For Kyle Busch, the weekend at Dover wasn’t as much about the finish as it was about getting through both races without pissing anyone off. Fresh off a 25 point penalty and probation for throwing a HANS device at Casey Mears at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the younger of the Busch brothers had fallen to 10th in the Nextel Cup standings, and the latest in a continuing string of on-track incidents left him on the short end of the stick with several of his competitors in the garage area. Don’t think for a second Busch isn’t aware of the shaky ground upon which he stands. Notice how the second-year driver finished 5th Sunday, but was more concerned after the race with whether or not Matt Kenseth was upset with him for possibly holding the 17 car up a little too long in it’s march to the front.
Truth be told, the criticism coming at the young man from the media, the garage area, and the fans has evolved from a slow murmur to a deafening roar. It seems that one more mistake is all that’s going to be needed here to send Busch in front of the firing squad. Forget innocent until proven guilty; Busch is going to spend the rest of the year trying to avoid doing anything where he could be framed as guilty.
Well, count me out of that lynch mob. I don’t want a part in it anymore.
My turning point with Kyle Busch has nothing to do with Kyle himself, or with racing. It has to do with a hand in poker.
As most 25-year-old guys like to do nowadays, I’m a part of a weekly poker tournament with my buddies from in and around New York City (which, I’ve discovered recently is a favorite pastime of many of your NASCAR favorites"¦but that’s another story). Every week, about six to eight of us put in 20 bucks a pop and take part in a rowdy three hour tournament of Texas Hold "˜Em.
Now, the ringleader of this tournament, the guy that has it all together is a guy we like to jokingly call Head. Head’s one of the most organized, upfront, and mature people for his age you’ll ever meet when he wants to be—- one conversation with him and you’ll think you’re talking to a 35 year old. Only thing is, he’s 24. Head’s also the best poker player I know"¦if luck wasn’t involved, he’d come out on top in our game anytime.
Well, a couple of weeks ago everyone got knocked out pretty quickly, and it was Head versus one of the more "inexperienced" players at the table in a grudge match to decide it all. Not only is this “Mr. Inexperience” notorious for blatantly making bad calls, but he has a history of getting himself into situations where odds dictate he should lose, only to get saved by pure luck of the cards. Now, you don’t have to know much about poker to know that "inexperience" doesn’t matter when it comes to this card game"¦you could win with pretty much any hand if all you have is a little bit of luck on your side.
Luck, as fate might have it, is exactly what struck gold again for Mr. Inexperience on this night. Throwing all his chips in with a far better hand, Head thought he was in great shape; there was but one card in the deck that would send him packing on this night.
Of course, that card promptly came on the "River," the last card you pull from the deck in a hand of Hold "˜Em. Mr. Inexperience had pulled another winning lottery ticket straight out of a hat.
In a perfect world, you’d think Head would just shake this guy’s hand and move on"¦I mean, it’s not this other guy’s fault the cards were dealt the way they were, right? That’s not what happened though. Head was so angry he took all the cards and threw them with such force up in the air it took half an hour to find them all. He then cursed at everyone, slammed his beverage into the ground, gathered his jacket, and promptly stormed off, slamming the door behind him.
What’s my point? Here was a 24-year-old who wouldn’t be caught dead doing anything stupid, losing his cool in the heat of the moment because he wasn’t mature enough to do any better. Bad luck got the better of him.
Subtract three years, add driving talent, 100 times the pressure, and a boatload of expectations, and you’ll find yourself in Kyle Busch’s shoes. How would you react at 21 if you had bad luck handed to you on a silver platter with a winning car? How would you react at 20 if your brother was attacked mercilessly by the media about a crime it turns out he didn’t commit?
I’m not saying that age justifies actions caused by immaturity. Clearly, Kyle Busch has made mistakes, and he will certainly be paying for them in the form of boos from the stands and cutting remarks from his racing peers for the foreseeable future. I’m just through getting up on my high horse when, at 25, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t find myself walking in Busch’s shoes if the tables were turned and I was the one expected to be perfect.
Sadly for Busch, one article won’t change most people’s feelings; the firing squad is lining up for the next time Kyle causes a ruckus, and they won’t hesitate to shoot. I’m just going to sit back and let someone else fire that gun…because it shouldn’t be fired at all.
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