Friday, August 18, 2006


I haven't done an update on the quirky, freaky, geeky reality program "Who Wants To Be A Superhero," so I will do one now, and somehow tie it in to this week's race at MIS (Michigan International Speedway).
Last week, my favorite, "Monkey Woman," got eliminated, because she got tripped up and tricked into admitting that she was a professional actress, which didn't sit well with Stan Lee, especially since she had misrepresented herself to join the competition. Honesty is an important quality in a superhero. On the same program, Tyviculus, a character based on the Roman Gladiator, was eliminated, for just not being honest with himself. Cell Phone Girl also got eliminated somewhere along the line, just because she didn't have the guts to compete in the challenges. That was all for the better, because I just couldn't see myself, or anyone for that matter, buying a comic book based on Cell Phone Girl.
So, going into this week, we are left with Major Victory, Creature, Lemuria, Fat Mama, and Feedback. Honest, I'm not making this up; this is an actual TV show. These five are all very down to earth, but as the show has progressed, so have their characters, which are probably what Stan the Man is looking for, anyway. And, we have gotten to know them better. Major Victory, a man who apparently had early mid-life crises, had abandoned his wife and daughter to become a male exotic dancer. He has now given up that life also, and is trying to get back to "normal" life. His participation in this competition is to help him regain some self-esteem. He was actually one of my early favorites, because he played the role of superhero so well from the very first installment, and is a lot of fun to watch as he stays in character through the challenges. Creature, whose character is a defender of nature, is a real life rainbow child, who wanted to create a different kind of superhero, one who is a real hippy chick. Naturally, she played her role very naturally. Unfortunately, by means of one of The Dark Enforcer's entrapment videos, she was exposed as being somewhat of a hypocrite, because she could not be a defender of nature and a litterbug at the same time. She was the next to be eliminated, but she took the elimination graciously, having served the purpose of creating the character she wanted to be. Lemuria, a character I never really got, is an extremely attractive woman, a realtor in "real" life, managed to make it this far without doing or being anything spectacular, aside from being one hell of an eyeful. Still, she had developed a bonding with the others, another quality Stan Lee was looking for, yet she had to be eliminated, because, try as she might, she just wasn't good at completing most of the challenges.
None of the challenges were easy but this challenge was particularly difficult. The contestants had to interact in one way or another with an incarcerated convict. These convicts may have been real, or they may have been actors, but, if so, they were very imposing figures. One was a large, very angry woman, and a very large, very angry man. They were quite convincingly pissed off. They were pissed off because of the TV cameras, pissed off because they were on work detail, pissed off because they were in manacles, and pissed off because they had to deal with these funny looking people in funny looking costumes. If they were in fact actors, they were very good at it.
So, poor, sweet Lemuria had the challenge of sitting on the large angry woman's lap. Not once, but three different times. The woman didn't even want to talk to her, to be near her, and when Lemuria tried to approach her, the woman shoved her violently away, and the guard had to step in. For Lemuria, the challenge was impossible. Her draw for the challenge was just plain bad luck.
I've gotten this far and I haven't mentioned racing yet, so to make a long story short, Major Victory, who had to rub the very large angry man's shoulders three times, Fat Mama, who had to brush the hair out of the large angry woman's eyes three times, and Feedback, who had to hug the large angry man three times, all demonstrated the right kind of compassion to enable them to complete their challenges.
Feedback's encounter was by far the most compelling and emotional, for he managed to learn from the man that he had lost his father at an early age. Feedback, a radio personality by trade, revealed that his father, too, had been killed when he was young. So well did he connect with the convict, that he convinced the guard to take off the man's handcuffs, which is all the man really wanted. Of course, they hugged.
My money is now on Feedback, for what it's worth, because I am a sucker for compassion. I am, quite possibly, the last of the SNAGs*.
*SNAG is an 80's acronym for Sensitive New Age Guy.
Okay, here comes the segue:
Unlike most reality shows, where the contestants get more at each others throats as the competition nears the end, the final three contestants in "Who Wants To Be A Superhero" draw closer together, strengthening comradery and partnership. Because of the type of track MIS is, partnership and teamwork are what it will take to be a winner in Sunday's race. It takes driver's skill, because the two-mile oval has long straight-aways and wide, flat turns, which means car control, throttle control, and some brake control are all-important. This also means that the crew chief is going to be busy, and pit strategy is every bit as important as driver skill.
Ryan Newman and his crew chief, Matt Borland, are a proven team at balancing these skills. In fact, if it comes down to fuel mileage, they are probably the masters at tracks like Michigan. Actually, there is only one other track like Michigan, and that's the California Speedway in Fontana, CA--it seems easier for me to mention this, than it is to polish my writing skills.
Anyway, luck seems to be more important in racing this year than I can remember in recent years, and if anyone is due a change of luck, it is the number 12 team of Newman and Borland.
A team which may not be due a change of luck, but certainly needs one is the number 16 team of Greg Biffle and Doug Richert. Even if you don't know much about racing, you probably know these guys from the very entertaining Subway Restaurant commercials in which they are featured. They are very much as likeable as the three finalists in "Who Wants To Be A Superhero." But, if likeability isn't enough to get them a good finish at MIS, Richert's experience and Biffle's skill are. Richert may not be the fuel mileage expert that Borland is, but Biffle is definitely a very good fuel mileage driver. Still, his track record at Michigan could be better.
Kurt Busch is on a tear. He is likely out of the race for the top ten in points, but, like him or not, it won't matter. He still likes to win races, and he is a highly skilled driver. We can only hope that, if he does win, he comes up with some celebration other than the snow angel. I'm drawing a blank on the name of the crew chief on the number 2 car, and am too lazy to look it up.
I do know who Mike Ford is, however. He is the crew chief for Denny Hamlin, this year's Wonder Rookie, and the number 11 team. Ford has the experience and the know-how to do exactly what is right at MIS. Lack of experience will not prevent Hamlin from doing exactly what is right with the car. He is that damn good, and it would be no surprise if he actually won on Sunday.
The top two Childress Racing teams, Kevin Harvick's number 29, and Jeff Burton's number 31, have been very consistent so far this season, and really don't need a top ten finish Sunday to stay in the top ten in points, but my money says both will finish the race very well. Harvick is on a high, coming off of his victory at Watkins Glen last week, and he could very well carry that momentum to a victory this Sunday.
The number 17 team of Matt Kenseth and Robby Reiser is one of the tightest in NASCAR Cup racing. Kenseth is another one of the very consistent drivers, and is also one of the top three when it comes to skill. Locked into the top ten finalists, for all practical purposes, he probably feels he is due a win, and is very likely to get one Sunday.
Another top ten team which is legendarily tight is the number 20 team of Tony Stewart and Greg Zippadelli. Of course this is the tem I will be rooting for to win Sunday, but, if they don't, I wouldn't be unhappy with a second place finish. Stewart sometimes gets frustrated at Michigan, though, and his frustration is often a factor. I want to agree with him though, that he has already red-lined his frustration, a few weeks ago when his frustration at the Brickyard got Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer very angry at him. Hopefully, because he took full responsibility for wrecking the two of them, they won't pick this race to retaliate.
I would like to mention the team of Juniors, as in Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Tony Eury, Jr in the number 8 car. They need to stay in the top ten, and will need to finish very close to the front to do so. Earnhardt has had problems with the aerodynamics of the cars over the last two seasons, and aerodynamics is very important at Michigan. It will take Eury's cleverness in pit strategy, and a lot of brute determination on Earnhardt's part to get a good finish Sunday.
I really hope that all the teams I mentioned finish better than the points leading number 48 team of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus. Not because I don't like the team, because I do. But they already lead in points, and a finish outside of the top ten could give someone else a chance to get into the top ten.
Well, this has been a very long post, so now I will say, mute the TV, tune the radio to PRN/MRN and enjoy the race.

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