The petitions, the prayers, the silent vigils have finally made their mark.
Thanks to the signature of Gov. Sonny Perdue on House Resolution 240, this Friday, and every April 29 from now on, is "Dale Earnhardt Day in Georgia."
I know; I get choked up thinking about it, too.
"The mere mention of the name Dale Earnhardt provokes emotions of respect and idolization and a sense of awe in race fans and people around the world," the resolution says. "He may have been known as 'The Intimidator,' but his heart and giving ways were bigger than any track he raced."
Around here, we're wondering what all this means. On Friday, can we drive really fast on Washington Road, ramming the rear bumper of the car in front of us if the driver doesn't get out of our way? (In NASCAR racing, that's called "Earnhardting.") If someone outruns us to a traffic light, can we pitch a tantrum by sideswiping their car just to leave our mark, like Earnhardt did when Jeff Gordon beat him at Daytona?
Only cave-dwellers don't know who Dale Earnhardt is, and since cave-dwellers aren't likely to be newspaper readers, I won't bother with his biography. But Earnhardt has been dead for four years since crashing in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, and if anything he's bigger in death than he was while racing as NASCAR's greatest driver -- and its biggest bully.
Fans still stand and hold three fingers in the air on the third lap of every race, a tribute to Earnhardt's No. 3 Chevrolet. The number adorns the back windows of pickups everywhere, some complete with halos; and Earnhardt merchandise, much of it astoundingly tacky, is everywhere.
Earnhardt Day is already celebrated in his home state of North Carolina, where a big shindig is planned Friday, Earnhardt's birthday, at the headquarters of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. The annual candlelight tribute to Earnhardt took place two months ago, on the anniversary of the Feb. 18 crash.
And now Georgia can officially pause for Dale Earnhardt Day right along with them on Friday, and every April 29 from now on. Gentlemen, start your engines. And then get off the road before the celebration begins.
There won't be quite as many thrills as a NASCAR race, but there will certainly be lots of fun Sunday in the CSRA Humane Society's Celebrity Softball Challenge at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
The charity event features teams from print media -- we're the defending champs -- and from cable, radio and television. The game starts at 1 p.m. with print vs. cable; the winner plays the winner of the 2:15 p.m. TV vs. radio game.
It's for a great cause, and it should be lots of fun watching old newspaper guys swat the ball around. Come cheer for us. Please.
In great company
I'm not particularly inclined to honk my own horn, but I am extremely flattered to have received the Louis Harris Award this past week from the West Augusta Rotary Club.
Having my name on the trophy with such journalism legends as John Barnes and Margaret Twiggs, along with living legends like Clyde Wells and Jim Davis, is an honor I'll never forget, and one that I'll always do my best to live up to.
Thanks, especially, to my readers. Without you, there would be no me.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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