Tag, or the Springsteen-Smoke Theorem

The adrenaline rush of going fast is undeniable. The fear. The excitement. Yet, there also seems to be something redemptive about going fast, as if we can actually run away from our problems.

Well now I’m no hero
That’s understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl
Is beneath this dirty hood
Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road”

I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
And strap your hands across my engines
Together we could break this trap
Well run till we drop, baby well never go back
Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”

My theory is that the neural rewards for moving fast (or a lot) are still buried in the old reptilian/mammal wiring of our brains, from back when you not only could run away from your problems, but had to, or else they would eat you. Maybe that feeling of relief, of getting away, is a vestige from when our ancestors that were somewhat similar to, yet also entirely unlike Darwinius masillae, actually had to get away from things that wanted to eat them, like leopards and carnivorous geese[1].

Think about playing tag as a child. One would think that it would be exciting to be the hunter, the chaser. Not so. The thrill was in the being chased. The sudden sprint. The narrow escape. The fear of being caught. The adrenaline. How close can they get before you get away?

I call this my Springsteen-Smoke Theory of the appeal of going fast. Springsteen is obviously for the “redemption”. Smoke is for my driver Tony “Smoke” Stewart[2], who is the current NASCAR champion, and is, therefore, the current emperor of going fast.


  1. I have no evidence, other than my nightmares, that packs of flesh-eating geese have ever prowled the dark forests of anywhere.
  2. Yes, I have a NASCAR driver. I went to college in North Carolina.

Author: Josh Witten


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