Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Time To Stop The Insanity

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., may or may not be out of the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup championship chase. But either way, there's one important task still at hand.

In the aftermath of Sunday's last-lap crash involving Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson and eventual winner Brian Vickers, fans at Talladega Superspeedway expressed their disapproval by showering the racetrack (and anything else within range) with debris. Beer cans, soda cans, seat cushions and all manner of debris poured down like rain, as members of Earnhardt Nation protested the unhappy outcome of the race.

At least one child was reportedly injured by a thrown object, and numerous other fans, drivers, track workers and NASCAR officials were sent scurrying for cover in the face of the barrage. It was at least the third incident of this type in recent years, and in my opinion, that's three times too many.

In April of 2004 -- also at Talladega -- NASCAR awarded Jeff Gordon the win after replay cameras showed the Dupont Chevrolet in front of Earnhardt as the caution flag flew on the final lap. Fans reacted with a rain of terror that was as dangerous as it was mindless. Amazingly, Earnhardt endorsed the barrage, saying, "Now my fans can finally have their chance to voice their opinion on how chickenshit that decision was."

"You shouldn't do it," admitted Earnhardt, "(but) in a way, I look at it as a pure form of expression, which is really rare in sports."

Junior was wrong about that. What happened at Talladega that day was nothing short of hooliganism; the sort of mindless, gang mentality that should be confined to European soccer pitches, not NASCAR speedways. What happened that day -- and at least twice since -- tarnished the image of this sport, and reinforced the outdated stereotypes we've been working for decades to shed.

To many people around the nation, NASCAR fans are nothing more than tabacka-chewin', beer-swillin', overall-wearin', dentally impaired yahoos. What happened Sunday at Talladega does nothing to dispell those myths. In fact, it reinforces them. NASCAR can do little to stop the insanity. Local law enforcement is relatively powerless, as well, since arresting a few dozen would-be Roger Clemens' cannot possibly stem the tide of thousands of airborne Budweisers.

There is only one person who can put an end to this disturbing trend, and his name is Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Hopefully, America's most popular racecar driver will come forth in the next few days and say what he should have said in April of 2004. Hopefully, he will condemn the conduct of everyone involved in Sunday's embarrassing outburst, stating in no uncertain terms that he wants no part of any "fan" who acts in that way. Hopefully, he will retract what some people obviously considered his endorsement of similar conduct in the past, and make it clear that if you plan to act that way in the future, you need to take off that red #8 T-shirt and find something else to do with your Sunday afternoons.

Jimmie Johnson -- whose fans also had reason to be upset Sunday -- said it perfectly when he told reporters, "We've got a huge fan base...that is going to express their feelings. Going to events and booing other teams is just a part of that. All I would ask is that people do it within reason, without jeopardizing other people's safety. I understand that a young child was injured by something that was thrown, and there's no call for that. Boo all you want to, express your displeasure, fill all the chat rooms with your comments, but injuring people is over the line."

Junior, the racing world needs to hear the same from you, and the sooner the better. Stop the insanity, before it's too late.

7 comments:

  1. Some chicks look damn good in overalls - and they AREN'T necessarily hicks!

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  2. Anonymous2:44 PM

    It is time NASCAR and the host speedways put a stop to this crap. The only way to control this is to do what other "real" sports venues do and not allow coolers in the stands. A cup of beer thrown does much less damage then a can or plastic bottle hurled from the tops of the stands.

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  3. Anonymous3:15 PM

    this goes to all the A-holes who feel it neccesary to hurl objects from afar and then bitch because of the rising cost of;parking, souviners,food,drink and most of all,ticket prices.Well consider this: You have nobody to blame but yourself!They have to pay people to pick up after inconsiderate sons-a-bitches like you. If you feel the need in the future to behave in this manor please stay home and trash your property and not someone elses trying to make it enjoyable for all the others.

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  4. i'm w/you dave...jr needs to put out a press release and beg his "followers" to be more tollerant...i was very pleased at how he handled the wreck unlike jimmie who was whining the whole time...brian thought jimmie was gonna get by jr clean and was there to push him-nuff said...it was a "racin' deal"...and although i can only hear about 15 minutes of the show, i've got some good thoughts and wanted to add my 2 cents worth...great job!

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  5. Well it's three days past and we're still talking about the fact that the supposed fans of our sport hurled things onto the track and now are calling in threats to Lowe's Motor Speedway against Brian Vickers. Does anyone else besides me wonder why the other motorsports and sports in general still see Nascar as a "redneck" sport? I find it funny that with Mr. Montoya coming into the sport that Nascar is looking for some respect from outside - namely the Formula One camp - this is surely the way to make that happen. Nascar needs to clamp down on this now - Chicago does not allow coolers, never has, and when Jeff Gordon dumped Matt Kenseth this year, many bottles of beer, albeit plastic, were thrown at the track in disgust. I personally saw a woman get her bell rung when one got her square in the back of the head that came from up high and did not quite make it to the track. I think the best solution might be to adopt what baseball is starting to do and stop selling beer after the seventh inning - pick a lap number two thirds through the event and cut off the sales. Either that or they are going to have to have a ton more security in the stands at the end of each race. It won't stop the idiots, but it might slow them down a bit.

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  6. Who is to say that they weren't Jimmie Johnson fans throwing objects on the track. Just because Dale Jr. was involved doesn't mean his were the only fans hurly things to the track. Some may even have been Vickers fans, You don't know any more than I do.

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  7. You're right, Lou. It's just a coincidence that it's happened the last three times Junior's had a win snatched away on the final lap.

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