NASCAR vs. Football: Which Sport Is More Important to the South?

Spring practice, Bethune-Cookman College, 1943, photographed by Gordon Parks, courtesy of the collections of the Library of Congress.

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NASCAR vs. Football: Which Sport Is More Important to the South?

by Harvey H. Jackson III, Daniel S.Pierce
Southern Cultures, Vol. 18, No. 4: Winter 2012

"The outlandish stories of the antics of early stock car racers immediately attracted me. Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall hauling liquor from Dawsonville to Atlanta one night and winning races the next day in the same car; Fonty Flock winning the Southern 500 wearing Bermuda shorts and argyle socks; his brother Tim racing with a monkey—named Jocko Flocko—in his racecar."

Sixteen years ago my answer to this question would have been simple, emphatic, and a no-brainer: football, no question. While I have the great distinction of being an individual who was cut from the middle school football team twice— when they didn’t even ordinarily cut—I grew up steeped in the sport. I played sandlot football every Sunday afternoon in the fall for at least twenty years, had two brothers who excelled at high school football, and one that played at a small college and then coached the sport for thirty years. The first big-time football game I ever attended was the 1969 Sugar Bowl, where the Archie Manning led Ole Miss Rebels defeated my beloved Arkansas Razorbacks. My graduate degrees are from institutions—the University of Alabama and the University of Tennessee— much better known for producing SEC and NCAA championship football teams and NFLers than historians. As for NASCAR , when I noticed it at all, I was mystified as to how anyone could sit around for three hours and watch a bunch of redneck mouth-breathers make left turns.