The Frontstretch: "Wrist"Gate Should Be No Big Controversy For Jimmie Johnson by Thomas Bowles -- Sunday December 17, 2006

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"Wrist"Gate Should Be No Big Controversy For Jimmie Johnson

Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Sunday December 17, 2006

 

You know it's the offseason when the way someone falls out of a golf cart makes national NASCAR news.

In lieu of more critical tidbits about the Car of Tomorrow and Bill France's blood alcohol level one fateful drive back to his condominium, “Wrist“gate appears to have taken center stage as the hot story of the moment. Ever since word broke of Jimmie Johnson's fractured left wrist suffered during a leisurely charity tournament on the links, exactly how and why it happened has been studied harder than most college kids are cramming for their final exams this week.

At first, it was revealed that Johnson merely fell out of the cart; but inquiring minds wouldn't stop at that simple explanation. Exactly how could one fall out of a moving vehicle, per se? A follow-up from the Associated Press delivered the answer that didn't take much deductive reasoning to uncover: Johnson wasn't paying attention. Truth be told, he was too busy goofing off to know what hit him.

"Jimmie was horsing around and was on top of the golf cart when he fell off," clarified his PR spokeswoman Kristine Curley early last week. With that, a simple revelation about what most people could have figured out on their own sent the majority of the talking heads in our business scurrying to get themselves some quality air time. How could Johnson put his body in jeopardy with the responsibilities he has to his team and to the Race of Champions Nations Cup in Paris, in which Johnson was supposed to represent the United States before injuring his wrist? How could face of the sport over the next season start out his year-long championship reign with an incident like this?

Wait…now, calm down a minute here. I just want to clarify the information I have in hand; you mean a young guy hanging out with a bunch of his friends was caught horsing around and doing something stupid on a golf course? Wow…that never happens. I mean, I would never be caught doing things like challenging a buddy to a hilarious shot through the trees and onto another hole, trying to fit eight people on a golf cart for four, or performing an impromptu version of the Daytona 500…at the nearest country club. Let me put things this way; you can't be one of those talking heads complaining about someone's behavior if you were at one time guilty of committing similar types of infractions yourself. Those types of antics on a golfing trip for fun can sometimes be simply par for the course.

This whole incident reminds me of one of the conversations that stuck with me from the banquet a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to Tony Stewart about how he spends his offseason; this year, with the Car of Tomorrow and some of the other upcoming changes, a lot of drivers won't have a lot of time off, and Kevin Harvick had actually mentioned that day he was testing every week except Christmas. Well, Stewart said he couldn't be like that; unlike some of his counterparts, he absolutely has to disappear for a couple of weeks after the season ends. The grind of the weekly schedule, driver appearances, media interviews, and flying all over the country can take its toll over what is one of the longest regular seasons in any sport.

"I make sure that I get away from it to be ready for the next season," said Stewart of the frenzy that is America's fastest sport on four wheels. "Relax for the three weeks we have off."

It was a casual reminder of the fact that these men, no matter what pedestal you attempt to put them on, are no less mortal than Joe Schmo walking down the street. Fame doesn't reduce stress, emotions, or the need to pursue happiness outside a sport that has gotten so intense it'll eat you alive if you let it.

Which brings us back around to the current Nextel Cup champ. After a whirlwind week of being interviewed by everyone with a camera and a notepad in New York City, on the heels of a season that easily served as one of the more stressful in his five-year Nextel Cup career, who would blame Johnson for needing a little rest and relaxation? There's a reason the sport isn't 52 weeks a year; in a world where vacation means motorhome and sick day isn't an option, you've got to put aside some time to avoid the public eye and go and be yourself. There's a difference between the regular season and the offseason; don't think a champion of the sport wouldn't understand it.

"I tried to get Jimmie to go motorcycle riding with me about three weeks into the Chase," Carl Edwards said in the well-traveled quote of the past seven days. "Jimmie said, ‘Carl, I'm focused on winning this championship, I'm not taking any risks.' I thought that said a lot about Jimmie's focus.

"...To me, if the dude wants to go ride around on golf carts…on top of them or underneath them or skiing on a rope behind them…it's his off season. ...Name a person in that garage area who hasn't goofed around on a golf cart and I'll give you $100."

Bravo, Cousin Carl. Contrary to popular belief, in this situation the only person Jimmie Johnson has to answer to is Jimmie Johnson. Last I checked, "having fun" wasn't outlawed as part of his contract with Hendrick Motorsports. The guy horsed around, made a mistake, and now he'll suck it up and deal. No one said he's not going to be able to drive at Daytona; he'll probably suck it up and drive hurt at testing in January. If the wrist is still hurting at the 500 in February, well, he'll figure out a way to make it work. The man's still going to be able to do his job and represent his sport; more importantly, he should have the freedom to live his life. Being famous doesn't produce a prerequisite to achieve perfection at all times.

For anyone still uptight about this whole thing…there's some great holiday panic going on at the nearest mall right now. I'd suggest you focus your energies in that direction, because Johnson really isn't caring about whether or not you're upset. He's too busy earning some well deserved rest and relaxation in Paris to be paying much attention…and fending off some well-earned ribbing from his buddies he'll no doubt receive for the rest of his natural life.

That hilarity should be the only consequence that comes from this mistake…nothing more.

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Sally B
12/18/2006 04:08 AM
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The only thing that’s pathetic here is that JJ’s PR people thought they needed to ‘cover up’ that their driver is, after all, human. I guess it shows just how PC Nascar is these days when guys can’t horse around and be a bit foolish. Too bad the media is so starved for ‘news’ that it has become such a big deal.

AfterShock
12/18/2006 11:36 AM
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At least Jimmie didn’t slice his hand open on a sharp metal object.

Enjoyed the article, Thomas.
Even learned something.
Imagine that!

Thanx!

Bill
12/18/2006 01:05 PM
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Thank you for the article. The media has a way of sensationalizing things like this and the majority of the fans just react. So what if Jimmie Johnson is horsing around. He has been ribbed of being a corporate puppet at times, so I’m glad to see him let loose. It wouldn’t be an issue at all if he didn’t get hurt.

Kudos to your article.

C Douglas
12/18/2006 02:47 PM
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The main reason this blew up in the media is that Jimmie’s initial statement was to spin what really happened. He said that he was not paying attention or hanging on when the driver hit a berm and he fell out of the cart and heard a “pop” in his wrist. Typical JJ not owning up to the reality of a situation to serve his “image”.

I will never like this guy.

Darrell
12/18/2006 04:45 PM
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I personally dont like JJ and never will, but with that said, I would much rather break my wrist falling off the TOP of a golf cart than INSIDE one. They really should’ve come out and just said that from the get go. But from what I really hear, this there is actually some film on this and it will be in the next Jackass movie. Kinda fitting if you ask me

Bandita Chavez
12/18/2006 05:58 PM
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Jimmie is a liar. He’s perfectly paired with Chad – a cheater. As a proud 48 hater, I’m thrilled Jimmie was taken to task for his dishonesty.

Otherwise, who gives a rat’s ass how Jimmie got hurt? Keep doing stupid things, Jimmie, and next time, take your sleazy pal, Chad, with you. Please remove yourselves from the gene pool pronto.

Joe Momma
12/18/2006 11:05 PM
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I am not a Jimmie Johnson fan, but damn people get a life. Nobody wants to see someone get hurt. Maybe a little sensitivity training here. Attitudes and comments like that are what makes Nascar look like an uneducated trash sport.

Hankus
12/19/2006 05:40 AM
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Isn’t it funny how jealous people make negative comments about Jimmie,They all must be Ford fans .

Paul
12/19/2006 08:25 AM
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I am no Johnson fan, but anyone who is crowned a champion needs to exercise some common sense as that would dictate that the spotlight will be on 24/7. Clearly Johnson has no clue what it means to represent hsi sport any more than the dimwits in the NBA, particularly Carmelo Anthony. I hope Johnson had his head examined when they set his wrist. Dumb ass.

Patrick
12/19/2006 09:29 AM
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he lied. The 48 team has the reputation of not being honest and this is another example. It is amazing that a driver who has had Jeff Gordon as a mentor, who is by far the best that nascar has to offer in media relations, could or even would LIE about something like this. Does the horsing around make him look bad or lying about how it happened?

Lyndel
12/19/2006 01:25 PM
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I think Jimmy’s PR people have done their job perfectly…. Grown men do not belong on top of golf carts, unless, there’s a perfectly good explanation.

Hankus
12/20/2006 09:39 AM
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some of you say Chad knauss is a cheater he just got caught after the rat squeeled .Chad is smart ,but not smarter then Jack Roush

 

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