Friday, January 19, 2018

Spade Racing Films 6 for 6: An Offseason Documentary Series--…And The Horse He Raced In On


(a man turns on the lights in an old Nascar garage.  He begins slowly walking through it.  Eventually it become apparent its former driver and current broadcaster Phil Parsons)

Phil Parsons (voiceover, as he looks around with a contemplative look on his face): “I’m proud of what I accomplished in my career, as a driver, owner, and a broadcaster.  But I always go back to that day at Dover Downs in 1994 when—(jump cut to intense sounds of football tackles)—the Canadian Football League invaded.”
Available at any farmers'
market in Middle River

(stock footage of football players practicing appears on-screen.  All of a sudden, a stock car races through the practice field, leaving the players befuddled.  The car leaves “And The Horse He Raced In On” in mud-tracks on the field).

Scott Hill (author, When The Colts Left Baltimore: 20+ Years of Whining): “The Colts had left Baltimore in the middle of the night in 1984, there was a USFL team here for a quick minute, then everyone seemed to want to move to Baltimore, but only used it as a ruse to get a better stadium lease from their own home city.”

Phil Parsons (retired Nascar driver, long-suffering broadcaster): “I’d come down south in ’82 to join my brother Benny, I’d had some success in Nascar, won a race in Cup, but by the 90’s I was trying to reestablish myself in what was then called the Busch Series.”

Scott Hill: “Baltimore lost out on the NFL expansion derby of the 90’s, and it seemed like there’d never be football again in Baltimore.  Then, all of a sudden, here comes the Canadian Football League.”

Steffy Jordan (co-director of marketing, Baltimore CFL Colts): “The Baltimore CFL Colts franchise got a LOT of positive reaction when we started out, but we knew that we’d have to appeal to a larger fanbase than just football fans in the city of Baltimore.”

Phil Parsons: “Things were going well for us, we’d just won the race at Charlotte the week before, and we had an open race for sponsorship the following week at Dover.”

Steffy Jordan: “We decided to use our resources the way anyone else in our shoes would—by sponsoring someone in a Nascar race three hours away.  Well, four hours if you include traffic on the Bay Bridge.”

Scott Hill: “All of a sudden you have this strange combination—a CFL franchise, sticking it to the NFL, and a driver in Nascar, a sport that was just starting to assert itself on the national stage.  It really made for some natural, manufactured drama, and left a pretty big impression on some of the fans.”

Mike Mackler (writer/webmaster/janitor, Spade Racing): “Yeah, my dad took me to Dover that weekend to catch qualifying.  I remember seeing that Baltimore CFL Colts car on pit road and thinking, ‘well, that’s one way to spend your money’.  Yeah, I was an insufferable smartass even then.”

Phil Parsons: “We finished in 12th place that day, not exactly the day we were looking for but a decent run nonetheless.”

Steffy Jordan: “There was a BIG response to that car—lots of people calling in the next day.  Of course were we closed the next day—it was a Sunday—but still, our answering machine was filled-up when we came into work on Monday.”

Scott Hill: “The Baltimore CFL Colts became the Baltimore CFLs, then the Baltimore Football Club, then the Baltimore Stallions, and they only lasted two seasons, but their legacy, more than anything, was showing the appeal of crossover promotion between the football world and Nascar.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (retired Nascar driver, mayonnaise connoisseur): “Yeah, we were gonna run that Philadelphia Eagles car last year, but it kinda fell apart.  Too bad, as I was really looking forward to scraping it against the wall.  So, what’s this thing about anyways?  The CFL?  Like the lightbulbs?”

Phil Parsons: “I’m glad I left my mark on this sport, and I’m glad that the Baltimore CFL franchise left their mark on the football world.  I’m just glad we could do it together.”


(on screen graphics): “The Baltimore CFL franchise relocated to Montreal after the Cleveland Browns NFL franchise moved to Baltimore—the newly-christened Alouettes continue succeed both on and off the field.  Steffy Jordan currently works as a community liaison for the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer franchise.  Scott Hill is working on his latest book ‘When The Bullets Left Baltimore: 50+ Years of Not Caring’.  Phil Parsons works for FS1 as a broadcast partner of longtime furniture enthusiast Michael Waltrip.”

Friday, January 12, 2018

Spade Racing Films 6 for 6: An Offseason Documentary Series--Brian France: Softball, Hard Knocks (Part 2)



Phil Brown: “I hold here in my hands the rulebook from the 1980 season—as you can see, its not a book, its just a mimeographed sheet listing the schedule and a few regulations.  Here is the rulebook from 1981 when Brian France took over—pretty hefty, isn’t it?”

Jarrod Hampton: “We all got these copies of the new rule book, and our eyes just bugged out—what was the point of all this?”

Mike Calloway: “So here’s what we had now—you couldn’t score more than five runs in an inning.”
Brown: (reading from the rulebook) “All teams must abide by the run limiting rule of no more than five runs per inning, so as to maintain competitive balance.”

Sean Treadwell: “Instead of wins and losses, we had this points system that would determine the standings.”

Brown: (reading) “Teams shall receive 10 points for winning a game, as well as a bonus point for every inning they win.”

Hampton: “Wasn’t there something about later games being worth more than the others?”

Brown: (reading, incredulously): “After the season is 3/4s over, all games will be worth double-points, although inning-points will remain the same.”

Calloway: (stares at camera exasperated)

Brown: “This was all to run a six-team softball league.  You know, for people to HAVE FUN.”

Treadwell: “Everybody was asking me why Brian was doing all this—they were asking ME because once the season started, we basically didn’t see Brian again.”

Hampton: “Brian was running the thing, and he was still paying athletic field fees on time, so he WAS actually running it, but we’d never see him at games.”

Brown: “There were all sorts of rumors—some people were saying that he’d resign because he’d broken up with his girlfriend.  Some people were talking about drugs being involved.  One guy called him ‘a hands-off control freak’, that pretty well summed it up.”

Hampton: “What was REALLY strange was that all our games were now being broadcast on tv.”

Treadwell: “Yeah, TV, that was Brian’s idea.  The campus had a public access student station and he arranged for all our games to be broadcast on it.  Of course, once we started doing that, we had to finish all our games in under two hours to fit the timeslot, and sometimes we’d take breaks between outs just to let them play commercials.”

Calloway: “I missed a game once with a head cold and I watched it on that student station in my dorm—I’ve never seen so many commercials in my life.  And all for the same four companies too!”

Brown: “I heard he was even trying to have all six teams play at the same time in the championship game.  I don’t know if that was true or not, but I wouldn’t have put it past him.”

Hampton: “After that ’81 season, nobody really wanted to play that kind of softball anymore.  It just seemed like all those changes, everybody just lost interest.”

Calloway: “I graduated after that year, but I heard that virtually nobody returned for the league in ’82.”

Treadwell: “Most of the players gravitated to other sports—a few went to football, some went to soccer, but nobody wanted to play softball anymore—or watch it, for that matter.”


Brown: “That year really killed the league.  Its a shame, because how many times do you hear about a college intramural league dying out?  Well, then again, my cousin went to college in Indiana, and he said some guy split the entire basketball league down the middle over what kind of surface they played on.”

Friday, January 5, 2018

Spade Racing Films 6 for 6: An Offseason Documentary Series--Brian France: Softball, Hard Knocks (Part 1)


Part 1

(we open with an early-80’s song playing in the background, as a number of men in their mid-50’s are mic’d up and seated in a chair.  A University of Central Florida (UCF) logo is backlit behind them)

Voices, blending into each other: “We were a bunch of teenagers and twenty-somethings, so wanted to have some fun…how hard can it be to run a softball league…he wanted to run it, so we let him…we figured he’d know how to since he came from money…it got so confusing you couldn’t figure out what was going on…eventually it all just fell apart”

(title shot: “Softball, Hard Knocks appears on the screen, followed by a nameless player sliding across, revealing “Brian France” above it)
Nice to see the school recovered

Phil Brown, Electrical Engineer, UCF Class of 1983: “My freshman year, I got roped into playing intramural softball by my roommate.  I hadn’t played much of anything like that since Little League, but it turned out to be a great way to get some exercise, blow off some steam, and meet up with some great people once or twice a week.”

Jarrod Hampton, English Teacher, UCF Class of 1982: “Yeah, that softball league at Central Florida was fun.  Just a bunch of guys having a good time, chilling out, having a few beers afterwards.  Some of my best college memories comes form those days on the diamond.”

Mike Calloway, Restauranteur, UCF Class of 1981: “I played in the intramural league all four years.  The problem was always trying to find a guy to run the dang thing.  I mean, it wasn’t that hard to schedule half-a-dozen teams for three months, but it definitely got in the way of school work, or social work (laughs).”

Sean Treadwell, Personal Trainer, UCF Class of 1982: “I ran the softball league at UCF in ’80, but I really wanted to focus on my Kinesiology work for 1981—just play and have fun, you know?  Well, out of nowhere, my roommate tells me ‘There’s this guy in my marketing class who wants to run your league, his name is Brian France’.”

Calloway: “My dad lived in Daytona Beach at the time, so I recognized the ‘France’ name pretty quickly.  Sean asked me what I thought of him, and I was honest, I said, ‘I had a Psych 101 with him, and he seemed pretty cool’, and of course coming from a family like that didn’t hurt matters either.”

Brown: “So we show up for the annual sign-up meeting—remember, this is before Facebook and the Internet—and we find out this new guy, Brian France, is running the league that year.  Seemed strange to me, to have a non-player running a softball league, but hey—if he was willing to put the work in, more power to him.”

Treadwell: “He leaned on me pretty heavy to get through the annual draft and to figure out the scheduling part of things with reserving the fields, but pretty soon after that he wanted to do things his own way.  He kept talking about ‘shaking things up’, and I could never figure out why someone would want to change things on a league that’s already working fine.”

Hampton: “We’d always have a big get-together the night before the first weekend of games—it was mandatory to attend if you were playing.  Usually, it was just the guy running the league that year telling you when your games were going to be, reminding you of the mercy rule, and telling everyone to have fun.  But the year Brian took over?  Well, that was something else.”

Treadwell: “I introduced Brian to everybody at the inaugural meeting, told them all just to trust him.  Funny thing was, that was a JOKE—I mean, who wouldn’t trust a guy running a league you pay five bucks to join at a college?  Boy, things sure changed that night.”

Calloway: “The stuff that came out of his mouth, I mean, SO many changes…and what for?  I mean, wasn’t this really just changes for the sake of changes?  Who messes with success?”


TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR PART 2