Bob vs. Race Fans
Bust Bob's Chops

 Related Pages
 Reciprocal Links

We recommend Internet Explorer set to 1024x768.

© 1999 Brian F. Schreurs
Even we have a disclaimer.

Bobing your hair will cause it to snarl whenever you think too hard.
On February 22, 1999, Bob Levey said:

"My trouble with auto racing is that... the only thing most spectators are there to see is disaster."

There are a lot of armchair psychologists who try to pass judgment on the character of a sport's spectators. They particularly like to do this with sports they don't like, watch, or understand. This is natural; most people assume that anyone who is different from themselves must be weird. And auto racing fans are clearly weird; there is nothing to be found in racing but crashes.

Let's come back to reality now.

Auto racing is like most other sports: more complicated than it appears. To those few of us who do not give a rat's ass about football, the game appears to be nothing more than a bunch of burly men banging into each other. But football fans will tell us that there is much more to it than that. Similarly, auto racing can be oversimplified to a statement that it is just a bunch of cars driving in circles; but such a statement would be just as wrong.

Racing fans don't watch racing for the crashes any more than football fans watch football for the injuries. Yes, they happen, but no one goes looking for the stretcher.

Okay. Some people go looking for the stretcher. There's always somebody. But most fans are in it for the sportsmanship, just like any other sport.

Racing fans get really wrapped up in their favorite drivers, too. Recently there has been a surge in the number of driver endorsements and t-shirts bearing the likes of NASCAR racers Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt. Anyone who has not noticed this needs to venture forth from the cubicle more often.

Imagine if Dale Earnhardt were killed. Whoah. The outcry would be stunning. Not possible? A couple years ago Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna was killed; it plunged the country into grief. He was a national hero. While auto racing is still not taken as seriously in the U.S. as it is abroad, the death of a major driver would reverbrate throughout the sport, whether the networks covered it or not.

Auto racing is also popular at the grassroots level. There are six drag strips within two hours of Washington; numerous autocrossing clubs; even a couple of road courses within a reasonable drive. This area has more tracks and events than almost anywhere else in the country.

These events are not usually filled with big-dollar sponsored cars. They are daily drivers, project cars, and little-dollar sponsor jobs. Your neighbor's Firebird may be a commuter during the week and an autocrosser on weekends. The local parts store might own a drag racer. For these people, one crash could put them out of the season, or out of racing completely.

Needless to say, they avoid crashes as much as possible. If spectators were just looking for crashes, they'd go away disappointed. Yet grassroots racing remains popular.

It is usually dicey to spout uninformed opinions about something. All the more so when the opinion casts aspersions on a large group of people. A certain amount of backlash should be expected. Perhaps the opinionator should attend a local autocross, or at least talk to some race fans, before putting his neck on the chopping block.