Monday, August 29, 2011

Enthusiast's plea: Shut up and race!

Sacramento, California – I spent the past weekend watching auto racing live and on television, and I was struck again by an ugly pattern.

Not only did I hear more whining from drivers in various racing series, the TV crews covering the events continued to do their part to ramp up the rudeness and rancor.

Wow, this is getting old!

And so am I, but I actually do remember a time when on-track missteps – real or imagined – were sorted out one way or another behind the garages. No bellyaching into the camera, no sucker punches, no hair grabbing.

Now, it seems that most drivers (and crew members) are trained in the art of the 30-second sound bite, trashing a fellow driver who did something stupid, got in the way or was simply caught up in a racing crash.

But it’s not enough to let the video evidence speak for itself. Drivers lash out at fellow drivers with seemingly relentless insults, and gestures. So-and-so was an idiot. So-and-so is always doing something stupid. So-and-so is always running his mouth.

As for that last one, do you notice how often a driver complaining about another driver running his mouth is always running his mouth? Even the spotters get in on the sound bites, pronouncing instant judgment over an open radio.

TV acts as an enabler. The pre-race shows constantly ramp up the rancor from the previous race, even though that event might have occurred two weeks back. Instead of talking about the most newsworthy facts leading up to the day’s events, half the pre-race show time is spent replaying the mouth-running footage of the past, playing up the spicy language.

It doesn’t end there. It’s ramped up even more during live interviews where the feuding parties, with interviewers almost gleefully asking, “Did you hear what he said now?”

It’s starting to resemble wrestling “entertainment.” I half expect another driver to run into a live interview and hit the driver being interviewed over the head with a folding chair.

Even worse, crashed-out drivers mouth off even when video footage shows they were clearly at fault. Yeah, this is a brutal sport. Drivers compete hard. Few roll over and get out of the way. Crashes and contact happen.

Enough already. I’ve been watching the sport long enough to know when somebody screwed up. I don’t need relentless alibis and prolonged pumping of old news.

Do me a favor: Shut up and race.

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