The NCAA men’s college basketball tournament started last week and every year, this event creates some Cinderellas that come out of nowhere to surprise all the analysts and endear themselves to the general audience. Once our favorite team is eliminated from the competition, most start rooting for these underdogs to overcome the odds and tackle the goliaths. We never really know which team it will be creating the chaos, but that’s the fun of this tournament. There is always a team that comes together and is playing well at the right time while meeting an opponent who should crush them based on the statistics. This is why they play the game.
A big event drag race is very similar in many regards. A single elimination tournament with a few clear cut favorites in people who you would expect to win. There are also a bunch of people who you wouldn’t be surprised if they won and then a few guys who no one ever expects to win. While rare, the people in this last group do occasionally pull off the feat and end up with the big check at the end. We like to think that this means our sport along with college basketball is fair with every participant having an equal shot at winning. But is it?
In the NCAA, the blue blood teams have so many systemic advantages. They have millions of dollars to throw at coaches, build the best facilities, recruit the best talent, have fans that pack arenas throughout the country and so much more. Yet somehow, a school like Fairleigh Dickinson University can go out and beat Purdue. This is the same university whose yearly men’s basketball revenue could barely cover half the salary of Purdue’s head coach.
Back to drag racing though. I would liken the the professional sportsman racers are similar to the blue bloods. These guys do this every weekend, they have the best equipment, more data on their car than everyone else, the most experience and will buy back in as many times as allowed. Does this mean they win all the time? Absolutely not, but it certainly gives them an advantage over the average weekend warrior. They spend countless hours honing their skills and cars just make the odds another 0.1% in their favor.
Some would say well that’s not fair. If I had better equipment or more time and money to devote to racing, then I could be just as good. My answer is always yes, you could be. If that’s what you want to do, then go for it and I wish you luck. It’s not an easy road for those people though. How many birthdays, anniversaries, kid’s soccer games have they missed because they were at the track trying to get any edge they could? Can you be at your best if you knew the next race meant the difference between making the mortgage or not? I couldn’t, but some of those guys do.
Now, I am certainly not crying over my beer for the likes of Fletcher, Labbous or the Williams clan. They made their choices and have to live with the good and bad of it like everyone else. My perspective is though, whether my odds of winning are 49.9% or 20% when I pull up against them, I still have a chance. The pressure is on them to get the expected win. Given that, how good does it feel to turn on the win light against those guys? As good as the clock ticking zero for the Fairleigh Dickinson University men’s basketball team last Friday night? Maybe not quite that good, but still pretty great. I’m not sure if this means our sport is fair or not, but as long as I am having fun, I’m going to keep racing. -Franklin DiBartolomeo