Monday, August 21, 2006

Why We Love Controversy

Controversy is a big part of any sport, and we NASCAR fans seem to love it in ours. In football, baseball, basketball and other sports, the controversy may be either an officiating call that changes the outcome of the game, or something that happens away from the field, such as a player's personal life, player trades, and player rivalries. In NASCAR, it all happens right there in front of us. Controversy is a large part of what drives us to talk about our sport, it gives us something to get fired up about, aside from the racing itself, and to post articles such as this one.
Take, for example, the closing laps of the Buch Series race at Michigan on Saturday. Dale Earnhardt, Jr wants to win races, but he also wants to live up to the "Good-guy" image his fans have of him. It wasn't as if Earnhardt was going to give up a victory for the sake of a clean image, however, because he is, foremost, a race car driver. At any rate, his act of moving the slower car of Carl Edwards out of the way, would have been just racing to most of us fans. It came, however, as a shock to many Earnhardt, Jr fans, simply for the fact that their perception is that Jr doesn't do that. Controversy! Carl Edwards is also perceived by his fans as one of the "good-guys," and those fans were appalled and outraged. It doesn't matter that their driver has done the same thing in similar circumstances. It doesn't even cross their mind that Edwards more than likely would have done the same thing if the situation were reversed. It doesn't even matter that that is how racing is done in NASCAR. What matters is that their driver was wronged, that Edwards' victory was stolen from him by a driver who is supposed to be another one of the "good-guys." And that was only the beginning, for after the Checkers flew, and Jr was declared the winner, "Cousin" Carl came out of the pits on four flat tires, and expressed his displeasure with Earnhardt, slamming his car into the side panel of Junior's during the cool down lap. That still wasn't enough. Edwards actually walked into Victory Lane, and confronted Junior while he was celebrating his victory. Controversy!
We know that we haven't heard the last of this--NASCAR will definately hand some kind of penalty to Cousin Carl, and conversations will continue as to the severity of the penalty and whether it was fair or not. But that will be anti-climatic compared to what we saw in front of us, and there is also the anticipation that Edwards will retaliate in some future race. This is NASCAR and we love it!
This is the good stuff that not only keeps us going between races, but keeps us going even during the off season. We'll all be talking a long time about this incident, about Kyle "The Schrub" Busch's record number of "Lucky Dog" passes, about Kurt Busch's hard luck penalty at Watkins Glen, who Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon or someone else booted to win the race, and countless other issues that have developed over the season. Controversy is fuel for our love of the sport.
When you wrap it all together--the drama of racing, the drama of rivalries, the individual battles and arguments--it is all about one thing to the average NASCAR fan--"That's racin'!"


Babs said...

It's a soap opera sometimes, isn't it?
I think Carl's dark side is showing more and more.

RevJim said...

That's it! Carl...Carl...come to the Dark Side, Carl!