Thursday, May 13, 2010

13 MAY 10: Super-Speedway Secret

"Happening now at Ft. Benning" was the title of an e-mail I received Wednesday afternoon. It had a link to a news item with a Wednesday afternoon dateline, all right. But that was misleading - because that's when the article was posted. The actual event occurred one week before. So who says news travels fast on the Internet?

The link took me to a lengthy article on NASCAR's web site, about a visit by driver Ryan Newman and his pit crew to Fort Benning. Since Newman drives the Army-sponsored car, it was an opportunity to meet some of the soldiers he represents. It can't be a "recruiting trip" if the recruits already are in training.

Ryan Newman and his crew spent five hours at Fort Benning last week. And curiously, one of Newman's race cars was there with them - even though the team arrived at Lawson Army Airfield by corporate jet. I thought outside cars with no license plates would be impounded at the security gate.

The commander of Fort Benning's 197th Infantry Training Brigade arranged an unusual pit crew challenge. How fast could Ryan Newman's team change a track wheel on an M-88 tow vehicle? It took the crew eight minutes, 17 seconds - 13 seconds faster than a team of soldiers. Newman's crew would have been faster, but the gas can holder stood around puzzled for a minute.

(Remember: an Army runs on its stomach - but an Army stock car runs on Sunoco, the official racing fuel of NASCAR.)

Ryan Newman and his crew also tried a Fort Benning obstacle course, used in the Best Ranger competition. You wondered how Tony Stewart learned to climb the safety fence after winning races, didn't you?

But I want to go back to how we found out about this visit. Wednesday marked one week since Ryan Newman was at Fort Benning - yet did any Columbus news outlet cover it? From what I could tell Wednesday night, apparently not. Even with a five-hour stop, Newman was too fast for the media.

Ryan Newman didn't even make last Friday's edition of The Bayonet. Yet the military newspaper included a pro basketball playoff score from hours after his visit. And it was the Phoenix-San Antonio series at that - which is strange, because "The Admiral" David Robinson doesn't play for San Antonio anymore.

To be fair, the U.S. Army didn't get around to issuing a news release on the Ryan Newman visit until early this week. Perhaps the terror groups in Afghanistan didn't know Fort Benning has an M-88. If they monitored U.S. television over the years, they knew the U.S. has a "Rocket 88" - the Oldsmobile car.

It was left to the online "Examiner" to break the Ryan Newman story last Thursday. It's an information website filled by all sorts of contributors, but only an estimated 5,000 Columbus residents have checked it. Maybe if a nightclub expert started offering reviews of pool tournaments....

This strikes me as another sad case of local news media missing a sports-related story -- although Fort Benning has a history of being selective and secretive with some of the activities on post. Besides, the Benning streets are better suited for Ryan Newman to drive a road-course race.

BLOG UPDATE: Reverse 911 call #2 came late Wednesday, officially ending the Columbus playground alert. Based on the two phone calls, the alert lasted 24-and-a-half hours. And I hope police were careful to wear the red gloves from that "Heart for Haiti" video.

City officials told WRBL each Reverse 911 call costs 55 cents per person - and more than 87,000 were made Tuesday for the initial alert. So whomever taped razor blades to playground equipment has cost Columbus more than $95,000. No one was injured, but the city still is bleeding red ink.

-> We had a big reason to say "T.G.I.F." at the poker table last Friday evening. Learn why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: It's a good thing I haven't tried to get tickets for "The Price is Right." Wednesday's InBox offered two reasons why I shouldn't. We'll start with our note about Georgia college tuition....

In Wednesday's blog you said $200 would cover 4 college text books...Guess again..$200 might buy 2 books..Last semester I bought a flimsy paperback lab work book and it was $80...Text usually range from $75 to $125 each..One semester I paid $450 for books and half were used ones...

I tried to purchase used books during college, when I could. But what do you do when your underlined vital points in pen are absorbed by the former owner's bright orange highlighter?

By the way, we found out Wednesday Columbus State University tuition actually is going up $300 this fall. We wrote $200, based on an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report - but now you see what rehiring President Timothy Mescon for another year can do.

Back to Monday now, and our quest for loaves of bread on Mother's Day....

Richard, You must learn to be a more thrifty shopper! Big Lots in Phenix City always has a good selection of bread (all kinds) at much lower than supermarket prices and usually much lower than Dolly Madison Discount Bakery Outlet. I've also bought wheat bread in dollar stores in Phenix City for a buck. And since you like cookies Big Lots always has a good selection at low prices. (By the way, I don't work there or own stock in the company!)

I shop at the Columbus Big Lots store once in a while -- but I don't recall seeing much whole wheat bread there. And if I did, it might have been a brand from Colorado which somehow was shipped east.

Thanks for all your e-mails about all sorts of things - and now let's quickly wrap up Wednesday's other news:

+ WRBL reported Columbus police issued 21.8 percent fewer traffic citations in April. That can't possibly be due to the mayor's supposed order about radar checks on River Road -- so more residents must have left town for spring break than anyone realized.

+ Columbus police showed WXTX how to spot a member of the Uptown criminal gang. Their little finger and index finger are extended -- the same way University of Texas sports fans do at sports events. So there's yet another reason for Southeastern Conference football fans to oppose the Longhorns....

+ Aflac announced the winner of its "Ten-Second Challenge" contest. I'd tell you more about that, but it might wind up taking more than ten seconds for you to read this joke out loud.

+ CBS News checked how the Atlanta-based relief agency CARE is using donations for Haiti earthquake survivors. Only 16 percent of the money has been spent so far. So if you donated 10 dollars to the Columbus "Heart for Haiti" campaign, you'd better hope CARE staff members bring eight of that to town on vacation.

+ WLTZ reported season tickets to Georgia football games next fall will cost 40 dollars a game. But Auburn is increasing the season ticket price 50 dollars, as it adds one home game. Wow - there IS a difference between the Outback Bowl and the Independence Bowl.

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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