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Commentary: Forever Dale

By JOE BOB BRIGGS

NEW YORK, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- All I was trying to do, Your Honor, was have an ordinary 15-ounce beer in peace while raising a mug to the memory of Dale.

Yes, Your Honor, I know it was 15 ounces because that's the regulation Dale Earnhardt Sr. Glass Tankard that sells for $12.95 at the Exxon mini-mart. I'm sure you've seen em, with the giant number "3" on the side, and Dale's signature, and ... yes, sir.

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So this gentleman -- I'm gonna call him a gentleman because that's what Dale would of done -- this gentleman over here interrupted my toast, and at first I didn't even realize what was happening because my eyes were already tearing up and all of us had risen to a respectful position of Dale obeisance, with our Dale Earnhardt Legacy Fitted Hats, the ones that say "INTIMIDATOR" on the bill, crossed over our chests, and I can't recall anyone ever disturbing that moment in the slightest, given the probly ten thousand Dale Earnhardt toasts I've personally conducted in several Mississippi counties over the last two years -- and that would be, of course, two years and six months, to be precise, dating the toasts from February 18th, 2001, which, you know, the world changed that day, which is why everyone refers to pre-2/18 and post-2/18 and ...

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Yes, sir. I understand, sir. Yes sir, I will.

Well, my point, Your Honor, is that no one could have mistaken the sacredness of the moment, because we had the mugs raised and I was in the middle of saying "To Dale, who took the wall at Daytona for all mankind," when my associate Junior Wilcox removed his Dale Earnhardt Legacy Twill Jacket, the black one with the picture of Dale on the back, and called my attention to this gentlemen attempting to remove the Dale Earnhardt Sr. Metal Thunder Plaque from the wall of this establishment. You can imagine how we all reacted, especially since several of us had ponied up the $125 to purchase the plaque, which contains, by the way, an actual piece of sheet metal from Dale's car that has never been touched by human hands since it was embedded into the walnut frame next to the color lithograph of Dale over the engraved nameplate with Dale's signature.

Your Honor, I don't want to tell you exactly what Junior Wilcox yelled at that moment, because I do respect the dignity of this courthouse, but he challenged the gentleman to desist. I do think the situation could have been rectified short of fisticuffs. However, the gentleman at that point in time chose to challenge the integrity of the assemblage with a statement that I think you would agree would be regarded as treasonable and inciting to riot.

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Yes, Your Honor, I will, even though it disgusts me, frankly, to repeat the words. He said, "I'm tired of these damn Dale Earnhardt speeches. How about a toast for Sterling Marlin?"

Your Honor, I rest my case.

I can't? Okay. So maybe you should ask me some questions or something. I thought that pretty much explained the fracas.

Yes sir. All right, sir. Yes, Sterling Marlin was the driver -- and let me say I have nothing against Sterling Marlin personally, although I was happy to see he crapped out in the pit last week at Phoenix and finished 36th --Sterling Marlin was the individual who smacked Dale on the left rear quarter panel on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 and drove him head first into the wall, exploding his brain matter.

Excuse me, Your Honor. With your permission, I need to take just a moment here. All right. Fine. Yes, I can go on.

Technically, Your Honor, no, we did not dogpile on Mr. Stuyvesant -- and, thank you, I'm very happy to learn his name, seeing as the court would probably not look kindly on our usual reference to him as the Cotton-Docker-Wearing Weenie -- but no, sir, I wouldn't call it so much a dogpile as a flying wedge formation intended solely to prevent the destruction of property, namely the aforementioned plaque, the Dale Earnhardt Photo Clock, and the Dale Earnhardt Polyvinyl Hanging Banner, all of which were located in approximately the same area of the southeastern wall next to the waitress station.

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Yes, Your Honor, as a matter of fact, Mr. Stuyvesant had made himself known to us on at least two prior occasions. The first instance occurred after a successful deer hunt, during which we were not in our customary attire but were dressed instead in Dale Earnhardt Realtree Camo Hats, the ones with the "3" on the front and the signature over the brim camouflage, and it was entirely a parking lot altercation, as the gentlemen seemed to have some choice remarks about Lonnie Scroggins' Chevy truck which had been kitted to resemble the Talladega/Confetti Win Car, with the black number 3 and the red spoiler and "Goodwrench" across the hood, because that is, of course, Dale's last winning car. But, in fact, the words exchanged that day didn't involve the car. The remarks were actually directed more toward Lonnie's Dale Earnhardt Sr. Trailer Hitch Cover, which, I might add, is a fine piece of equipment made of corrosion-resistant pewter alloy with heavy gauge yoke, with "INTIMIDATOR 3" in a raised 3-D design.

No, sir, I can't remember precisely what was said, but I recall the words as derogatory.

Yes, I did, thank you. There WAS a second exchange with this gentleman prior to the late unpleasantness at Phil's Blue Hole Roadhouse. It occurred during an Ebay auction -- yes, sir, that's what's known as a "virtual auction," and by the way, you may not be aware of this, but for $34.95 Ebay offers the Dale Earnhardt Sr. Mouscar Racing Kit, consisting of a computer mouse in the shape of Dale's car, a Mousecar Pit Pad, and a RaceSavers ScreenSaver, all authorized and verified as genuine Dale ... yes, sir, I WILL hurry along.

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So the gentleman posted quite a few of what I would call nasty messages involving the auction items, which, if I recall correctly, included the Dale Earnhardt Sr. Race Cake Baking Kit, which is a frosting, cake mix and cake pan set that results in a cake in the shape of Dale's black Monte Carlo, complete with plastic spoiler and two free edible decals. That was the main item, but there were also lesser female-friendly offerings like the Dale Earnhardt Sr. Special Edition Monopoly Game, the Dale Earnhardt Bean Bag Bears (which is a matching set of two teddy bears with "DALE" stitched on the chest of both, representing Dale and Dale Jr.), the Dale Earnhardt Sr. Brunswick Viz-A-Ball bowling ball, with the 3 on the side and the signature, the Dale Earnhardt Sr. Hyperlite wakeboard, the Dale Earnhardt Christmas Ornament, and, if I recall correctly, there was also a Dale Earnhardt Sr. "Forever a Fan" black flag -- I remember those because I have three flying from my own front porch, to the LEFT of Old Glory, of course.

Yes, Your Honor, I will. Thank you. I didn't know the rule about relevancy, thank you for pointing that out.

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Yes, Your Honor, I WILL sum it up. My analysis of what happened on the night in question is that the blows that were struck were entirely in self-defense. But when I say "self-defense," I don't use the term in its normal sense of our puny sorry-ass big-butted bodies. No, Your Honor, I mean in defense of an ideal and a legend. Dale gave his life -- his LIFE, Your Honor -- so that Michael Waltrip could win that race. Let's face it, Judge, Michael Waltrip was zero for 462! They don't even have records like that in Pee Wee Football. And it wasn't just Sterling Marlin. Ken Schrader was there. Rusty Wallace was there. Either one of 'em could have run past Michael Waltrip and Dale Jr. if Dale hadn't been back there running interference for his team. His boys finished 1-2 while he was basically demolishing four cars between turn 3 and turn 4. This has been proven in great detail in the various books like "A Tribute to the Man in Black," although I prefer "The Legend Lives On," to tell you the truth. That book "At the Altar of Speed" was okay, but it didn't have enough pictures in it.

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Yes, Your Honor, I do have a point. I'm sorry. My point is that it's not about US. It's about DALE.

Yes, sir. Yes, Your Honor. Would that include weekends, because I have younguns. Yes, Your Honor. I understand.

If I could ask one question, Your Honor? Thank you.

There's a product called Dale Earnhardt Sr. Playing Cards that come in a black tin with the number "3" on the side, and do you think that would be considered contraband in a county correctional facility?

Thank you, Your Honor. Even though I don't agree with your decision, I would just like you to know that all of us who stand before you today are simply dedicated to the memory of Dale and all he stood for, including the purity of NASCAR racing. We would just hate that to be demeaned or commercialized.

Yes, sir, I WILL go with the deputy.

*

Joe Bob Briggs writes a number of columns for UPI and may be contacted at joebob@upi.com or through his Web site at joebobbriggs.com. Snail mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221.

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