Without fail, when I confess the following sordid detail of my life to the majority of new friends, I’m suddenly “that” friend. In accordance to stereotype, my IQ drops 20 points, dinner invitations are denied out of fear for unidentifiable meat, and it is determined that I must vow a crazed allegiance to Glenn Beck and the Tea Party.
What could possible make me the target of such sudden and drastic judgement?
I love NASCAR.
Not even just NASCAR. I love racing. Dirt in your beer, round and round, loud, fast racing.
Oh, and I’m college educated, far left-wing, and have never consumed squirrel.
There are aspects of racing, specifically NASCAR, that really should inspire loathing within me. I find capitalism to be a vicious crutch relied upon instead of recognized for the damage it is ultimately doing, so the fact that my favorite driver and his car are blanketed in corporate logos and being force-fed sponsorships should drive me away from the sport. But it doesn’t. The roots of racing in backwoods moonshiners endears it to my adrenaline-fueled heart.
When it was announced on Monday that the NRA would take over sponsorship of the Texas 500 in April, my immediate feeling was anger. Not because I don’t agree with the NRA’s policies (which I don’t) and their loud-mouthed lobby agenda (also don’t appreciate), but because it was more tender for the fire. The usual ignorant perceptions. Incest, stupidity, and reckless gun use. (All quotes from comments made on this Huffington Post article.)
“NASCAR and the NRA teaming up. Match made in heaven. And during the race, the infield will be teaming with relatives and first cousins continuing to breed and restock both organizations.”
“All the Texas NRA fans need a break from shooting @ there junk cars in the backyard so they go see a race of left turns.”
“I would imagine the average fan of NASCAR doesn’t know there is a difference in ‘there’ and their’.”
And there’s this gem:
“Fukn figures lol yeeeehaaaw Muricaaaaa!”
Finally, a succinct summation of the danger of NASCAR:
“Here you have it, folks. The decline and fall of America, in a nutshell.”
I avoid internet comments as much as possible, as we all should lest we get sucked into a battle of wits with the obtuse, but it turns out that it’s not only these trolls that carry the stereotype. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., new driver of the #17, or as he’s better known to the TMZ crowd, Mr. Danica Patrick, alienated a portion of the NASCAR fan base with his comments on the NRA partnership.
” The NRA is our core fan base, and we all have guns, and all us racers love to go out and shoot. It’s part of who we are…”
So because it’s not part of who I am, am I’m relegated to the fringes of NASCAR fandom? Stenhouse’s statement proves that the stereotypes that are aggravating, although admittedly sometimes hysterical, farces are perpetuated at all levels. The argument could be made then that if the supporters and opposition agree than it’s not really a stereotype, but the generalization of an entire population is bias.
What NASCAR needs is some self-awareness. Sure, I can buy all the merchandise of my favorite driver in pink. Female fans? Check. And yes, they have made half-hearted attempts at diversity, but judging by the lack of minorities and the ridiculous command by James Franco at the Daytona 500, they are clueless on how it works. The last sponsorship NASCAR needs is the NRA. They seem scared to go creative in their branding, afraid of alienating a select portion of their fan base apparently. This fear successfully keeps at bay the thousands who would be drawn in by the speed and excitement, if only they could get past the rednecks with gun racks.