Thursday, June 19, 2008

A celebration ... or choreography?

So now we’re hearing from some Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans who believe NASCAR should have allowed the team to put gas in the car following his victory in the LifeLock 400 at Michigan so Earnhardt Jr. could have done a post-race burnout.

Supposedly, these folks feel cheated in some way that they didn’t get to see Earnhardt Jr. smoke the tires or do some other form of victory celebration.

Good grief.

When I first heard about this I thought people were kidding me. The race was over and Earnhardt Jr. made his last load of fuel last to end a 76-race winless streak and some of his fans feel deprived that they didn’t get to see a burnout?

Look, I am not a fuddy-duddy about postrace celebrations. Some people don’t like them at all, the way they don’t like hitters who pose after hitting a home run or a wide receiver choreographing a post-touchdown dance.

I am in favor of any expression of elation after athletic success as long as that expression is genuine and spontaneous. I love to see people react. I am not nearly as big of a fan of seeing them perform, however.

When some kind of celebration turns into your “trademark” it doesn’t bother me either as long as it doesn’t come off as contrived. Every time Tiger Woods does a fist pump, for instance, you get the feeling that it comes from real excitement or emotion. If he stopped and put on a glove with a Nike swoosh before doing them, that’d be too much.

Carl Edwards does backflips off his car after he wins. He’s giving his fans what they want, and there’s something to be said for that. But wouldn’t the backflip, or Tony Stewart’s fence climb, mean more if it only happened when those guys REALLY got pumped up.

Stewart first climbed the fence after a win because he hadn’t won in a while and was elated that he did.

When he won at Indianapolis, finally, what he wanted to do was drive over to where his family and friends were in Turn 2 and celebrate with them. So he did. When he got back to the start-finish line, though, people wanted him to climb the fence. By that time, the joy and adrenaline were gone and what he wound up doing looked perfunctory. Perfunctory is dull.

If Edwards is going to do a backflip when he wins a Nationwide race at Milwaukee, what would he do if he won the Daytona 500 or the championship? Does he have to do a double flip, or add a twist to show he is exceptionally happy?

The late Alan Kulwicki is known for his backward victory lap, what he called the Polish Victory Lap. He didn’t do that every time he won, though. He did it after his first win and nobody knew what he was up to. It was very cool, but NASCAR flipped out. As soon as the race ended before that, cars and people started moving at race tracks to start the egress process. Kulwicki was actually going against the flow of that and it caused some anxious moments.

NASCAR asked Kulwicki not to do it again. He agreed, but added that if he won a Daytona 500 or the championship that’d be a different story. So when he clinched the 1992 title in the Hooters 500 at Atlanta, he did the backward lap again and that made it special and memorable.

Television already messes up a winner’s normal reaction. The race winner drives to victory lane and sits there until TV gets back from commercial. The winner gets a cue to climb out and then a celebration ensues. It often comes off awkwardly.

NASCAR should not be making rules telling drivers how they can and can’t celebrate. That’s the last thing I want. But the next to last thing we need is some kind of “accepted” level of postrace frivolity that would mean a driver’s team needs to refuel his car so he could meet some expected level of celebration.

When a driver wins for the first time, or when he wins for the first time in a long time, or when he wins for the ninth straight week, that driver should react in accordance with his emotions at that moment. It needs to be a reflection of that driver’s personality and his emotions.
In other words, it needs to be real.

20 comments:

Max said...

I never heard that about people wanting gas put in Dale Jrs. car so he could do a burn out. Hey people...that is another thing Dale Jr. took after his Dad. Dale did not like burn outs, because it is hard on the engines...and I have heard Dale Jr. say that himself. When he has done it, I do beleive he was told to "celebrate", for his fans. That is another "old school" lesson learned from drivers who had to fix their own cars.

Anonymous said...

In today's overly, politically-correct world, Kulwicki would probably be crucified by referring to his backward lap as a (Censored) Victory Lap.

Monkeesfan said...

The victory lane circus of today is a disgrace. Bring back the rule that stated drivers were required to do one lap after taking the flag and then report immediately to victory lane.

Make them act like they've been here before - that's what a professional sport does and is how professional athletes act.

marc said...

monkeesfan - "The victory lane circus of today is a disgrace. Bring back the rule that stated drivers were required to do one lap after taking the flag and then report immediately to victory lane.

Make them act like they've been here before - that's what a professional sport does and is how professional athletes act."


Can you cite that rule (by number and para) and when it was in effect?

Do you mean "professional" celebrations like the dog pile of MLB players as a World Series ends?

Mike Hutton said...

I'll take it one step further: Get TV out of the business of dictating victory lane celebrations, start times, everything!

NASCAR and the individual race promoters should say two things:

1) Our race starts at XX time. If your network doesn't want to cover it then, there will be about 20 more behind you in line who will.

2) When our race is over, driver XX will exit the car on his timeline, not yours. Figure out how to cover it, son. If your network doesn't want to cover it that way, there will be 20 more in line behind you who will.

Anonymous said...

as ususl Mr. Poole I agree with you. I call myself a BIG Jr fan, bgut come on people it would have been studpid to come in to gas up for a burn out or the like. We all hate to see a race end under caution but hey, as win is a win.

Anonymous said...

Lets see:

" I am in favor of any expression of elation after athletic success as long as that expression is genuine and spontaneous.

When some kind of celebration turns into your “trademark” it doesn’t bother me either as long as it doesn’t come off as contrived."

Let's match up "trademark" celebrations and the driver who performed them first:

Climbing the fence? Helio Castroneves

Burnouts after a win? Alex Zanardi

Backflips? Sebastien Loeb

As long as NASCAR fans continue to swallow the hype thrown at them, they are doomed to get what they deserve. The list goes on and on.

Want to fix it? Organize an actual boycott of a race. Don't go, don't watch on TV, don't listen on the radio. Pick a typical snoozer, like Pocono. Everyone says it's boring so stay away in droves.

Then let's see what Brian says....

Anonymous said...

The victory lane crap is beyond belief. Remember when Kyle Petty stood on his roof with a camcorder and videotapped the fans celebrating his win? That was awesome. Today, he'd probably have the wi taken away just for standing on his roof. Its rediculous. And remember when they first told the guys not to stand on the roof? First thing they did was put that idiotic white picket fence on the roof.
NASCAR needs to realize that they dictate what happens in nascar. If Fox and NBC don't like it, you can bet your sweet ass that CBS will take over. God I miss TNN.
As for drinking Coke on camera, there is a reason for that: the Coke family of drivers have a contest among themselves to see who gets on tv drinking the coke most often and I believe money goes to charity for it. And for the record:
Jeff Gordon & Jimmie Johnson are just as bad with pepsi and Junior and his Amp....

joe said...

did you know that the manufaturers pay teams to do burnouts? it's true i worked with Kevin Harvick back in 2002 in the 24hrs of daytona and our crew chief warned him not to do a burnout which at the time he was one of the first to do because it wasn't in our budget he went on to explain to me how they expect them to do them

Nik said...

I'm in the Mark Martin school of celebrations. Drive to Victory Lane, thank your sponsors, your team, your competitors for bring out the best in you, then stand next to the trophy girl for your pictures.

In other words, act like you've been there before.

Besides, we all know the real celebration is after the crowds go away.

AndrewFromTN said...

Anonymous said...

In today's overly, politically-correct world, Kulwicki would probably be crucified by referring to his backward lap as a (Censored) Victory Lap.


Well, I think Alan could get away with today it since he was a Polish-American.

Anonymous said...

Contrived and NASCAR are close cousins. There is way way way too much micromanging the racing, the drivers, everything. It might as well be scripted because they are going by the book anyway. It is painful to watch.

Seeing a driver take his drink is so sad. What a puppet.

J.P. Bonadonna said...

Gas for a burnout?!?!? The most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

Couldn't agree more with the following:

NASCAR and the individual race promoters should say two things:

1) Our race starts at XX time. If your network doesn't want to cover it then, there will be about 20 more behind you in line who will.

2) When our race is over, driver XX will exit the car on his timeline, not yours. Figure out how to cover it, son. If your network doesn't want to cover it that way, there will be 20 more in line behind you who will.

nh_nascarfan said...

Hi everyone…

I’m back! After a lengthy absence due to a crapped out computer, I’m here to stir up hate and discontent.

I agree with David in that if the celebration becomes a performance and is expected, it’s a waste of time. I personally don’t stay to watch the burn out at the end of the race, nor do I care if Stewart climbs the fence or Edwards does a back flip. I will say that I respected Edwards decision not to do the back flip after Saturdays Nationwide win in Milwaukee; he cited the sadness he felt because of the death of Scott Kalitta hours earlier; he also acknowledged remorse for how he bumped Bowyer to take the lead. It was refreshing to see emotion from the other side (sadness) as opposed to manufactured happiness. It was especially refreshing to hear Edwards apologize for how he won.

But on the other hand, sport is all about raw emotion. In an era when guys treat the sport as a job and many clearly don’t want to be there, its nice to see the celebration that comes with the joy of winning. One of the moments in my sports memories that I will never forget is the Celtics post game celebration after beating – nay, trouncing – the Lakers last week. Kevin Garnett in particular, but the entire team in general. That was what I like to see – raw human emotion, coming deep from the heart.

Of course, this Sunday I get to head up to Loudon and at the end of the race, barring a car running out of fuel as it crosses the start-finish line, all 100000 + fans know what they will see… the winning car doing a burnout. Big deal.

Mark
http://jetdryer.blogspot.com/

Monkeesfan said...

Marc, I offhand don't remember the number and paragraph, I do know it was mentioned on one of the FOX broadcasts; I think it was Mike Joy who mentioned it.

I mean professional celebrations like Richard Petty or David Pearson or Bobby Isaac - do one lap, go to victory lane, get out of the car calmly, do the interview, pose for pictures.

Brian Mc said...

Right on as usual, David. Totally agree.

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