A wise man once told me that pregnant women are among a select group of people who are actually allowed to act insane, much like sports mascots, local weathermen, theme park performers and that guy with the question mark jacket who teaches people how to get free money from the government. I have the distinct impression that people want racecar drivers added to this list. It isn't that they watch for the crashes, but for the temper tantrums that follow the crashes. This is tantamount to watching a baseball game, not to see someone get hit by a pitch, but to watch the bench clearing brawl that follows.
Fifteen years ago, NASCAR did everything it could to brand itself as the conservative, family friendly alternative to professional stick & ball sports (save for alcohol and tobacco advertising). We all lauded our athletes who always signed autographs and were never caught snorting cocaine out of a prostitute's brassiere. Unsavory facts like "Tim Richmond died of AIDS" and that "Dale Earnhardt was married three times" were seldom discussed. After the issues of Shane Hmiel, Jeremy Mayfield, and A.J. Allmendinger, the clean image has been soiled. Now when a driver with an inoffensively clean personality (think Jimmie Johnson or Matt Kenseth) comes along, they are chastised for not being rude enough.
It was almost ten years ago that Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth had a brief (and one-sided) shoving match following the spring race at Bristol. This ignited controversy and was thought to be the start of a long lasting rivalry. Today the incident is largely forgotten, and (while it is not shown on television) I would wager that Jeff Gordon's children play with Matt Kenseth's daughter during race weekends. If these post-race antics and so-called rivalries had the importance sports writers imagined they did, they would certainly have more influence and staying power than they have demonstrated.
Being sickeningly child friendly isn't the answer either; this is proven by the fact that Teletubbies never won an Emmy. A balance needs to be found between entertaining children and the adults that drove them to the track. Risqué moments are acceptable only in small doses that children won't notice. For example, asking Miss Sprint Cup to open the collar of her firesuit is acceptable; putting her in a bikini is not. Pleasing everyone at all times is impossible; however, each demographic can have a few good minutes until all are served. The goal is not having your cake and eating it too, but maximizing the supply of cake.
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