Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Travis Pastrana – Getting to Know the New Guy the Wrong Way

Jamie Little opened the post-race interview with Travis Pastrana and asked him what was the highlight and lowlight of his first Nationwide Series race.

“The lowlight was gettin’ beat by both the girls.”

In less than 140 characters Travis Pastrana managed to raise my eyebrows with the second utterance of this sentiment on Friday night. The first happened at about Lap 140 where he thanked his crew on the radio for getting him in front of the girls. For all I knew, the new guy seemed more concerned about beating the fairer sex than the condition of his actual racecar. But that’s because that’s all I heard.

I’m admittedly new to the Travis Pastrana show, as the X-Games are something I gawp at for a few minutes when channel surfing. I may have actually watched his 2006 double-flip and my movie theatre has hosted a couple special features on the charismatic young man, but when all is said and done I know very little about the latest face the cameras can’t seem to stay away from. I’m a NASCAR fan, and as far as I know, Pastrana had never graced a Nationwide race with his presence until Friday night.

So, here I am sort of staring at the TV and suddenly ESPN decides to air Travis’s mid-race comment on his ability to pass two particular drivers in the competition.

Several things fly through my mind. He’s a bit insecure, ain’t he? All worried about being thumped by the little girls with his masculinity is on the line? Is this really all his brain can summon to be think about as his car slides in the corners? Wouldn’t you think the ROOKIE might want to actually finish a race before he decides that finishing in front of anybody should become a consideration?

His remarks just turned me off, being a member of the aforementioned sex. I like to think we live in an enlightened age where each person on the planet is permitted to achieve what their individual talents allow. And here the major sports presenter in the world decides to choose to air this one sentence as an introduction to who they hope will become the next major racing personality. In less than 20 words I now perceived Pastrana as some caveman only capable of thinking with his nether regions.

And that’s not fair.

Before I settled down to pen my column tonight I spent a bit of time reading and watching what I could find regarding Travis. To be honest, he’s fun to watch. He can’t stay still for a single moment, so the cameramen seem to have to move about to keep him in shot as his hands wave around. Tall, constantly smiling and self-aware, he makes a great interview. There’s no question he owns the larger-than-life personality often seen as the hallmark of a superstar.

I watched his post-race interview a couple times and really listened. I didn’t hear any malice or discontent in the discovery he had indeed been whooped by the girls. The comment came off as more self-deprecating than anything. But those words…

Not every child who lives with a Travis Pastrana hat hanging on their bedpost and a Red Bull t-shirt full of holes earned on the playground will stop and consider the intended meaning behind those words. The message that ESPN and Pastrana repeated – just so I beat the girls – isn’t one that bears repeating when you hope to market the next major sports figure. A bigot is not something anybody aspires to be, and I’m sure that is not the idea they wanted to be heard. Unfortunately, children will repeat what they hear, as they lack the maturity to decipher the true meaning behind flippant utterances.

Often I grumble about the editing done to “live” radio transmissions during races. Snippets of dissatisfied drivers are whitewashed to more closely resemble pleasant complaints. Disjointed collections of static and swears are compiled into something akin to conversations. Aware of the sensitive ears of their viewing audience, time and attention is taken to ensure the message ESPN wants to get across is heard, without any backlash to the NASCAR heroes they are highlighting.

So, if the network is capable of self-control all those other times, what compelled them to weave together such an inane bunch of quotes from the No. 99 team that made Pastrana sound like a schoolyard dufus?

Or did the team in the production truck think it was funny? “Dude, he got beat by a girl.”

Did Pastrana decide to repeat the concept during his post-race interview because he knew it had already been broadcast and elicited an awkward chuckle from the broadcast booth? Hey! What gets one laugh will surely get two.

Perhaps I’m the one living with rose colored glasses and the world around me is nothing more than a bunch of intellectually stunted idiots incapable of thinking beyond who won during recess in third grade… but I don’t think so.

I chose to believe Travis Pastrana is less of a chauvinist than his words indicated. When taken out of context anything can be twisted into something reeking of a squashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But as a major journalism outlet, it’s the responsibility of ESPN to provide clear, unbiased and hopefully mature coverage of the sport aired on their channels at any particular moment. On Friday night, they failed spectacularly. And for that reason, I shall always be second guessing just how much I should like the next greatest driver.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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