The fiasco of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. fans throwing trash at Jeff Gordon on Sunday has led to a news cycle bashing NASCAR and by implication, Alabama. According to the media, race fans=rednecks and that equates to an indictment of Alabama (the state and fans.) It was another black eye for us.
Talladega race officials attempted to spin the situation and, according to one report, said: “that only 25 percent of the crowd at Talladega actually comes from the state of Alabama (a fact, by the way) while the majority of them come from the rest of the US ‘plus 11 countries’.”
At least one columnist defended the state, Tom Sorensen in the Charolotte Observer said throwing things is not an Alabama thing. He said fans in Pheonix threw trash at Gordon, and that this is a NASCAR problem” “Don’t blame Alabama — throwing garbage at athletes is not an Alabama thing. Tuscaloosa, where Alabama plays football, is less than two hours from Talladega. Fans expect so much from Crimson Tide football and get back so little. But they don’t go after the players, at least not with their arms. They have too much respect for tradition. Plus, they’ll get caught.”
According to media reports, 14 persons were arrested with 7 from Alabama. The remainder were from Georgia (three), North Carolina (three) and Tennessee (one).
One interesting point raised during an interview with Talladega officials on the Paul Finebaum radio show, was the possibility for an alcohol-free seating area in the grandstand. Track officials said they would look at the idea; however, if track officials are smart, this could be a way to boost attendance and improve the imperssion of the sport.
According to experts, attendance at NASCAR races are down this year and viewership on television is down.
Boosting the family-friendly nature of the sport would be wise. Already the track has an alcohol-free campground they opened for the spring race. The track cooperates with family-friendly groups like Raceway Ministries. An alcohol, tobacco free zone would be an excellent way to take that a step further.
If the track were to open such a section, and the seats were actually good seats (not like some family sections at ballparks, which are stuck in the nose bleed section), then the track would have a real chance to attract new fans.
As a footnote, I asked yesterday, what drives some race fans to hate Jeff Gordon. One of our regular discussion contributors suggested it was a three-fold problem. He said: Earnhardt fans view Gordon as having it easier than Dale Sr., that Earnhardt fans believe Gordon is gay, and Earnhardt fans can’t deal with the fact that Gordon won more races and titles head-to-head.
Alright, that is enough NASCAR for me for two years. Let’s hope I don’t have to hear about it or think about it for another few years.