The Frontstretch: Dragged A Jeff Gordon Beanie Around Lately?: A Reality Check by Amy Henderson -- Thursday July 12, 2007

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Dragged A Jeff Gordon Beanie Around Lately?: A Reality Check

Holding a Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday July 12, 2007


You know the guy (heck, maybe you ARE the guy). He parades around the track with the little Jeff Gordon doll in the noose dragging behind, just hoping someone will kick it around. He (or she) boos Tony Stewart vehemently during driver intros. He calls Jimmie Johnson all kinds of unprintable things that have nothing to do with his racing ability. He is pretty vocal about whether Jack Roush is well, a nice guy or not. He has already decided that he will no longer be a Junior fan because Junior is going to drive for Hendrick Motorsports.

There is a small but vocal group of race fans who seem to have more fun hating one driver or another than they do cheering for the drivers they do like. They appear to attend races with the singular goal of booing a driver (or a select group). In fact, they boo louder than they ever cheer-at least until the guy they were booing gets in a crash. If-heaven forbid!-the guy they were booing actually wins-they shower him with beer cans, many with a good portion of the beer still inside. At Indy last year when Johnson climbed from his car to retrieve the checkered flag he'd dropped-a few cans were aimed at him-no helmet, no car. Those people are race fans?

I'll be the first to admit I don't understand this mentality. Not that there aren't drivers that I dislike strongly-there are-but I just don't get the animosity. Not only could booing during driver introductions be the last thing a driver hears other than the roar of the motor and a grinding crash, but it seems to be missing the point. Many of the drivers who are routinely booed, including the late Dale Earnhardt, have said that the boos merely pump them up to compete (pretty sure the guy booing Kurt Busch isn't trying to actually help him, but he just might be). In fact, Earnhardt said that he'd be more worried if the boos stopped-because that would mean people weren't watching him. That's right; to the drivers, silence hurts more than sound. The drivers who routinely get this treatment are also routinely winning races. Maybe the boos are fueled by jealousy. Hmmm…

Why someone would hate a driver so much it overshadows being a fan of someone, I have no idea. Nobody likes losing, but why does someone's hard work and winning have to be a reason for outright meanness? Is disdain for someone's car owner really a reason to wish him hurt (yes, I've heard that!)? There are drivers I don't respect because of their on-track tactics, but I don't understand the outright animosity for some, especially those who go out of their way to drive clean. There are car owners I don't like, but I would never quit cheering for my drivers if they went to their organization thinking it was their best career and life option. It's not like they ran off with your girlfriend, keyed your truck and killed your dog. (Incidentally that can be remedied, I hear, by playing country music backwards.) All they do is race, try to please their demanding sponsors and fans, and still try to have a personal life. That's it.

Not only is the booing ridiculous, dead silence would send a much more effective message, but the wearing of derogatory t-shirts and dragging around miniature effigies is also. I mean, that stuff is expensive! Personally, I'd rather spend $25 on an item in support of my driver than on a beanie, a t-shirt, and a piece of rope, all for some guy I don't even like! Ditto spending time on Internet message boards slamming them. Wouldn't that time be better spent on writing about how great their chosen driver is? Especially if their guy has haters of his own! What goes around, comes around, pal.

It kind of makes me worry about our society in general. When did being hurtful, in front of children no less, become not only apparently acceptable, but fun? Are we really so insecure in ourselves that we need to put other people down to feel better? Sure we've all made a remark about someone-but the fans I'm talking about do it not only in front of other fans and their children, but the drivers and their children. How do you think that driver's wife and kids feel when he hits the wall, and before he can indicate that he is even okay, people are cheering his misfortune, not even knowing whether or not he’s been seriously injured. Some have even gone so far as to say to a driver's family, "I wish he'd crash and burn" or the like. Is this what kind of people we're bringing up today?

Seeing little children doing this is even worse. Children, as the saying goes, have to be taught to hate. And, judging by the scene in the stands, legions of them are being taught just that. That's downright scary. This kind of behavior toward one person could easily blossom into a group of people and then what? Great parenting there. Aren't we better than that? Aren't we?

My advice to these bitter fans would be to be a decent example for the kids at the track. Cheer your guy loudly. Proudly display his merchandise, even drink a beer toast to his victory. But keep the boos, the derogatory comments, the little beanies and the beer cans to yourself. Remember who's watching, and act like responsible adults. Love your driver, even if nobody else does. Just don't hate mine or anyone else’s and have a little class and realize that he's human, too. And so are those kids who are watching and learning by example-and who want to be real race fans when they grow up.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

07/12/2007 10:04 PM

I love it Amy!! And I know what you mean about booing drivers, having heard the booing ever since I started watching NASCAR back in 1994. It didn’t help that I was a Jeff Gordon fan during the time when he was winning races and championships, and now as a Kurt Busch fan I hear it all at the track and on the message boards everywhere. Shame on those “fans” who feel the need to act like children.

07/13/2007 06:15 AM

A most excellent article Amy. Fans’ whose main purpose is to hate a driver(s) moreso than to cheer for their favorite is probably the one thing that I have a hard time understanding in this sport. I have seen it in other sports but not to the degree I have in NASCAR. It’s just very sad that there are that many fans driven by negative, hateful feelings.

M. B. Voelker
07/13/2007 06:33 AM

Very well said.

Earlier this year Kurt Busch was on Trackside. When the crowd started to boo him he turned to them and egged them on, saying, “I can’t hear you,” and “You can do better than that.”

Unfortunately, our society has, for the time being, rejected the concept of a common standard of decent behavior in favor of the selfish cries of “I have a right to my opinion,” as justification for any sort of tawdry, mean-spirited display of idiotic animosity.

Travis Rassat
07/13/2007 06:43 AM

What a great article! I’ve often thought the same thing. This attitude seems to be everywhere – in the workplace, TV, movies, music, sports, the school system, etc. If people would just put their effort into supporting the things they feel are worthwhile rather than fighting the things they don’t like, the world would be a much better place.

07/13/2007 07:06 AM

Hate brings viewers. To the track as well as the TV and internet forums. Very few want to see or read about something positive ALL the time. Hate is about the bad guy. We hate the Joker and the Riddler, but Batman wouldn’t exist without them. We are attracted to him or her. Hateful forum posts have more views and responces than the positive posts. Take a look at FS itself. These “bad boy” articles you fine folks write have more responces than the positive or even the informative articles have. Its the way we are wired. I’m not making excuses mind you, just pointing out my observations.

Pay real clear attention to the next race that JGordon crashes out of. The cameras will pan the crowd showing the cheers ONLY for this driver, no others (that crash out). NBC was famous for doing this. Why? Because he is hated so much. Hate brings viewers, viewers bring money.

Ah well, off to the go-cart track with my son I go. To cheer him and the other kids on, along with the other parents.

07/13/2007 07:08 AM

Worst thing about this is, the people booing, dragging effigies, throwing beer cans, and so on—don’t even know the maan they’re slamming. Never met him, haven’t spent any time with him, yet are sure they have a reason to hate him.

Wonder how they feel when someone judges them the same way?

07/13/2007 07:14 AM

My sentiments exactly. You don’t have to like every driver or your boss for that matter but you should show proper respect.

Vito Pugliese FS-Staff
07/13/2007 08:00 AM

“I don’t like how this guy drives around in a circle for 4 hours risking his life. I am going to throw a BEER CAN AT HIM!!!!”

….makes sense….

07/13/2007 08:55 AM

great article. what i don’t understand nor can i comprehend is the notion of “winning too much”. what’s that about? isn’t that the premise for those brave men/women strapping themselves into that hot car?! i think voelker stated it best regarding everyone would rather justify their opinion (negative or not) rather than something constructive for the benefit of people. having an opinion is one thing, but violently displaying and supporting that opinion seems quite barbaric. NASCAR, it has been said, is about the “good ol’ boys”, but many in the stands don’t fit that mold. personally, i find it difficult to hate someone i don’t like … i may not cheer for Tony, JG, etc, but i refuse to boo them at the track. it’s counterproductive to spend money to “support” the sport, but go out of one’s way to just breed hatred and anger. what a world!

Steve M.
07/13/2007 09:45 AM

Amy – good, bad or ugly, people are always going to boo and cheer. Fortunately, most fans are smart enough, and adult enough, to do this in the way it’s meant – in jest of their friends or family who are rooting for someone else. Anyway, what I really wanted to comment on was your remark about “playing country music backwards”; I think Rascal Flatts sings it best from their Me And My Gang album…check it out:


Ya get your house back – ya get your dog back
Ya get your best friend Jack back
Ya get your truck back – ya get your hair back
Ya get your first and second wives back
Your front porch swing, your pretty little thing
Your bling, bling, bling and a diamond ring
You get your farm and the barn
And the boat and the Harley
First night in jail with Charlie
It sounds a little crazy, a little scattered and absurd
But that’s what you get when you play a country song backwards!

Just a little humor – have a great weekend everyone and let’s go racing at CHICAGO!!!

07/13/2007 09:57 AM

So glad to see that all the PC people are getting their point across. Not only a rule book for NASCAR but also one for NASCAR fans. Everyone has to treat each driver equally. No having any fun with a little ribbing with signs or dolls or whatever. Someone might get their feelings hurt. Maybe after everyone has dulled up NASCAR you can move on to the NFL. Those poor big guys feel so bad when the opposing teams fans boo as they come on the field. Everyone should sit quietly and politely thru the whole race. An applause meter will be in each grandstand to make sure that each driver gets the same amount of “love”. Amazing that fans 20 and 30 years ago go could to races and behave without a rule book. Oh yeah, those uncouth people with the chicken bones HAD to GO. So glad you guys are here now to educate us.

07/13/2007 10:04 AM

Great article Amy. I don’t have any children, but I know a few families that will no longer allow their children at the racetrack because of the hateful, barbaric behavior that goes on there. The debris throwing is unaccepatable and needs to be harshly punishd. It’s a miracle that no one has been seriously injured.

As for the people who feel the need to wear hateful items and accesories – that speaks volumes about what kind of person they are. Do they know these drivers personally? No. Have these drivers done something to them personally to explain this hatred? No. I mean how dare these drivers be successful and win races! Some people would rather surround themselves with hate than enjoy the sport of racing. I will never understand it.

It’s like the so-called Jr. fans who are bailing on him and saying that he has “betrayed” them since he signed with HMS. Sorry, you were never really a Jr. fan then, you were an anti “fan” who hid behind the Jr. fan label. And Jr. doesn’t need fans like you. No one does.

Steve M.
07/13/2007 10:16 AM

Sam, sorry I had to respond to your comment. First, you are absolutely right. Second, to everyone who is posting, talking about how “bad” others are at the race track, I have to wonder…Are these same people as forgiving to others who aren’t the same color as them, or worship the same as them, or have the same sexual orientation, or are on the same political side, etc., etc., etc.? Cuz if all you “posters” can feel the same way about ALL the hate in the world, then maybe, just maybe, we have hope yet for the next generation. But if you HATE or BAD MOUTH any of the above examples, then you really aren’t any better than the beer-throwing idiots at the track. Just my opinion…think about it though….

07/13/2007 10:41 AM

I agree and disagree with some of the points being made. I don’t see anything wrong with booing a driver you don’t like during driver intros. I don’t do it (at least not loud enough for anyone but me to hear), but I don’t see the harm in booing during driver intros. NASCAR fans are, for the most part, a fiery bunch with a lot of passion for the sport, whether its for the drivers they love or the drivers they hate. I do think that, if your driver doesn’t win, or a driver you despise does, why don’t you just walk away? Don’t stand there booing, cursing, screaming…just shake your head and walk away. Booing is a better alternative than the cursing, but… Why can’t you just wait until you get into your cars before cursing out the winner. There are kids all over the place, and they and other adults don’t deserve to have their ears assaulted.

I do NOT understand people who cheer, whoop and holler when a driver they don’t like is in an accident. Especially before even knowing how the driver in the cockpit is. I’ve seen it on TV and in person. A car goes spinning down the frontstretch and into the wall (whether its Gordon, Johnson, Busch, etc.) and 100’s of people stand up and start screaming and high-fiving each other. It’s one thing after the driver has gotten out of the car or at least put the window net down, but it’s another when the car is still rolling out of control. But the truth is, also, that this doesn’t just happen when it’s someone not as popular with the fans. I’ve seen it happen many times when ANY car goes slamming against the wall. I understand it’s the adrenaline and the excitement and all, but it really scares me that people can be that excited about watching a wreck. Maybe after the driver gets out of the car, because the truth is it can be an amazing sight (especially live) but it’s frightening that people would be happily excited about it.

The throwing of any object on the track, at a car or at a driver at anytime is also a despicable thing to see, no matter who the driver is.

Those are my thoughts. (Sorry its so long)

Robert Eastman
07/13/2007 11:09 AM

It’s easy to understand all the “Haters.” You see them all around you. They are the roadragers, the child abusers, the bullies. The list is long. They are the multitudes of angry people that hate their boss/job, hate their ex-spouse, hate their present spouse, hate the person driving too slow in front of them, hate their parents, hate God, in general they just hate their life! All the ungrateful malcontents expressing their imagined (or real) Victimhood. As we all know it’s easier to blame someone else for your problems than to change your own life for the better, so maybe NASCAR has become the place that the losers can vent. If you can go and throw a beer can at Jeff Gordon’s car, maybe it’s better than going home and shooting your dog or something far worse.
Maybe what NASCAR actually stands for is, the “National Antidote for Society’s Crybabies’ Aggresion Release!”
As the “Good Book” says, “Contentment with Godliness is great gain!”

William T.
07/13/2007 11:35 AM

I agree with Sam and Steve. You guys are forgetting the sheer Essence of SPORTS and and being competitive. That’s why fans follow professional sports. It gives the average joe a chance to be competitive in a different sense by following a favorite team or driver or whatever. Therefore, you dislike your favorite team or drivers’ biggest competitor. I’m sure you have all experienced the competitive nature and feeling when your driver passes the leader in turn four to take the checkered flag!! And, how good is that feeling when your driver does the aformentioned, but the leader is his biggest foe?!?!

And when did Americans become so sensitive? This article actually makes me want to vomit. Your kids are going to learn more bad behaviour and such at school than they will going to one, maybe two races a year. Also, parents should know that ANY sporting event is going to be filled with loud, drunk, obnoxious, swearing, cursing, spitting sports fans. You bring at your OWN RISK!! If you don’t want your kids to see it, then leave them at home. Don’t ruin everyone else’s fun.

07/13/2007 11:41 AM

Amy isn’t saying that you are not allowed to dislike drivers – she is talking about the people who have a blind hatred for drivers, who throw crap at people, and have temper tantrums and yell vulgar things at people in the stands.

Dislike whoever you want to. Just have the sense and maturity to act in a reasonable manner – don’t throw stuff at people and don’t taunt other fans because they like a driver that you don’t. Have some respect for others. If you want to throw cans and debris in your own home at your TV – have at it.

07/13/2007 12:29 PM

Amen, Alex! this shouldn’t be about whether or not it’s okay to dislike a driver, it’s more about a wake-up to those who cannot act in a mature way. yell, curse, spit, but don’t throw things at the people competing! rivalries are a beautiful thing … if they weren’t, would you honestly watch? it’s great to have passion for cheering for a driver and, for some, a passion for booing another. i believe that NASCAR has the most die-hard and loyal fans out there. there’s no strikes or lockouts, just balls to the wall racing … the way it should be.

Steve M.
07/13/2007 12:55 PM

William T., good retorte. I really liked your thinking of “parents should know that ANY sporting event is going to be filled with loud, drunk, obnoxious, swearing, cursing, spitting sports fans. You bring at your OWN RISK!! If you don’t want your kids to see it, then leave them at home.” I just have one question, are you talking about professional sporting events or the elementary/jr. or high school football/baseball/basketball/volleyball/soccer game? lol…. Enjoy the race on Sunday my fellow NASCAR nuts!!

William T.
07/13/2007 02:09 PM

hahahah. Highschool, ofcourse!!

William T.
07/13/2007 02:17 PM

Oh yeah…..I am not one of those beer can throwing, cursing fans. Just wanted to let you guys know that.

Frankly, I am, however, entertained by some of the outfits and such that these types of fans wear.!! :)

07/14/2007 10:51 AM

Why do people spend so much more energy on hate than on cheering? It’s at least partially a function of today’s NASCAR where you have A teams, B teams, and C teams. If you’re a fan of, say, Wood Brothers Racing or Kenny Wallace, or Robby Gordon, what do you have to cheer for? Top 20s? A top 10 is a rare thing indeed.

But NASCAR fans are passionate, and that passion has to go somewhere, and so of course it goes into hate of the A-list.

07/14/2007 11:29 AM

Interesting concept, Skip. I suppose there is a natural rift between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” However, I’ve been a diehard Kenny Wallace fan for years and harbor no animosity for other drivers simply because they have better equipment.

And I’m NOT saying that fans shouldn’t show their passion for their drivers and even for those they dislike. I’m just questioning the motivation of those who expend more money time, and energy on deriding the guy they don’t like than they do on cheering for the driver they DO like. I just wonder what that says about our society and what it teaches our children. If they can learn to hate a person they don’t even know for no reason than because someone says to, what’s to stop them from learning to hate a group of people, be it based on race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, etc., just because they learn by example. After all a lot of “haters” choose to call into quesion a driver’s orientation as a derogatory put down-in itself showing others it’s okay to be homophobic. Kind of scary if you ask me.

07/14/2007 05:16 PM

I’ve learned that every time I cheer for someone, they have a bad day, so I just learned if I cheer for someone, chances are they will blow up or wreck… LOL! Maybe I should become a Gordon, Junior and Johnson fan! THe one race I misses watching is the one Casey Mears won! Am I cursed or what?

07/15/2007 07:15 AM

Thanks Amy. That needed to be said.

To me, part of the fun of this sport is that, with 43 cars starting every race, there are plenty of heroes and villains.

I pull for Chevy drivers and don’t care much for those four-letter-word-starts-with-“F” cars. Don’t like Dodges much. And I care even less for those rice-burners.

I was a Terry LaBonte fan and didn’t like that cheatin’ little beady-eyed weasel with that ratty moustache that drove that nasty black 3 car. I’ve never cared much for Tony Stewart’s behavior on or off the race track. And there was a while there where I rolled my eyes at the sight of “Mr. Excitement” on the track. But those guys are colorful characters who help make Cup racing so much fun. And nothing was better than the sight of a nice, billowing cloud of white smoke behind a black or orange car.

But I’ve been to races and seen young men stand and give obscene gestures to drivers—with young children sitting a few rows back. And we’ve all seen the beer-can throwers whose drunken stupidity endangers other fans more than the target of their rage.

Sometimes dislike may be justified. My respect for Ray Evernham has plummeted and I don’t think much of Erin Crocker. I don’t like what Brian France and his hyper-rich family are doing with our sport. I have no use at all for the drug users. But you can go to just about any message board and find plenty of raw hate directed at people whose main offense was just to win more often than that poster’s favorite driver. Letting competitive fires spill over into hate is just plain wrong.

I think we all ought to step back and see if we can’t apply the “Warren Wallace” rule. You know, “I didn’t say I wouldn’t go fishin’ with the man.”


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.