You’ve got to love Eddie Gossage (pictured), President of Texas Motor Speedway and all-around rabble-rouser.
Buried deep in this story by ESPN.com’s Terry Blount, coming well after Gossage’s not-unreasonable suggestion that Jimmie Johnson start punching people, there’s this:
"I saw [NASCAR president] Mike Helton last week," Gossage said. "I told him, ‘Times are tougher. NASCAR needs to have some thick skin because I’m going to get a little crazy. I don’t want to get a phone call. Don’t bother me.’
He said, ‘Is that a warning?’ I said, ‘No. It’s a fact of life.’"
On the off-chance that needs to be translated, what Gossage is telling Helton is: I might say or do some things this year that you’re not terribly fond of–deal with it.
NASCAR doesn’t particularly like criticism and it definitely doesn’t appreciate it when the Indians go off the reservation (obviously, Gossage is trying to soften any potential blow and the subsequent punishment he’d endure by warning NASCAR). But — and this is the part that I’ve never completely understood — NASCAR’s apparently thin skin is inconsistent, I think, with the sport’s oft-stated desire to be both a major player in the world of sports and, at the same time, be taken seriously by a wider audience.
Like it or not, the fact is that virtually all major sports come under intense scrutiny and are often teed up for withering criticism; that’s part and parcel of running with the big dogs. Some might argue that such attention is not only an indication of the audience’s engagement, but, further, that anyone or anything can benefit from criticism.
Bud Selig might not particularly care for the criticism he endures because he’s a terrible commissioner, but he understands that such treatment comes with the territory. Heaven knows, he would never dream of exacting any real revenge or punish someone for their criticism. Gossage stands in marked contrast, seemingly resigned, if his words of warning to Helton are any guide, to the likelihood he could find himself in hot water if he strays off message.
Be that as it may, here’s hoping Jimmie Johnson just off and smacks some people in 2009!