As Jane Austen fans, we pretty much have no excuse for not knowing that love overcomes prejudice. We are used to it being romantic love that does the overcoming, though. But there are other kinds of love. What about friendship?
Over a fortnight ago (yes, I’ve waited most of my life to use that word amongst people who would understand it), I journeyed to Kentucky with fellow Austen Author Zoe Burton. Along the way, we had a delightful lunch with Sharon Lathan and her wonderful husband. Then we hopped back on the road. Our destination? The Kentucky Speedway for my first ever NASCAR race.
You’ll recall from Zoe’s introductory post that she’s a big NASCAR fan. I, however, am not. I honestly don’t think I’ve watched a race from start to finish ever although it’s been in the background often enough. I’ve chuckled at more than my fair share of jokes about the sport as well. How difficult can turning left be?
I’ll be honest. I was a bit prejudiced. Out of affection for Zoe, I had offered to attend a race with her and knew that I would enjoy myself. But I wasn’t expecting to come away feeling differently about the sport. I grew up with brothers playing basketball, baseball, and football. My sister was in cheer. I sat on the side lines and educated myself on the community league aspects of them all. But when it came to professional sports, I found all of them lacking. It just wasn’t exciting if I didn’t know the athletes. I’ve gone to professional games with my husband to spend time with him but I never really became a fan. My NASCAR experience was different.
From the onset, I noticed a different atmosphere. I know the stereotype is that NASCAR fans all drink too much and argue, but I didn’t see a single fight or discontent soul. There was not an us vs. them mentality that I find in other sports’ stadiums. The person next to you may favor the driver you loathe, and you may very well be in the minority with no one nearby willing to assist you if your mouth gets you in trouble.
Once the race started, a hush fell over the crowd. Obviously, the cars are very noisy, and most of us wore scanners to hear the commentary or even the drivers. Again, this was different than my other experiences. There was cheering at each start line (the race had eleven cautions), but otherwise, people quietly watched. Honestly, I’m surprised my husband isn’t a big fan given how little he likes to talk. There was no cheering or cat calling, no insulting other drivers or patrons. It was astonishingly respectful.
And how sad is it that I’ve come to expect unruly behavior if more than a few hundred people get together?
The race itself was exciting. It was anything but the expected turns. They had recently repaved the track, and there were a lot of wrecks. Just when it seemed like they got good momentum, another wreck would occur. There was no predicting what would happen next.
Then, in the final laps, a coup occurred. Zoe’s favorite driver is #20, Matt Kenseth. As a loyal, if indifferent, friend, I rooted for him as well, of course. He had done well the entire race. The few times he had to go out to pit, he caught right up and stayed in the top five most of the race. Another driver who had also been in the top five the entire race was penalized for something and had to go down a lap. That put him about twenty out of forty (although several were now out entirely). I watched as over several laps he committed to regaining his pace. For several laps, he was right on Matt’s tail. Then, finally, Matt slipped into the first position. Unexpectedly, the other guy had to pit for gas and then after just one lap in the first place, Matt pitted as well. There were too few laps left for either one of them to catch up and in the end a driver I wasn’t even paying much attention to won.
I think as a reader that enjoys the unexpected, NASCAR was thrilling. I will watch the next race if I’m home for it, although I do not think it will be the same without being in the stands. And I never would have even gone if it weren’t for my friendship with Zoe.
What does this have to do with Jane Austen? Well, as I mentioned in my introduction, a true Jane Austen fan knows that love overcomes prejudice. Prejudice has also been on my mind as I’ve written a character that is a descendant of a freed slave into my “When Love Blooms” series. Jacob Truman has faced prejudice due to his skin color all his life. Even, he believes, losing his true love because of it. But, of course, love will overcome in the end, even if the rest of the world remains the same.
There is so much bad and hate in this world. Wouldn’t it be a better place if we each took responsibility to overcome, through love and friendship, the prejudice we witness and even perpetuate? My example is merely a NASCAR race, but I’m sure you can find something just as relevant in your own life. Spread the love for your fellow humanity. It’s what Jane would want.