I was in a Facebook chat with my sister-in-law not long ago. We had been writing about taking my young nephew to his first race. After a few wall comments, a friend of hers chimed in with a derogatory Tom Arnold comment. I questioned the friend, pretending I did not understand her train of thought.
But I understood it. I have been having this same conversation for 35 years. Once again I defended auto racing while someone peered down their nose at me.
Same conversation. Same argument. I’ve been here and done that.
After my feigned ignorance to her, as she called it a lowest-common denominator reference (My apologies go to Mr. Arnold. I doubt he will receive one from her.) she did a little backpedaling from her offensive position.
I believe she either received a cue from my SIL or realized I actually was a racing enthusiast. It didn’t really matter why. What mattered to me was this conversation was taking place. Again.
Comments like hers shed light onto blatant facts that the public tends to overlook with a jaded view. She apparently views motorsports, or NASCAR, as a redneck sport. And redneck in a derogatory way, not redneck in an endearing manner that my southeastern home embraces.
Rednecks are everywhere, in every sport; you just have to pay attention.
The National Football League boasts of fans that take off their shirts in zero-degree weather and have a team name spelled out on their chests.
Major League Baseball players have wads of tobacco wedged into their cheeks and grab their crotches with regularity.
The Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers from the National Basketball Association participated in a well-known 2004 brawl involving players and fans. The fight resulted in assault charges for five players and criminal charges for five fans.
The National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup championship was recently decided in Vancouver. The visiting Boston Bruins won the championship. Then the Canadian city’s police had to battle riots, looting, and burning cars following the final game.
A figurative blanket can not be put over an entire sport to describe their fan base. That is very inaccurate.
It is wrong to generalize the NASCAR crowd, just as it is wrong for me to generalize the stick-and-ball sports with my examples above. Everything I described is true. But they by no means describe everyone.
Mullets, tattoos, a moonshine-running heritage, and screams of “Junior!” are part of the NASCAR legacy. I embrace and accept them all. The traditional big-four sports leagues are neither above, nor below our level, in spite of what some conceited critics want you to believe.
We all have some redneck in us. It is just a matter of how much. I proudly embrace my own inner redneck.
The pretentious followers of other sports that look down their noses at stock car racing need to take a hard look at their own game, and themselves.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com.)