We know a little more about what 'Boys, have at it!' doesn't mean.
Regrets? I have a few. But then again, too few to mention.
OK, I’ll mention one: January of 2010. I’m at the annual NASCAR Media Tour, when Robin Pemberton, vice-president of competition of the series, it talking about loosening the reins on NASCAR drivers – letting them express themselves more.
Then he said the Phrase that Pays: “Boys, have at it!”
My regret? Not getting on the phone in the following 60 seconds to a good copyright attorney and trademarking that phrase. Because imagine how many times it has been used in print since. (Google says about 75,000 times, and that seems low.)
After Sunday, you have to wonder if Pemberton should have defined what “Boys, have at it!” really means. We are learning in increments: This is OK, this is not. That is marginal – small fine. This is a big deal – large fine.
In interviews Sunday night after the Cattleman’s Brawl in Fort Worth, which left Ultimate NASCAR Fighting contestants Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski bloodied but unbowed – well, Keslowski may have been a little bowed – Pemberton, an expert in responding to questions with lengthy answers that say nothing, said something: Punches are not OK.
We have already established that pushing is OK, even the way Kevin Harvick pushed Keselowski into the fight, then ran like a little girl on a sixth-grade playground, so he will be fine. At this exact moment – and it doesn’t what exact moment you are reading this, because they will be at it for hours – NASCAR CSI: Fort Worth crime techs will be analyzing all available video, photography and witness accounts to decide who punched whom.
And if it can’t be established, and no one raises his hand, presumably the entire sixth-grade class will be held in detention.
On the other hand...
While those NASCAR techs are busy, a separate portion of NASCAR is high-fiving, already preparing a gilded frame for the next Joyce Julius & Associates report: That’s the firm that measures media exposure on TV, radio, print and internet, and places a dollar value on it. Just the ESPN Sportscenter and local newscast highlights of the Brawl of Records should be worth millions.
And wonder how many will pick the low-hanging fruit of comparing this fight to the Allison-Yarborough-Allison card at Daytona that helped launch NASCAR into the TV big leagues on CBS in 1979. All of them? I think that’s within reason. And the few who don't will likely observe: "What if we went to a fight, and a race broke out?"
Lost is the fact that it was a pretty good race; that winner Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have kissed and made up after what looked like a potential episode of Divorce Court; that Ryan Newman could well be the least-talked-about champion in NASCAR history (and I think that would be great), and that after living and working and racing in Texas for more than a decade, I can tell you there are race fans of both NASCAR and Formula One who had to make a difficult decision as to which race to attend, though neither track nor sanctioning body will admit those fans exist.
And we know just a little more about what “Boys, have at it!” means: No cow pokes in the Elimination Round in the Squared Circle.