating from the 1940s.]

Nascar's Roots May Go Way Back
One Scholar Believes Nascar Races Are an Update of the Medieval Joust; 'Knights' in Firesuits

Deep-fried Twinkies, jars of moonshine and kegerators set up in the backs of recreational vehicles at Alabama's Talladega Superspeedway. To one scholar, these aren't just the trappings of a modern-day Nascar race weekend -- they're evidence of a hidden past.

"It's almost a direct carryover from the Middle Ages," says Karyn Rybacki, a professor of communication studies and public relations at Northern Michigan University. Ms. Rybacki, who studies stock-car racing, says the cultural elements of Nascar races -- where fans travel many miles to attend, wear the colors of their favorite teams and virtually knight popular drivers -- may be directly descended from medieval times, when people came in droves to make merry before another fast and dangerous form of competition, the joust.
Ms. Rybacki says the similarities first struck her when she received a grant more than a decade ago to research fan behavior at the Daytona 500. She likens the giant mugs of beer, sausage and roasted turkey legs popular at Nascar concessions to the foods served at medieval festivals. "It was almost like being thrown into a Renaissance fair without the medieval costumes," she says....

None of this is true, other than general observations that might made between any two competition games.

The article does allow a medievalist a say, but does not take him seriously.

Paul Freedman, a medieval history professor at Yale University, says the aristocratic nature of jousting make it much more similar to a refined game of polo than gritty stock-car racing. "Ordinary people did not have enough wealth to fight on horseback," Mr. Freedman says. As for Ms. Rybacki's theory, he says "I can't see it and I can't believe it."

The really weird thing for me is that Ms. Rybacki seems to think that "Renaissance Faires" have any connection with medieval reality.

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