Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The fun of being a NASCAR fan

One thing I don't understand about sports fans is how - or why - they keep trying to draw boundaries around the whole concept of "fandom."

In NASCAR, for instance, I get fans telling me that they can't understand why anybody would follow a driver when he switches from one team to another. I get just as many fans who tell me they can't understand how you can be a fan of a driver and NOT follow him when he goes to a new team.

The same goes for manufacturers. A long time ago in stock-car racing, people pulled for Ford or Chevrolet or Plymouth, not for the drivers who were in those cars. Over the past 20 years or so, however, that has changed dramatically. In recent years, it's all about the drivers.

But that pendulum may be swinging back a little bit. A lot of fans have complained to me this year that Chevrolet has been too dominant in NASCAR, too successful for the overall good of the sport. I think it does matter, on the grand scale, that more than one type of car is a threat to win.

That's one of the reasons I think it's good, in that whole big picture way, that Joe Gibbs Racing is going to swap to Toyota for 2008 and beyond.

I am in favor of anything that creates potential rivalries in NASCAR, whether it's driver vs. driver or team vs. team or whatever. If you look at the driver lineups for next year, Tony Stewart-Denny Hamlin-Kyle Busch (at Gibbs) vs. Jeff Gordon-Jimmie Johnson-Dale Earnhardt Jr.-Casey Mears (at Hendrick) is good stuff. The fact that they will now be in different types of cars makes it that much better, I think.

If a fan who has been behind Tony Stewart for his whole career decides he or she can't pull for him in a Toyota, that fan has every right to feel that way. If an Earnhardt Jr. fan can bring himself to pull for a driver at Hendrick Motorsports, that's OK, too.

The whole point I am trying to make is that I don't think it's my place to tell anybody why he should or shouldn't like or dislike anybody or anything there is about sports.

Don't tell me that just because I live near Charlotte the Dallas Cowboys can't be my favorite NFL team. Don't tell me I can't pull for a team because a guy I liked 20 years ago played there, but also don't tell me I can't completely lose interest in a team if my favorite player retires or goes somewhere else.

A fan can be as illogical and as irrational as he or she wants to be in deciding who or what to pull for or to pull against. That's why the whole thing is so much fun.


Monkeesfan said...

It indeed makes sense that more than one type of car win races, and it also makes sense that more than a handful of teams win races. This decade has seen a mere 14 teams win races, with no new team winners since the now-defunct Morton-Bowers/Ginn Racing effort won Rockingham in 2002 and Kansas in 2004; nor has the decade seen a comeback team win since the Wood Brothers in 2001.

The F1-ization of the sport has made it a closed loop, and that loop needs to be opened. The other teams that haven't win this decade are needed to win for the sport's competitive good. We don't need Gibbs-vs.-Hendrick, we need Gibbs vs. Hendrick vs. Petty vs. Yates vs. RCR vs. Morgan-McClure vs. everyone.

The Toyota deal I remain mixed on, because what they did in crippling the competition in the Trucks is wrong - they largely bankrupted the series much like they did (with Honda) in Indycars, and so far I haven't seen much indication that NASCAR will keep that under control. Of course the same is true of NASCAR's ridiculous longtime bias toward Chevrolet.

As for rooting for non-hometown teams, I think I'm an example of the broader scope you mention. I've been with the hometown New England Patriots since I was a kid in the Steve Grogan years, but I also have a thing for the Tennesse Titans (though I disagree with how they got there; they could have been formed from scratch instead of uprooting the Oilers from Houston) and the Carolina Panthers; of the teams the Patriots have played in the playoffs they are among the only ones I can respect.

As for illogicality, I'm living that now standing for Rodney Harrison in his four-game suspension. Like you said, it's part of what makes being a fan fun.

Erika said...

I agree, I believe that everyone should be allowed to support whoever they want, regardless of where they have come from, or where they are now. A sports team is simply supposed to be something recreational, and we are not supposed to impose our beliefs on others.

Anonymous said...

I've always been one for rooting for the hometown team. I never quite understood why Charlotteans rooted and still root for the Redskins before we got the Panthers. Is it because they were one of the closest teams or what?

Anonymous said...

Since Cal Ripken Jr. retired, the Baltimore Orioles are just another baseball team. And a bad one at that. Leaving was easy thanks to Angelos.

Anonymous said...

The whole reason that Charlotteans rooted for the Redskins is because that is who Channel 3 (CBS) showed every week. For whatever reason this was a Redskins and not a Falcons market

Anonymous said...

Being one of the illogical ones I root for the underdog and will stick with them through thick and thin and much abuse at times... sometimes I think I have a masochistic twin inside of me..why else would I staunchly back my pick no matter add fuel to the fire I am a Cubs fan and a Toronto Maple Leaf fan as well..despite the heart aches involved it's fun..Of course I was one of those children when told not to touch that hot pan of apple crisp because it would burn me..I did at the first opportunity....

Anonymous said...

I was a Rusty fan for years and when he retired I started following Jamie McMurray. After constantly having people ask me "why?", I finally had my day when he won the 400 at Daytona. As far as other teams go, I live in Indianapolis, but don't follow the Colts. I'm a Bengals fan and have been for almost 20 years. I refuse to jump on the Colts bandwagon (I've only lived here for about 2 years). I'm also a New York Rangers fan (50+ years between Stanley Cups) and a Philadelphia Phillies fan (27 years since they won the World Series), which at least makes some sense - I was born in NY, but grew up in Philly (you can't imagine the ribbing I took from Flyers fans unless you understand the rivalry).

Monkeesfan said...

shari, I have to hand it to you, to have been a Bengals fan through the hell of the 1990s - that's what a real fan is about. I lived through that, too, when the Patriots collapsed in 1989 until the mid-90s to the point of becoming the butt of Saturday Night Live sketches.

Speaking of the NY Rangers, I go to AHL games a lot and see the Rangers' franchise, the Hartford Wolfpack, a lot - when they play the Manchester Monarchs, Providence Bruins, Portland Pirates, or Worcester Sharks, it's old-time hockey ferocity.

Anonymous said...

Cheer for whoever you want, but the Cowboys and their fans still suck.

Anonymous said...

The only rule of NASCAR fandom is that, "No matter who your chosen driver/team/make etc. is, and regardless of your reason for choosing said, you will defend them relentlessly. Big, small, day or night (only the post office has a better slogan)you will extol their virtues and defend your chosen one(s)against all comers...That's a NASCAR fan!

Anonymous said...

damn youre fat

Monkeesfan said...



Anonymous said...

Hey I finally agree with Monkeesfan! AHL RULES!!!! Old Time Hockey!

Hockey season is less than a month away!

Go Monarchs!!!!!

Monkeesfan said...

nh_nascarfan - but I've got a whine - because the Providence Civic Center won't be finished with being renovated until mid-November, the P-Bruins don't get a home game until them.

It's always fun to see P-Bruins home games, especially as they have the best cheeseburgers.

And how about The AHL's Atlantic Division vs. The Hartford Wolfpack? Talk about old-time hockey nastiness.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we all hate the Wolfpack... for all the right reasons!

Sadly, the NHL has gone the same way as NASCAR is headed. A lot of similarities... hockey in Florida and NASCAR in LA. Taking away the Southern 500 would be like moving the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix. Oh, wait, they already did that!

Less than a month until opening night, against the P-Bruins!

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