NASCAR Faces Crisis of Identity as Some Fans Ruin Fun for Others

NASCARGo back and watch the crowd-sourced video of the Saturday crash at Daytona Speedway. There’s some disturbing stuff in there.

And we’re talking well before debris from a final-lap crash tore through the crowd, injuring 28 NASCAR fans.

“Here we go!” excitedly screams one fan in the most famous crowd video to make the rounds.

Make no mistake, this fan is cheering on this wreck. Moreover, by his reaction, this is clearly what this fan had been waiting for all day. Nevermind the several-hundred-something laps that preceded this moment. This fan came to see some crashes.

Normally we accept the bloodlust of NASCAR fans as intrinsic to the sport and think nothing of it. The desire to see Jeff Gordon go into the wall at 185 mph is equated to the same pleasure center of the brain that likes professional wrestling or made American Gladiators so popular in the mid-1990s.

But the hypocrisy of the NASCAR bloodlust becomes impossible to ignore when its juxtaposed with “thoughts and prayers” to those who were injured in Saturday’s crash.

Now, before we go any further, it’s imperative to clarify that I’m not wishing injury upon anyone, no matter their actions. I’m not suggesting that by some cosmic force anyone deserved to be hurt in any sense.

But the concern over fan safety when those fans openly root for the competitors they paid to watch to be put into life-threatening circumstances is absolutely a hypocrisy. And that needs to be recognized.

Likewise, it’s impossible to examine this issue without bringing in the concept of “karma.”

Once again, I’m not suggesting that anyone deserved to be injured on Saturday. No one ever deserves to have physical harm befall them due to their words or actions, regardless of what they did.

But it is necessary to point out the incredibly hypocrisy of what happened over the weekend. These were a group of people who were cheering on a crash — and then they, themselves, were injured in that crash.

It’s true that almost all sports, to some extent, rely on a certain bloodlust. We tolerate fighting in hockey as normal, love open-ice hits or a safety lining up a defenseless wideout. Even in baseball, there’s nothing quite like a good home plate collision.

But the difference here is the potential for death. While it’s true that NHL enforcers — as Derek Boogaard’s sad story showed us — face grim realities, their slow-accumulated fate is not the same danger that NASCAR drivers face every time they make contact with the wall or another car. These drivers are taking their lives into their hands every time they put rubber to concrete.

And people cheer when those drivers put in life-or-death situations.

Again, this is something in sports that we accept. We accept hockey fights regardless of their lack of an effect on the outcome of games. We accept the fact NASCAR fans want to see crashes.

But it just seems to insult intelligence to continue to accept these things as fact, and simultaneously lament the injuries of people who root for injuries. Or, people who may not exactly be rooting on death or injuries, but are rooting on the incidents that cause death and injuries.

One final time: No one deserves physical harm for any reason. But it’s unfortunate that NASCAR fans aren’t taking these obvious hypocrisies as an opportunity to reexamine their morals as sports fans.

Photo via Twitter/@shiningmonkey

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