Car and Driver Stepped in It



So Car and Driver runs a story on its website on April 1st claiming that President Obama had ordered Chevrolet and Dodge out of NASCAR as a condition of receiving any Federal funds. This, obviously, was newsworthy, the battle lines were drawn, and the blogosphere went nuts.

The hue and cry spread far and fast, with NASCAR traditionalists bemoaning almost equally another hit to their beloved sport and the supposed creeping Socialism espoused by the current administration. Comments were left, emails sent, and in-boxes filled … despite the fact that beneath its headline, Car and  Driver included the following disclaimer: HAPPY APRIL FOOLS’ DAY! THIS IS A JOKE. LIGHTEN UP, PEOPLE.

Indeed. I guess I’m naive, but the preceding sort of mitigates the potential for outrage in my book. Seems pretty damn clear to me what the editors were after; and, obviously, they succeeded.

Of course, it’s equally obvious — and a good many commenters on various Websites echo the idea — that Car and Driver touched something of a collective nerve. That is, their little joke has more than a shred of the credible to it, given the underlying realities inside and outside the sport. In addition to this very possibility being a subject of fairly intense focus within NASCAR, the ultimate, and ultimately unknown, consequences of such a drastic maneuver have people on edge.

I suppose Car and Driver‘s ruse is fundamentally different to George Plimpton’s Sidd Finch story in Sports Illustrated in that it concerns real-world issues that would demonstrably and negatively impact a large number of people; this is a seriously challenging time for an overwhelming percentage of people in this country and perhaps joking about the economic livelihood of tens of thousands of people isn’t terribly smart or funny, but, seriously — lighten up, people.