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On Dragon Ball, Digimon and Evangelion in 2015

dragon-ball-z-2015ATLANTA :: Were that many people clamoring for more Dragon Ball?

The answer is apparently a resounding yes as there is a new movie coming out called Dragon Ball Z: The Resurrection of F. For those unaware, the F represents the unavoidable return of Frieza — the most iconic villain in the history of the most popular anime franchise to ever hit the United States.

Despite the fanfare surrounding the return of Dragon Ball, I’m pretty skeptical about this movie. Since the announcement several days ago, I’ve had multiple friends ask me if I’m excited for more kamehameha waves and spirit bombs and the answer is an indifferent ‘meh.’

Like any twentysomething, I owe all of my otaku fandom to the likes of Pokemon, Digimon, Gundam, Outlaw Star and Dragonball — a well-rounded diet of action, comedy, drama and irreverence. As a result, Dragon Ball still has a special place in my heart.

My cat is named Gotenks after all. View full article »

Super Bowl XLIX Prediction

Boomer-20121104202656MOBILE, Ala. – I haven’t watched as much football as I would have liked to this season. My Saints were godawful and my weekends were kind of occupied with the “Fraternal Order of Go Fast.”

I have watched the NFL Playoffs this winter but take the following prediction with a grain of salt — because let’s face it — no one pays me for my football opinions, right?

For Super Bowl XLVIII, I picked the Broncos over the Seahawks, believing that the cagey veteran quarterback, Peyton Manning, would use every trick in the book to outsmart the youthful, energetic exuberance of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and the “Legion of Boom.”

I was wrong. View full article »

I’ve Been Around the Block But Not Near Enough

MapMALCOLM, Ala. – I have been lucky enough to see a decent number of race tracks in my first 26 years of existence. Working in NASCAR, IndyCar and short track racing over the past few seasons has only increased that number. With that said, I still have so many bucket list venues to kick off my personal list and hopefully 2015 will allow me to do so.

You’ll notice that the vast majority of these tracks are pavement and road courses. I grew up in a Southern dirt track family and raced dirt myself before pursuing journalism. (My parents started taking me to the track to watch Dad race months following my birth.) I removed myself from dirt more and more as I got older. That changed a little bit last year as I started following the National Dirt Racing League, which folded as quickly as it started.

But the NDRL did start a flirtation with Dirt Late Models so maybe I could find myself at a Lucas Oil or World of Outlaws event next season.

Regardless, here is a list of every track I have ever attended from 1988-2014. View full article »

VPSATSUMA, Ala. — Most of you guys reading this know my backstory and how hard I’ve worked to make it in motorsports journalism. It’s not easy and has required much sacrifice.

One of those sacrifices has been my quickly eroding social life. Think about it: I worked 20 Sprint Cup weekends, 10 IndyCar weekends and countless short track events in 2014. Woe is me, right? (sarcasm) Trust me, I’m not asking for pity. I know that I have the coolest job in the world but there are certain things that I have given up in trying to make this work.

That’s what made last night so unique and special. View full article »

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes!

christmas_ferrari_10-10SATSUMA, Ala. — It has become customary to wish your social media friends and followers a Merry Christmas on this day each year. I feel like we’ve started to do it because that is what everyone else does and it starts to lose a little bit of meaning after a while.

That’s not to say I think we’re becoming insincere or anything like that. I just want to take this opportunity and go above and beyond the standard practice, if I may.

Because the truth is that, if you’re reading this right now, I think you and I have an invaluable relationship and I hope you truly have a marvelous Christmas!

I am so grateful for your friendship and support and I couldn’t do what I do without you! It’s because you follow me on Twitter, read my articles and share them to your friends that I’m able to be at a race track each and every weekend and write the stories that I put out.

By far the best aspect of this past season is that I was able to attend a lot more NASCAR events. In fact, I was able to work 20 Sprint Cup weekends, 9 IndyCar events and countless short track races over the past 12 months.

This is by far the coolest gig in the world and it’s allowed me to interact and meet many of you in person at Tweetups throughout the course of the year and that’s the best part of the job.

You guys are ‘my people’ and I think it’s so cool that we have a forum to talk about racing the way we do each and every weekend. So long story short, if I didn’t see you in person at least once this past season, I hope we are able to chat at some point in 2015.

I’m super grateful to know each of you in whatever capacity that I do and I wish you the merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year.

Cheers,

Matt Weaver

Matt Reviews: Final Fantasy X HD Remaster

Tidus_and_Yuna_in_zanarkandSATSUMA, Ala. – When I was much younger, I vowed that I would never become a stubborn adult who was not open to change and the progressive evolution of his various interests.

Time has largely shown me to be a man of my word, especially with the mass of change that has come to NASCAR over the past decade with the Chase for the Championship, knockout qualifying and the overall evolution of Stock Car Racing.

I’m a proponent of change, believing that a product that doesn’t keep up with the times is at risk of getting lost to it. With that in mind, I’m saddened to admit that the state of Japanese Role Playing Video Games (JRPG) has passed me by, something I recently discovered by playing Final Fantasy XIII and the HD remaster of Final Fantasy X back-to-back over the past six months.

JRPGs were a major otaku passion of mine during my teenage years, a hobby that I’ve tried to maintain as an adult.

As a teenager, I took for granted the golden era of JRPGs, growing up with the releases of titles like Final Fantasy 7-10, Super Mario RPG, Legend of Dragoon, Chrono Cross and Xenosaga. What’s the common theme between each of these games?

If you’re still reading by this point of the blog post, you’re likely interested in the genre and know that the answer is a turn-based battle system, where you and your opponent take turns attacking, casting spells or healing your fellow party members. View full article »

Kyle Petty nWoCocoa Beach, Fla. — For better or worse, stock car racing and professional wrestling has always had a unique sort of synergy between each other. Both have a deep history and devoted following in the Southeastern United States and have often utilized that shared marketplace to grown and evolve over the past three decades.

The best example of that synergy can be found between NASCAR and the old World Championship Wrestling promotion who both owe a large amount of their respective growth to Ted Turner and his TBS cable empire as both were weekly stalwarts of the network in the 1980s and 90s. In fact, Turner owned WCW and had a passion for both “the business” and stock car racing.

There are countless examples of Turner leveraging two of his most valued properties together in building a unified following.

It is with that in mind, that I admit that I’ve been watching a lot of the WWE Network during this off-season. For those out of the loop, the WWE Network is a Netflix-style streaming product that allows me to enjoy events from days gone by, beneficial given the current boring and downtrodden state of the modern WWE television product. View full article »

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WrestleMania is four days away and I couldn’t care less.

For my longest-tenured friends, this must sound pretty blasphemous. Professional wrestling has always been a favored passion right alongside motorsports, baseball and otaku culture — my own personal pillar of geek.

The cliché is spoken all the time, that wrestling just ain’t the same, for the most part harkening back to the so-called Attitude Era of the late 1990s. But that’s not what I mean. I wasn’t a fan of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara’s “Crash TV” style of promotion.

When I say professional wrestling ain’t the same, I’m referencing actual professional wrestling and not sports entertainment, the overly theatric and cheesy brand of choreographed athleticism produced by World Wrestling Entertainment.

My fandom goes back to southern style, with roots centered on names like Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South and World Class, my appreciation of the business starting with Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling.

I like my professional wrestling sports-based and without flash and seriousness and that died a death in the United States the moment that WCW hired Russo and Ferrara back in 1999.

Today’s legitimate professional wrestling, at least stateside, is a WWE monopoly and the reasons that have pushed me away have finally outnumbered the reasons that I kept tuning in week-to-week, the final straw breaking violently in half when CM Punk suddenly called it quits following the Royal Rumble.

PunkRRPunk was the last vestige of the professional wrestling world that didn’t bow to corporate pressures. He overcame his lack of size and muscle, making it in the Land of Giants, based purely on athleticism, work-rate and his uncanny ability to make you believe whatever he told you on a microphone, regardless of if he was playing the role of a baby face (hero) or a dastardly heel (villain.)

He was authentic in a wrestling world overran with bright colors and silly conflicts in no way based in reality. The latter is a reason why MMA has thrived at the behest of pro wrestling, by the way. People want to believe that the characters are real, and that the conflicts are genuine, something that WWE fans are unable to do when Scooby Doo occupied television time on the prior segment.

Today’s WWE is a variety show of nonsense … enough is enough and it’s time for a change, to quote the late and great Owen Hart.

But more than anything else, I’m insulted by WWE giving Daniel Bryan the push and moment that CM Punk so desperately wanted and deserved, doing so after his departure almost as if a FU … err, Attitude Adjustment to the legacy of Chicago’s Straight-Edged Superstar.

I have no doubt that Punk, despite his hard-edged attitude and moodiness would still be at the company today if he had been treated like the superstar that so many, still chanting his name two months later, knew him to be.

Instead of giving Punk the obvious Stone Cold treatment, he was forced to job (lose) to Triple H, a non-regular who has long since moved into a corporate position with the company. Punk, who was trusted with the longest championship reign in company history, was continually overlooked for his WrestleMania main event for returning Hollywood stars The Rock and Dave freaking Batista.

The latter has already lost favor with the company, the other reason that Bryan was inserted into the main event — and that should be CM Punk.

But Punk, the last true professional wrestler in the WWE, has taken his ball and went home to Chicago. And without Punk, I really don’t care anymore.

With that said, I will always watch the Showcase of the Immortals, so here are some thoughts and predictions for WrestleMania XXX.

Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. TBD

The TBD is of course, Daniel Bryan or Triple H. This will certainly be Daniel Bryan’s spot and I’m totally done with the business Triple H places himself into the main event. Daniel Bryan will defeat Triple H earlier in the night, earn his spot in the main event, and complete one of the greatest feel-good storylines in the history of modern professional wrestling.

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H

See above.

The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar

The streak will never end — take it to the bank. I believe The Undertaker has three matches remaining in his career and he will win all three of them. He and Brock Lesnar will put on a pretty fantastic show on Sunday and Undertaker will bow out after defeating Sting and a heel John Cena in his final two appearances.

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt

John Cena has nothing to lose in losing this match but he’s going to win because he’s Superman and this is WrestleMania. If the WWE was serious about establishing Bray Wyatt and his creepy Deliverance gimmick as a main event player, he would win on Sunday in the Big Easy.

André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

It just makes a lot of sense for Big Show to win the inaugural Andre the Giant battle royal, right?

Thank you to my supportive friends and family

ImageJimmie Johnson made history on Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, capturing his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in eight seasons.

I’ve learned that the business of motorsports is hard work. While Johnson makes it look easy at times, it takes an incredible amount of effort, resolve and focus to do any job at the highest level of racing.

While I would never compare what I’m trying to do to what the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 team has accomplished over the past decade, I can tell you that racing is most certainly very difficult to find even the smallest success in.

At 25-years-old, racing is the absolute only thing that I have.

I’ve dedicated my entire life to chasing race cars that go around in circles. Each of you reading this know what I am trying to accomplish in making it as a motorsports journalist — and that this is the most grueling grind I have ever experienced in my life.

I didn’t intend to share this out of vanity but to recognize that whatever success that I have found this year — like Johnson’s 2013 season — came down to the people that have supported and helped me. I’m just a kid from Axis, Ala., (the stereotype that comes to mind when you envision Alabama), who wants something more.

And this year, I’ve started to find it.

In addition to my long-standing jobs at SB Nation and Mobile International Speedway, I earned my coolest title to date in Executive Editor for Popular Speed, a new NASCAR concept website, envisioned by Sprint Cup winning spotter Mike Calinoff.

When he and his metaphorical right arm Amanda Ebersole invited me to spearhead their newest project, it was the biggest honor I have ever received that someone so notable would trust me to be one of the faces of something with such lofty goals.

And because of everyone involved, Popular Speed has grown beyond our biggest expectations, breaking numerous news stories, providing hard hitting analysis and quickly earning a positive reputation (I think and hope) around the NASCAR garage.

Just based on what the site has been able to accomplish in just four brief months, the moon is truly the limit for the next season now that the beta phase of Popular Speed has passed with flying colors.

Through SB Nation, I was also able to cover much of the IZOD IndyCar Series season and the inaugural Southern Super Series Late Model tour this season. I think it must be frustrating to some of my readers and motorsports friends who follow me for just one discipline.

But like I’ve said before, racing is all I have — racing of every kind.

To those who humour me when I go to an IndyCar or short track event, I thank you and hope that I provided something has some degree of appeal.

Many people don’t realize or understand that I’m still in school at the University of South Alabama. I’ve yet to graduate because I spend more time chasing race cars than attending classes. So needless to say, my budget resembles every college student’s ever.

Like many young journalists before and after me, I’ve been known to sleep in haulers, trucks and most recently the homes of my widely expanded motorsports social circle.

So the point of this post is to thank everyone who has been a part of my journey this season.

I really feel like I’m making a lot of progress and I couldn’t do this without each and every one of you who give me a place to stay, a traveling mate, a shoulder to bounce my wackiest ideas off of or to just hang out the coolest diners until 3 a.m.

tavern

(I’m looking at you Texas Tavern with Langley, Kim and Andy)

You make this a lot of fun and I hope that 2014 brings more of the same. This is what I live for and may my checkered flag come far down the road. And with that in mind, I have to thank every one who of you who have clicked a story, retweeted, interacted or said hi at a tweet-up.

Thank all of you so much.

We’re just getting started.

——–

Mom, Dad, April, Jeff, Bob, Mike (all three of you), Yvonne, Chris (both of you), Kenn, Andy, Tim, Rick, Cassie, Josh, Jenna, Kelly, Amanda, Aaron, Alanis, Jordan, Brian, Cone (seriously), Virginia, Farrah, Chase, Kane, Brandon, Tony, Allen, John, Shaun, Christley, Cunningham, Sara, Jessica, Adam, Unique, Rick, Stix, Langley, Kevin, Jerry, Dontae, Dustin, Aunt Cynthia, Uncle Terry, Matt, Dave and everyone… the list is far too long.

I can be hard to deal with because I almost have this dogged tunnel vision approach to my career and you have worked with me accordingly. Ya’ll rock.

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MattWeaverDanielHemric

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BGU Clock Tower

Bowling Green University Clock Tower

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of doing an honest-to-God road trip.

It’s the modern-day equivalent of getting the chance to leave everything behind and setting sail in the pursuit of new worlds or adventure. If that sounds a little Star Trek, it’s because I’m admittedly a bit of a fan.

This week’s trip wasn’t as spectacular as those penned by Jack Kerouac or Hunter S. Thompson but that’s the spirit I was hoping to capture in driving cross-country on Wednesday afternoon.

Road trips were all the rage in the 60s and 70s. The expansion of the American highway was well under way and the automobile was arguably at its most durable during this time as well. General adventure defined the American culture and feminism, freedom and Woodstock were the watchwords.

With diner inns – like Howard Johnsons — still popular during this time, the road trip was still an affordable investment too, given enough participants.

An open road and clear skies represent clarity and we could all use a little bit more of that from time to time.

So when my buddy Chase offered to pay my gas and meals for driving up to Bowling Green, Ohio to get him in advance of the NASCAR weekend at Kentucky, I was willing to make it work. After all, I had never driven beyond Cincinnati and I wanted my own Kerouac novel — or something close.

So around 11 a.m. CST, I set off on an 11-hour trek from St. Claire Ala. to Bowling Green.

Along the way, I found a town called Arab, pronounced “eh-Raab” but still humorous from a visual perspective when paired with local establishments like the “Arab American Union.” And as a local beat reporter friend of mine pointed out later that day,

“School nickname is a cool play on words – Knights. (I’ve also seen it listed as Arabian Knights).”

I laughed.

All jokes aside, the farm town of Arab was actually very picturesque as was the countryside when I traveled further north up Tennessee and Kentucky. The highways were chiseled from hills and mountains, with the twisty roads resembling a classic Grand Prix street race than an open highway.

I was widely grinning, rolling the apexes around US Highway 31W, an obvious reminder as to why I rarely take interstates when I drive to races — they just aren’t as exciting or visually stimulating.

A White Castle in Kentucky.

A White Castle in Kentucky.

Once into Kentucky, I found a White Castle fast food joint and to my disappointment, discovered that it was just like Krystal’s. While I’ve always known that they were carbon copy products, the legends surrounding White Castle had grown beyond that simple fast food — it was supposedly an experience.

But it tasted just like a Krystal’s, making me wonder if Northerners hype Krystal’s the way White Castle is spoken about in the Deep South?

In any case, darkness approached much quicker than I was used to — crossing over into the Eastern Time Zone played a slight role in that. I really wasn’t able to marvel or explore under twilight until I arrived in Bowling Green, where Chase treated me to a hoagie made by a regional chain called “Mister Spots.”

Mister Spots wings and subs in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Mister Spots wings and subs in Bowling Green, Ohio.

More importantly, the downtown gave me a chance to explore a new downtown. At the time of writing this, it is 4:30 ET and I’m near-fatally tired. Instead of waxing poetic on the eve of NASCAR work, another four hours back south to Kentucky Speedway, I’ll just let the photographs do the talking.

I will make one last note, that Bowling Green shares several similarities with Mobile, down to the nightlife and architecture. Of course, aren’t most towns really the same at their cores?

Additional Photos from Bowling Gree, Ohio can be found below.

Clock (1)Clock (2)

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