By admin | May 15, 2008
By Richard Allen
One of the great things about NASCAR is that the sport invokes so much passion. That raw emotion has been missing for the last few years. However, with the emergence of Kyle Busch as public enemy #1 on the lists of many fans, feelings are being stirred once again.
After the late race incident between Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in Richmond it has been â€˜Junior Nationâ€™ that has been primarily responsible for moving Busch to the top of the most hated list.
So, here is a question: is it more fun to cheer for someone or to boo someone? To put it in todayâ€™s context, which is more fun: cheering for Junior or booing Busch?
I was named after Richard Petty so as a kid growing up in the 1970s and â€˜80s he was my favorite driver. When my dad and I would go to Bristol I would cheer â€™The Kingâ€™ on. However, as time went on I grew to dislike Darrell Waltrip, probably because he won so often on the Tennessee track. I can remember a point in which I went to the track to root against Waltrip more than I went to root for Petty.
My dadâ€™s dislike of Waltrip was so intense that he had an â€œAnybody but Waltripâ€ hat specially made.
I was standing on pit road during driver introductions this past Saturday in Darlington and the loudest noise of the night came when Kyle Busch, not Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was introduced. Of course, that noise mostly consisted of boos.
It seems as though we tend to take greater pleasure in the misfortune of those we do not like rather than the good fortune of those we do like. That probably speaks volumes about our society but that is a topic meant for a place more serious than a NASCAR column.
To support that belief, I point to the moment when Busch had to come back onto pit road after a lug nut was left loose on his car. When the #18 Toyota pulled back in for the unscheduled stop the crowd burst into a cheer loud enough to be heard over the rumble of the engines.
Kyle Busch fans, this is not all about the dislike showered upon your driver. There are and have been numerous names that when spoken by the announcer during driver introductions have evoked strong reactions. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and even Dale Earnhardt, Sr. have caused fans to react in negative ways during various times throughout somewhat recent NASCAR history.
And as for Junior fans, your driver even has the ability to spark negative feelings. Here in the Knoxville area there is a caller to the local sports talk stations who goes by the name ABE. No, he was not named after the 16th president. He often explains that the ABE stands for Anybody But Earnhardt.
I guess ABE has had a pretty good last couple of years.
So, is it more fun to cheer for your favorite or boo for your most hated? The odds are in your favor if you choose the later because no driver is going to win most of the races. It just depends on which gives the individual the greatest satisfaction.
In closing, I will have to say this. The biggest thrill I ever had as a race fan came not from some failure of Darrell Waltrip but from being in Daytona to witness Richard Petty win his 200th race. Most fans of racing or any other sport probably can recall a similar moment of satisfaction from the success of a favorite.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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