Can NASCAR Be Your Teen’s New Favorite Sport?

By Seth Woolcock

Growing up, sports were an escape for me. I both played and watched many of them.

However, as I’ve aged, I’ve begun to realize how many issues there can be in the sports world. Players who I once considered role-models sometimes get arrested. Owners, who I’ve spent countless hours and money supporting, get in trouble for all kinds of reasons.

Many of these leagues have lost fans and revenue due to different issues. And many are just barely starting back again, due to COVID-19.

However, one sport is seeing a comeback in a major way – The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).

NASCAR and the Drivers

NASCAR, founded in 1948, was getting increasingly popular in the 2000s when I was growing up. But the sport lost some of its popularity, I believe, when some of its most-popular drivers retired, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and my favorite driver, Jeff Gordon. 

Recently, there have been some new faces, like Chase Elliott, son of NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Bill Elliott, and Ryan Blaney, also the son of a Hall of Famer. I think these have attracted some new fans to the sport, but according to many sources, NASCAR ratings have still been in decline.

Ryan Blaney (left) and Chase Elliott (right) are two of NASCAR’s most popular young drivers.

But that was before COVID-19.

NASCAR surges ahead during COVID-19

Because NASCAR drivers race in separate cars, it was the first sport in the U.S. that was able to successfully resume competitions during the pandemic. And because it was trying to make up for lost time, many of the races were scheduled for Wednesday evening, in addition to the normal Sunday afternoon race.

It probably helped NASCAR that many other live sports have been shut down over the last few months, but I don’t think that is the whole story. For example, in May, Darrell (Bubba) Wallace, the sport’s only back driver, worked together with NASCAR to ban confederate flags from NASCAR races. People had been attempting to do this for years. Since then, Bubba has become a sports icon and has opened up  NASCAR to a whole new generation of fans.

Why Do I recommend Your Teen Watch NASCAR?

Education

I think one of the biggest benefits of watching NASCAR is the education. While these race cars are not exactly the same as the street-legal car you have in your garage, many of the concepts used in the sport are also true on the street.

I think kids could learn a lot about tire wear, fuel mileage and even some physics, just from spending a Sunday watching a race. It can possibly make them a more aware and responsible driver by the time they turn 16.

And while it’s unlikely your teen is going to be the next great NASCAR driver, there are many other career paths through the sport, such as engineering, mechanics and broadcasting that could pique your teen’s interest and lead them down a great career path.

Sportsmanship

Like any professional sport, sometimes tempers flare in the heat of completion. However, in NASCAR, there is never a lack of respect among not just the drivers for one another, but to the crew chief all the way down to the pit crew. While only one driver wins each race, most when interviewed always talk about what they learned from that race. And they always show their respect for the winner.

Regrettably, there was an incident recently that challenged the entire culture of NASCAR. A noose was found in Bubba Wallace’s garage before the June 22 race at Talladega. What happened after that, however, was the best of NASCAR. The next day all of the drivers came together and pushed his car to the front of the pack during the pre-race. They showed their support for who is he and made it clear he was absolutely, 100% welcome in their sport. It  created a sign of togetherness and acceptance, and was well covered by the national media.

Darrell (Bubba) Wallace takes a selfie with his fellow NASCAR drivers and pit crew members after they pushed his car to the front as a sign of togetherness after a noose was discovered in his garage stall at Talladega.

Fun and bonding with a parent

As I mentioned before, sports were an escape for me as a kid. NASCAR was no exception. I still remember watching amazing races with my stepfather growing up. It helped us bond and created many lasting memories

NASCAR continues its fun outside of Sundays (and Wednesdays). There are, of course, video games, but also die-cast and matchbox cars that let kids feel like they’re apart of the sport.

Overall, I believe that NASCAR is a fun sport that allows your kid to learn new skills and gain new experiences all from the safety of their living room. Give NASCAR a try. I’m very glad I did.

Useful Links:

Star Wars: The Best Content To Watch With Your Kid

Parents, does it ever seem like picking a movie to watch with the whole family gets tougher and tougher the older your kid becomes?

By Seth Woolcock

Parents, does it ever seem like picking a movie to watch with the whole family gets tougher and tougher the older your kid becomes? 

I know when I was 14 or 15-years-old the last thing I wanted to do was watch a movie with my parents. 

It’s probably difficult because tweens are at that awkward stage: Too old for “kids” movies, but not yet ready for adult movies. 

Well, how about a compromise? 

Instead of recommending just a one movie, I’m going to recommend an entire franchise: “Star Wars.” 

What most of you remember as a 1970’s space story about a young Jedi named Luke Skywalker trying to defeat Darth Vader has evolved over the past forty-plus years into an entire fictional-universe that’s comprised of full-length films, animated and live-action television shows, video games, comics and chapter books. 

I think it’s the perfect bridge between you and your kid, particularly if they are a tween. 

Star Wars Basics: 

“Star Wars” was created by George Lucas, owner of Lucas Films. The entire franchise was purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 2012 for $4.05 billion. 

After the release of the original “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”, Lucas went on to release “Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 and Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983. These are called the original trilogy. Though they are labeled Episodes IV, V and VI, I highly recommend stating with “A New Hope.” Not only does it have one of the simplest hero arcs for a kid to understand, but it easily establishes the light and dark side the force, a key concept in all of the films. Also these are most likely the “Star Wars” films you grew up with, so it might be the perfect place to start bridging that gap. 

Twenty-some years later, Lucas released three more films between 1999 and 20015. This trilogy, known as the “prequels” tells the story of how Anakin Skywalker eventually became Darth Vader. 

Even though the prequels received a lot of scrutiny from critics, they’re still beautiful pieces of art. This trilogy was released when I was a kid. I confess I had a mixed bag of emotions watching Anakin grow from a young boy into a renowned Jedi, and then becoming a force for evil as he turned to dark side. 

Note, this trilogy ends on a somber note as we see the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin change (Anakin becomes head strong and refuses to listen to the advice of his elders.) 

After the prequels were released, Lucas and Disney went on to make three more movies. They pick up where Episode VI ended, so these are Episodes VII, VIII and IX. Currently, “Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” is still playing in some theaters after debuting Dec. 18, 2019. It serves as both the end to the Skywalker Saga. 

This last trilogy is probably the one your kid knows best. It’s very female-empowering as the plot follows a young woman, Rey, who becomes the next Jedi. The cast is by far the most diverse in the franchise’s history but still includes legends such as Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford returning to play their original roles. 

Importantly, all of these films can easily be streamed on Disney+, excluding “The Rise of Skywalker” which is still in some theaters. But here is where it gets interesting. There is a lot more to the Star Wars Universe! 

Other Popular Star Wars Media 

Spin-off Films 

In addition to the prequel films, Disney and Lucas Films have also released two spin-off movies. One is “A Star Wars Story: Rogue One”. It tells the story of the rebels who stole the Death Star’s plans prior to “A New Hope”. Another is “A Star Wars Story: Solo”. It serves as Han Solo’s origin story. While these films have received mixed reviews by some critics, they both carry strong themes of bravery and justice, and I think they are excellent films. 

Television Series 

You might not know there have been several television series in the franchise’s history. Right now there are two that stand above the rest. 

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is an animated series that ran from 2008 to 2014 on Cartoon Network and retuned on Netflix for a sixth season later that year. Disney recently announced that the series will be returning for its seventh and final season Feb. 21, streaming exclusively on Disney+. 

The show is animated, so that might make it more appealing to your kids than to you. But don’t let that stop you from watching. It has many fans of all ages. A few claim it is the best media the franchise has to offer. 

A new series is really catching people’s attention, “The Mandalorian”. If you haven’t seen it, is the show responsible for the “Baby Yoda” memes you may have seen on Facebook. This show became Star Wars’ first live-action television series when it debuted on Nov. 12, 2019. It was timed to launch with Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+. 

It has been confirmed that the show will return for a second season in the fall of this year. 

Like all of the Star Wars movies and TV shows, it always has a good message. I would sum this one up as “Doing the right thing even when the wrong thing seems easier.” 

Video Games 

Star Wars has also been making a strong comeback over the last several years with their video games. It’s safe to say that “Star Wars Battlefront II” is currently the space saga’s most popular game. 

Available on consoles like PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for less than $20, the game is very entertaining for the price. It is also very appropriate for tweens. While there is obviously some violence, which explains the Teen ESRB rating, it isn’t graphic. Defeated players generally just fall to the ground. If you want, check out this parent review on the game that goes into more detail.

w on the game that goes into more detail.

Final Thoughts 

Maybe you’re not one of those people that reads science fiction and you have a hard time buying into a fictional, galactic-spanning universe of diverse creatures (that somehow still manage to communicate with each other?). But I think it’s the perfect vehicle for bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood for kids in that tween stage. It has action and aliens, but it’s not graphic or grotesquely violent like some franchises these days. 

With new content continuing to rollout, “Star Wars” could be the perfect compromise for your next family movie night. Or your next twelve. 

May the force be with you. 

Useful Links: 

Disney hits a home run with “Hero Project”

By Seth Woolcock

Parents, with winter break approaching, chances are your kids will have additional screen time over the holiday. 

So how about this year, instead of letting them scroll endlessly on YouTube or Netflix, watching meaningless, sub-par content, why not suggest something that could actually be worth their time? 

I’m talking about Marvel’s “Hero Project,” streaming exclusively on Disney+.

A Short Series Overview

Marvel’s “Hero Project” is a Disney+’s original series shot in documentary-style. It follows young real-life heroes as they show courage and kindness. These teens inspire positivity and change across their communities. 

Each kid featured in the show will have a comic book written about them – inspired by their real-life acts of heroism. 

It is a 20-episode production and currently has six episodes released, with a new episode debuting every Friday. 

To let you know what you can expect, here’s a quick review of Episode 1: “Sensational Jordan.”

Episode 1: “Sensational Jordan” Review

As most Marvel motion-pictures do, “Hero Project” does a great job of introducing the show. It begins with a voiceover from a Marvel editor who says how they are continuing to be inspired every day by real-life heroes. 

Jordan Reeves is a 13-year old girl with a limb difference – her left arm stops just above the elbow. In the first scene, she is seen cheerleading at a junior high sporting event. Unlike most tweens who struggle with imperfection, Jordan embraces what makes her different. Stubborn and hard-headed from an early age, she comes across as a confident and intelligent teenager. 

Growing up having to learn how to do things a little different than most people, Jordan always had a fascination with design and how things worked. After attending a design workshop in San Francisco, Jordan began working weekly with Sam Hobish, a design mentor, on a glitter gun for her dismembered arm. 

Eventually, because of how serious Jordan took her invention, she went viral – appearing on the “Rachael Ray Show” and later pitching her idea to the cast of “Shark Tank.” 

After her climb into the spotlight, Jordan wanted to do more to help others. She began holding workshops with other kids to help build things that played off their disabilities. She became an activist for more consideration for accessibility in the design community – eventually creating her own non-profit foundation, “Born Just Right”. 

At the end of the episode, Marvel presents her with her own comic book and makes her an official member of the “Hero Project” because of her charitable and forward-thinking work.

Overall Impressions

Altogether, I think Disney does a great job moving an audience with such an inspirational story in just a brief 25 minutes. Even as an adult, I felt a swing of emotions throughout the short documentary, and it left me feeling positive and joyful. There were also some absolutely stunning shots in this episode. 

I’m not a particularly huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, but I was blown away by the show’s overall concept and the beautiful execution in episode one. 

In a world where there is so much pointless and commercialized content out there, that target kids specifically, I think “Hero project” is a great way to combat that. It promotes both critical thinking and positive change. 

It’s a home-run for me and I think it will be with most parents struggling to find good content for their children.

What Parents Are Saying

Mom bloggers and entertainment critics Patty Holiday of No-Guilt Fangirl and Andrea Updyke of Theme Park Parents collaborate on the podcast “Now Streaming Disney Plus”. They break down all the latest Disney Plus news in addition to reviewing the different series from a tween-parent perspective. The two moms also loved the first episode and offer some great insight. You can check that out here.

Useful links:

Referenced in “A Short Series Overview”
Referenced in “What Parents are saying”

Maybe Your Kid Is Not Ready for The “Barstool”? (“Barstool Sports” that is!)

By Seth Woolcock

I first came across Barstool Sports during my freshman year of college. Thankfully it was then, and not sooner.

Barstool Sports logo

Parents, while you may not know very much about Barstool Sports, you may have come across their logo (seen above). Maybe you’ve seen their memes, like “Saturdays are For the Boys.” (By the way, that slogan is so popular, Barstool’s founder, Dave Portnoy, trademarked the slogan in 2016. At one point he even threatened to sue the NFL because “they jacked our slogan” when they used a similar phrase on a t-shirt design. Story is here.)

What is “Barstool Sports”?

Barstool started as a print publication in 2003. Then it focused on gambling advise and fantasy football projections. However, it was relaunched in 2007 as an internet blog that Portnoy filled with entertaining content that some found to be “rude, crude, sexist and often mean-spirited,” said Entrepreneur contributor Jason Ankeny in this article.

After selling a majority stake to the Chermin Group in 2016, the company continued to make headlines. Despite a controversy around a 2010 blog written by Portnoy that purportedly encouraged a “rape culture”, and hosting “Blackout Tour” parties in Boston where they were accused of promoting and allowing excessive and underage drinking, Barstool didn’t stop exploding.

So, ESPN jumped on the bandwagon. In October of 2017 they debuted “Barstool Van Talk”. However, the show was cancelled after its first episode because several employees, including NFL Live host Samantha Ponder, pushed for the show to be cancelled.

Are they important?

To be fair, the company does promote some charitable causes. It helped raise $250,000 after the Boston Marathon bombings. It teamed up with a Cleveland Browns quarterback last year to benefit Special Olympics Ohio.

Currently Barstool ranks number 4,700 in global internet engagement websites according to Alexa. This means it sure is popular.

The real issue is not whether the content is in poor taste or even rude, but rather what does this content mean for your kids, especially boys? Many argue this site finds it acceptable and even encourages vulgar behavior. It personally reminds me of a 6th year fraternity brother who lacks respect for women and any authority.  Is this what you want your kid exposed to?

Here’s my problem…

And though Barstool, I argue, certainly fosters just plain old traditional problems, like sexism and binge drinking, it’s also big on the new problems, like vaping. In fact, Barstool Sports blogger and personality Tommy Smokes appeared on Fox News last year supporting the overwhelming favorite vaping device for teens, JUUL. (See our recent blog post here about vaping and your kid.)

Hey, the world is full of digital influencers. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evaluate some of them and help your kid make intelligent choices. Sure, Barstool might be fun for some grown up men – though I’m not endorsing it.  But you may want to keep your kid off of the “barstool” until they get some real life experiences under their belt. I mean, you don’t HAVE to act like a jerk just because you watch something on TV, the movies or the Internet. But if you watch it nearly every day? And your buddies are all watching it? And no one tells you not to? 

Well, what do you think happens?

Useful Links:

Jason Ankeny article: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229401

Story on “Blackout Tour” parties: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/barstool-sports-rape-joke_n_1293328

Article on ESPN cancelling show: https://www.si.com/tech-media/2017/10/23/barstool-van-talk-cancelled-espn-one-episode

Influence of Barstool Sports: https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/barstoolsports.com

“8th Grade” Movie Review: Every Parent of a Tween Should Watch It

By Seth Woolcock

Ever wonder what it’s like to be an eighth grader in today’s world?
Let Bo Burnham show you. Usually known for his comedy and music, Burnham explores the crazy world of junior high in his 2018 film “Eighth Grade.”

Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is just like any 13-year-old girl today. She’s self-conscious, lives on social media and strives to be a YouTube blogger – which means she gives kids her age her advice. But off camera, Kayla is crippled with anxiety. She can’t take any chances. The movie follows her through the ups and downs of her last week of classes in the eighth grade.

Kayla’s dad (Josh Hamilton) may be a lot like you. He’s a single parent who loves his kid and would do anything for her, but often finds himself out of touch with his daughter. He believes she lives in a world where people are more disconnected from each other than ever before. Throughout “Eighth Grade” Burnham paints a picture of eighth grade as it is TODAY for American teenagers.

So, I’m a guy in my early twenties – much closer to that age range than you, probably – and I can tell you the accuracy of the movie is unreal.  It has a lot of good messages for both parents and teens. But through conversations with others, I’ve been surprised by how many grown-ups don’t know half the stuff in this movie.  School-shooting drills, Instagram, “finstas”, and Steph Curry jerseys, a lot has changed since you’ve been in middle school. I think it has good information for any parent today, and it provides it wrapped in good story-telling.

The movie talks about (shows) themes like being yourself, putting yourself out there, discovering confidence and growing up – all things every teen/tween deals with, but they are a different challenge in today’s 24/7, hyper-connected world.

Fortunately, “Eighth Grade” also reminds us that things do get better. At a high school shadowing program, Kayla meets Olivia (Emily Robinson), who becomes the first person to really put her arms around Kayla. It foreshadows that high school might just be a bit better for Kayla.

Maybe ironically, I found the music in the movie really worked for me (you’ll hear what I mean when you watch it.) With a run time of only an hour and 24 minutes, and a 99 percent critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie really is a must-watch, especially if you are a parent of a teen or tween today.

“Eighth Grade” is available to steam for free on Amazon Video if you are an Amazon Prime account holder. It’s also available for rental in the iTunes and Google Play store.

Links to other movie reviews of “8th Grade”:

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/eighth_grade

“8th Grade” the movie by Bo Burnham

New York Times movie review of “8th Grade”