In 1988 I was a freshman at Purdue University, and yes, I realize those nine words just lost me half of my readership. Anyhow, on an otherwise unremarkable day I recall sitting in my dorm room in Wiley Hall watching a news cast where the talking head revealed how the St Louis Cardinal football team was packing up its truckload of losing seasons and heading West to my home state of Arizona.
The room next to mine was occupied by two fine young sports fans from St Louis, and within mere seconds of the airing of this announcement one of them got up, walked over to my open door, stood there and said simply to me “You can have ‘em.”
That pretty much sums up my feelings about the media coverage of Danica Patrick’s first official N----R race tomorrow. It’s not that I want her to be gone from the Indy Racing League – goodness, no – but that now some other group of sports fans has to deal with the media circus and all the skewed coverage that goes along with her involvement with motorsports.
"I can't believe I'm getting interviewed today. She must have finished early." - Tony StewartFor all the coverage that Danica has brought to the IRL over the last few years, I would say more than not has been coverage brought to herself. That's not necessarily her fault as I don't think her intention was to ever overshadow her sport, but as a fan who has watched five years of races where every driver not named “Danica” has be ignored for what seems like half of the broadcast.
I once asked a representative of ESPN if he realized their coverage seemed to focus half of their broadcast on a single driver, and he earnestly replied that was correct, and that their studies or surveys showed that HALF of the audience is watching only to see Danica. It was quite the "jaw meet floor" moment.
Then again, when the ratings for an ARCA race on SPEED basically doubles (or triples, or quadruples) that of every IndyCar race other than The Indy 500 last year, it's hard to argue with that.
"According to the 'media' not only is Danica the most amazing racing driver since Dale Sr. but she is also related to Jesus lol." - Scott SpeedOf course, if broadcasters are going into the event thinking that one competitor is responsible for half the audience then they're most assuredly going to play it up. The "Jesus" comparison isn't beyond them because for years Danica was proclaimed as the savior for the IRL. And to some extent she may have been, as soon after her arrival the IRL ownership purchased and bimergified with Champ Car.
But there is also the possibility that for all the fans she added that there were others who stopped watching altogether what had effectively become the DaniCar series. I won't suggest that it's an equal amount to those she added, but it's not exactly a secret that over the last five years the ratings and attendance for many events has gone DOWN, not up.
"We've never had a female -- in my era -- that's been competitive. I think most of them have just been here because they're female. I think Danica's the first real female racecar driver that's coming in here. I'm not saying she's going to be competitive overnight but she's the first one who's got any sort of credentials that should be racing cars." - Kevin HarvickPerhaps the most annoying aspect of having Danica involved in any racing series is the endless chatter of how well she compares to other women drivers, as if that were some other form of driving class. We're often told the car doesn’t know the gender of the driver, but innumerable race fans with their Swimsuit Editions stashed at their bedside most certainly do.
It's only human nature, I suppose, to be fascinated with women in what has for so many years been a men's sport, but at some point it would seem this has to end, right? I mean, at some point between Jackie Robinson and Barry Bonds we stopped saying "black baseball player", so there has to be a point where Danica and other drivers without the Y chromosome are simply "drivers". Obviously though, we haven't reached that point. It would seem we're not anywhere near it.
As I said before when I suggested she was undoubtedly the IRL’s “Driver of the Decade”, Danica’s participation in any motorsport event fundamentally changes the coverage of the sport. There will ALWAYS be more cameras and microphones pointing to her before, after, and most distressingly during any race in which she participates. It’s because a huge portion of the viewers wouldn’t be watching the race if she weren’t in it. Yes, I get that, even though I personally would prefer to watch footage of actual passing on a race track than Danica Patrick driving around by herself.
But now it’s time for stock car fans to get a taste of this. They thought they were getting a nice 10-ounce Daytona sirloin this week, but instead they’re being served 72 ounces of wall-to-wall coverage of a driver who isn’t even racing in the main event. I can’t revel in schadenfreude here because after years of this I know the feeling all too well. At first it’s so seductive to think of the interest of having a capable and fetching young lady competing in your sport, but before you know it every other person in your sport is rendered to near insignificance.
"Maybe ESPN could cover Danica on ESPN2 and the other 50 plus cars on ESPN Classic or something." - Regan SmithYup. Welcome to our world, stock car fans. I hope you enjoy the show.