By admin | November 13, 2013
By Richard Allen
Typically, when an athlete dominates a sport, he develops a large following of (for lack of a better term) bandwagon fans. Hats, jerseys and other items spring up all over the place with that player’s name or number emblazoned on it. The same can usually be said about teams that go on formidable championship runs.
As an example, look at the number of Lebron James/Miami Heat items that have appeared in areas far from south Florida. And, there are a significant number of Alabama Crimson Tide jerseys popping up outside the state of Alabama as well(on people who just a couple of years ago were wearing Florida Gators apparel). This pattern repeats itself as champions come and go.
But strangely enough, Jimmie Johnson has gone on a run of success that has lasted longer and has been more impressive than virtually any seen in team sports over the past couple of decades. The NASCAR driver has won five Sprint Cup titles(consecutively between 2006 and 2010). He has also won a very impressive 66 races over a relatively short period of time, including the biggest events the sport has to offer.
Yet with all that success, he has never grown to be a particular fan favorite in the same way similar champions such as Michael Jordon or Tiger Woods did. Johnson does have a significant following, but there are a number of drivers who have more backers. All three of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates quite likely have more supporters. Competitors such as Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick seem to get more cheers during driver introductions than ‘Ole Five Time’.
Why is that the case?
In a highly unscientific poll I recently conducted on my website, I asked if the fact that Johnson had such a big lead in the standings would cause fans to not watch NASCAR’s season finale in Miami. Of those who responded, 56%(190 voters) said they would not watch simply because of the possibility of a sixth championship for the driver of car #48.
Conversely, when the Miami Heat were on the verge of clinching a second NBA title last June, Game 7 of that series drew the second highest rating ever for an NBA game on the ABC network.
Is it that Johnson’s personality is just too “vanilla” to attract even the bandwagon fans who seek to support winners? That word has been one to plague the driver over the course of his career. He is rarely controversial, always quick to mention the right sponsors, and never one to stir the pot.
In today’s society, those are typically not the qualities sought in a celebrity.
But aside from the bandwagon types, hardcore NASCAR followers don’t flock to Johnson either. Maybe he has been too successful for the tastes of those who support other drivers which may have caused those fans to view him as more of an enemy.
Also, those who follow NASCAR more closely seem to have a tendency view Johnson as more of a product of his team and crew chief Chad Knaus than as a top driver. Despite his incredible record, this driver has never really seemed to get as much credit as other who have achieved similar feats. Perhaps fans don’t appreciate him enough.
Jimmie Johnson could very well win his sixth Sprint Cup title in the very short time period of eight years this Sunday at the Homestead- Miami Speedway. But for whatever the reason, he just doesn’t attract fans like other champions tend to do.
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