The Frontstretch: Voices From the Heartland: ‘Open Letter’ Based on Emotion Not Reality by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday October 20, 2011

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Voices From the Heartland: ‘Open Letter’ Based on Emotion Not Reality

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday October 20, 2011


My respected colleague and friend, Amy Henderson, recently penned an ‘Open Letter to Race Fans’. It is an excellent article and eloquently states her point. It is, however, in my opinion based more on emotion and fails to take into account a few points of reality.

Let me start by saying that this is in no way an attack on Amy. It is just a different perspective of the same event.

Yes, there will always be a small element of so called fans that will actually cheer for someone’s demise. That percentage has to be less than one percent, but there are people out there that are, well, just plain a-holes. No other way to put it. The reality is however, even if they do celebrate such an event, being such a small number, it’s not likely you will hear them unless you are in their vicinity.

There is also the possibility that, if they did happen to get your attention, it may be because the rest of the true fans were in a brief state of stunned silence at the magnitude of the crash. Just saying.

The next thing you must consider is technology, human nature and the concept of sport itself.

That enormous TV screen out in the distance at Charlotte Motor Speedway gave fans an almost instantaneous confirmation that Jimmie Johnson was OK following his wicked crash Saturday night.

It is an automatic reaction when watching a sporting event to cheer when something bad happens to the opponent. You cheer the moment a quarterback gets creamed by an unchallenged blitzer. You cheer when someone is violently checked in hockey, so on and so forth. It is an automatic and expected response. Racing is no different. You do not, however, know at that moment if that person is hurt or not. Sure, no wishes for that person to be hurt, you are just cheering because your team or driver now has a better chance. Which brings us to technology.

In the case that Amy is talking about, JJ’s wreck in last Saturday’s race, if you watch the video, you see Jimmie spin, you see Jimmie hit…and you also see that Jimmie is steering the car! Now, cut to ‘in-car camera’! You see that Jimmie, while perhaps shaken, is in control and appears to be OK. If you are listening on a scanner, you hear communication (if tuned to their frequency). All good signs.

“But the fans aren’t sitting at their TVs to see all this,” you say. Wrong! They are watching all this on the tracks new ‘Planet’s largest HD television screen’ that the speedway installed in May. As anyone who has attended a race knows, to see what REALLY happened, you look at the big screen! As the video shows, this all takes place mere seconds after Jimmie hits the wall.

In those few seconds, you see that while yes, it was a very hard hit, Jimmie is alive and seemingly doing OK. Which all boils down to this; yes, people do die driving racecars, but they also occasionally die in most other sports as well, with the possible exception of curling. But to equate the Sunday wreck of Dan Wheldon to JJ’s wreck Saturday night is like apples to oranges. Some wrecks are grossly and obviously more severe than others. When one like that occurs, the true fans can tell or sense it. In fact, your first thought is one of OMG! Thanks to the technology of today, we could see almost instantly that Jimmie was OK. On the other side of the coin, you can tell almost as fast that Dan Wheldon was not.

Take heart fans, 99.9 percent of you are good people. There are not as many bad ones as Amy’s article may suggest.

(And don’t pick on Amy too hard. She is good people too and entitled to her opinion just as anyone else!)

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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10/20/2011 11:11 PM

Jeff, Amy doesn’t need your intervention. Her article was spot on. There are way too many jerks at major “sporting” events these days and it’s about time someone had the guts to call them out on it. Do you have kids Jeff? I refuse to take mine to ALMOST ANY major league game /race because of mindless, drunk, profane, boorish jerks that think they are “fans”. Way to go Amy. Keep calling it like you see it!

10/21/2011 07:38 AM

Good article, regardless of what Joe “feels”.

I get so tired of all of the emotion-based decisions and writings vs. doing things based on fact.

Matt L
10/21/2011 08:20 AM

If only Amy took this approach when she first wrote her story.

10/21/2011 09:48 AM

Very good points. Not having been there in person I did not think of the big screen, but that brings up an issue too, does it not? I mean how fast was the replay and/or live in-car shot put up there?

You are correct, too about Curling. There have been no deaths ever reported in the sport; and along the way to learning that I learned a new word: “chirurgical” which is an archaic term for “surgical”.

Don’t tell me NASCAR fans are all Faulknerian mouth breathers!

10/21/2011 11:23 AM

You’re damn right I cheered—as soon as I knew he was alright.

10/21/2011 01:40 PM

I’ve lost count on the number of articles written regarding the JJ crash.

There are crashes in every race where fans cheer and they don’t get a tenth of the coverage.

When Kyle Busch wrecks the TV pans out to show the crowd cheering and waving their fists and hats and biased idiots like Larry Mac will say something Earth shattering like “Well there sure are a lot of fans who don’t like the 18.”

I guess if JJ goes bowling over down the back stretch at ‘dega in “the big one” there will be congressional hearings on the safety of racing and the hate crimes of cheering fans.

10/21/2011 03:15 PM

I Cheered when JJ hit…When you see the hit of ANY driver you get a feeling of the results quickly. NO ONE (I believe) wants to see some one hurt..(tho in younger days in sports I have been ordered to take out a player) ..But the pure joy of knowing @ that moment JJ wouldn’t be “6-Pack” (just not good for Nascar at this time) made me feel great. I’ll bet every Dodge & Ford (& Toyota) fan was feelin pretty good about then. & While the angles may have been the same as Earnhardts , the speed is down & the equipments better. Shame on anyone who wants to use more of SRs death to glorify their article (or get it noticed) …No I have lost respect for Amy on this one & Joe you & your family stay home because those of us who spend cash at these events Like to have a good time.

Don Mei
10/21/2011 05:52 PM

I respectfully disagree; I flinch and/or wince when someone hits a wall, regardless of who it is or what they are driving. I dont have strong emotional reactions to any driver. There are a few I prefer to see do well but my interest is in the racing itself, not the personalities involved. Maybe I just have a different perspective on racing. It works for me. If other people want to bring an English soccer league mentality to something as inherently dangerous as car racing, thats their choice; I’ll pass.

The Bear
10/21/2011 06:38 PM

I have to respectfully disagree with most of the points made in this thread!I watched the race Sat. nite,but there was no Woo Hahh, on my part.I’ve seen those types of wrecks in the past and knew it was a hard hit!Cut to Sunday,I was in the stands in turn one when Dan’s wreck occured! All I was able to do at that time was “PRAY”!! By the way, not a Johnson fan,actually a Kenseth fan!! Just sayin’!

10/25/2011 03:44 AM

The last time I cheered when a driver hit the wall was February 2001.

That being said, I did grin for a moment, after realizing JJ was fine, but only for a moment…don’t want to tempt bad luck to look at MY fav!


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Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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