Magic in the night and The Six
Marty Smith [ARCHIVE]
ESPN.com
June 15, 2012
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The world moves quickly these days. It does not roll by, but rather speeds through our daily concourse with the cold rage of a getaway car. Our lives, however blessed, are at times like snowflakes -- frozen but delicate, and each completely unique. Life will stop to say hello, but we must be willing to stop, too, and engage in the conversation.

The relationship between life and its lives can be fruitful and fulfilling, but is at times impersonal; at other times wholly anonymous.

We are constantly Wi-Fi'd -- and thereby often tongue-tied. We do not sit and chat. No time. And even when we do sit to chat, we bury our faces in mobile device mumbo-jumbo. We engage our fingers and our eyes and disengage our ears. We hear snippets of conversations but don't listen so closely.

That dynamic means we are far more connected with the masses -- and far less connected with our loved ones.

My judge's gavel slams the desk. Guilty. I'm a front-row qualifier in the iPhone 500.

But the general trend troubles me lately. As I get older, I get more reminiscent. I care more these days about what got me here. History is contextually more tangible to me, not just words in a textbook at 2:30 in the afternoon for a wandering mind focused on girls and sports -- in that order.

I also care about what I leave here. I care about what my children remember of me and I care how I impact other folks' lives. Too much at times. I invest emotionally in my readers. That's as healthy as it is unhealthy. It's healthy to know where you stand, good and bad. It's unhealthy to care so much it impacts your mood.

I recently had a reader to whom I've never spoken and never met suggest that I was fake; that what I say as a man-of-the-people and what I do as a man-of-the-people are different things. It gave me pause. I pondered for a bit about whether she was right. It made me look in the mirror and decide whether I truly live the Golden Rule.

I feel I do. To the very best of my ability, anyway.

I care about my kids' experiences. Not just the planned ones, birthdays and whatnot. But the simple, spontaneous ones, too, like a bike ride down a nowhere sidewalk and a front porch thunderstorm, or ice cream on a whim or teaching my daughter to swing a baseball bat in the backyard. I want them to know more of warm summer nights of their youth than Wii Bowling and the Bubble Guppies.

I want them to run and play and laugh until dusk. Dusk is special as a kid. Dusk is a new world, uncharted territory for a child's innocent soul. Dusk is out-past-dark. It is lightning bugs and bottle rockets and the panorama of a trillion stars and hangin' with the older kids.

It is magic.

When I think back to my summers, that's one stark memory I carry: how cool it was to be out past dark.

I was reminded of this earlier this week.

Cambron wants to ride his bike, all day, every day. So Lainie and I grab camping chairs and hang in the neighborhood as he rides and rides and rides hither and yon. The neighbors filter out family-by-family. The kids join Cambron and the parents join Lainie and me, and eventually we have a full-blown cul-de-sac hillbilly extravaganza.

That was the scene this week, and the parents were having so much fun we let the kids play well past bedtime. As I sat there, laughter in the air and the pitter-patter of carefree feet on the pavement, I couldn't help but grin.

It seems trivial, but I feared my children may never experience this.

I feared between the carpool parade and the mobile apps and the fenced-in yards, we'd gotten too desensitized to the beauty in simplicity.

We haven't. That realization does my heart good.

Marty,

Junior is so close!!! That win is coming soon! What did you think of his postrace comments at Pocono, that he wasn't ready to gamble? Shouldn't he gamble?!

-- Carey Carlson, Big Stone Gap, Va.

No. He shouldn't gamble when he's five laps short. Five laps at Pocono equates to more than 12 miles. No one expected the final caution period to last so many laps, and it's very difficult to save 12-plus miles of fuel regardless. It requires the driver to ease off the throttle very early entering the corner, and easing back into the throttle very easily off the corner.

Some fans emailed me this week hollering that the decision to pit was "gutless." I completely disagree. It takes far more (guts) to pit, preserve a quality finish and shovel coal on the momentum furnace than it does to stay out and run out knowing that no one -- NO ONE -- would blame you for trying in the face of NASCAR's most-scrutinized victory drought ever.

This is a team focused on contending for a championship. That elusive victory is imminent. It will come soon. And had the team gambled and failed, it would have compromised momentum. Some don't believe in momentum. I'm a huge believer in it.

We take criticism from fans for so readily saying that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win any week now, and on paper the criticism is just. Fact is, he hasn't won in four years in the consummate what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sport. But contextually, based on performance, it truly seems that win could come at any time.

If he didn't have the best car at Pocono it was close. He had a race-winning car. He wasn't up front because of strategy; rather it was strategy that foiled victory.

What he said after the race told me a lot about his confidence level. He knows that victory is coming. He knows that forcing it does no one any good. He also knows that running a car out of fuel has a negative residual impact on everyone.

"I ran out of gas here one year and that pisses me off so bad that it's just hard to recover from it, mentally, in the next couple of weeks," Earnhardt said. "There's just no excuse in running out of gas."

He believes in himself and in his team. And for Earnhardt, that is critical to performance.

SONG OF THE WEEK

"Life Off My Years," Lee Brice

Eric Church, Jeff Hyde and Michael Heeney wrote this song. The first time I heard it I was sitting in Eric's living room in Nashville, and he put the demo in the CD player and told me to sit down and listen. Three notes in, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

I made him play that demo 15 times that night. Lainie finally told me to shut up about it and leave it alone. I just sat there and closed my eyes and absorbed the story and the sound. There's a relentless drum cadence accented by an equally relentless guitar. The song promotes living life with vulnerability and no handcuffs. You're only here a minute, so max out that minute, it says.

Very few songs have ever impacted me like this one does.

Hearing that song that night, and feeling that passion and corralling that emotion it triggered...
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