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Giving Thanks for 2008

by Cathy Elliott
Sunday, November 30, 2008

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I once heard my Aunt Sally say of her son, my first cousin -- and she was completely serious and I totally believed this to be true -- "I've seen Rob get down on his knees and pray for the Dallas Cowboys."

This statement makes a couple of points. First, Rob has questionable taste in football teams, and second, we really do care very deeply about our athletes in this country.

Thanksgiving, probably more than any other holiday, is a time of reflection. Admittedly, we tend to engage in all this soul searching and profound life evaluation while stuffing ourselves with pie, stretched out on the sofa like gorged ticks and watching football. Still, we manage to retain enough presence of mind through our tryptophan-triggered trances to remember that yes, we do have some blessings left to count.

Most of us are fortunate; we don’t have to deal with issues like war and unemployment and violent crime face to face, every day.

Still, there is a general feeling of uneasiness in the world these days, making things we may have formerly taken for granted, like our jobs, our homes and that second car or motorcycle or boat, take on greater value and significance.

In a time when there is so much to worry about, I don't find it trivial in the least to appreciate and give thanks for the things that make us happy, that entertain us and offer a few precious hours of escapism when we need them most. Even those misguided Dallas supporters in the family are sources of gratitude. But for millions of fans, this means NASCAR.

Racing-related blessings to be grateful for this year? There is quite a substantial number to choose from. Here are a few of mine.

I am thankful that both Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. managed to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this year so we can all stop bellyaching about a playoff missing one or both of its two brightest stars.

I am thankful that Mark Martin is being given a last legitimate shot to win that elusive first championship, as he moves over to Hendrick Motorsports for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. (I'm betting Martin is thankful for the same thing, only more so.)

I am thankful that Jimmie Johnson has laid the "Can any driver win three championships in a row in NASCAR's extremely competitive modern era?" question to rest. The answer is yes. Now we can move on to newer, more relevant questions, like "Can any driver win four championships in a row in NASCAR's extremely competitive modern era?"

I am thankful that Carl Edwards managed to survive another winning racing season without landing on his head.

This year, though, mainly I'm just grateful for NASCAR racing itself. It offers us something fast and loud and flashy; it distracts us. And while it can't cure what ails us, it can make us forget and feel a bit better about it, 500 miles at a time. How could we not appreciate that?

Realistically, the year 2008 will probably not go into the history books as a particularly prosperous period for many of us. For the first time in our lives, we may have experienced the dilemma of having to choose between new shoes and a tank of gas, and our belts may have been tightened by necessity, without the intervention of Dr. Atkins' famous carb control.

Just in case you need something more specific to feel positive about, though, here’s a thought to hold onto until early 2009. Although we can never be certain what the future holds, still certain things are predictable and roll -- or in this case, roar -- around faithfully each year. The start of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing season is just a few short weeks away.

That's one thing we can all be thankful for.

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