A : NASCAR apologists.
It’s been another amazing weekday afternoon over at the sad, lonely spot known as Will Leitch’s Brain. On top of suddenly discovering Wizznutz’ “Aubernica” an entire calendar year after it first appeared, Will has rushed to the defense of that Mensa of Motor Sports, NASCAR.
Not content with interviewing a guy who spent a year following the NASCAR circuit in a mobile home (unsurprisingly, a similar construct to that of “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer” — surely a really nice guy like Leitch must have one or two friends who haven’t written a book about tooling around in an RV?), Will does the Don Quixote routine versus former SF Chronicle scribe C.W. Nevius, who commited the journalistic faux pas back in ’93 of pointing out that NASCAR is awfully white.
It is also – let’s just come right out and say it – the whitest sport in America. The drivers are white, the pit crews are white and it has become a cliche to note that at most races, Confederate flags outnumber African American fans. For good or bad – and we’ll discuss that – at a time when professional sports seems to be embracing hip-hop culture, NASCAR is heading in precisely the opposite direction.
“We’re blue collar and we’ve got good family values,” says longtime NASCAR driver and TV commentator Darrell Waltrip. “We’re what people want to see from athletes.”
Perhaps, but could there be an undercurrent of racism to NASCAR’s popularity? Consider, 4 out of 5 NBA players are African American, 67 percent of NFL players are minorities, and last season, 23 percent of major league baseball players were born in Spanish-speaking countries (an increase of 40 percent from 1989). All of those sports, except football, are experiencing a dip in popularity. Meanwhile, the conspicuously white NASCAR is on an unprecedented run up the profit chart.
Leitch characterizes the above as “a gratuitious slam”. Sounds to me like someone’s a little anxious about racism at the race track — and it isn’t Nevius. But then again, social issues aren’t Will’s strong suit.
That said, the next time Leitch wants to take issue with someone who has disparaged NASCAR, it shouldn’t be necessary for him to pick a fight with a deposed Bay Area columnist. He can also bring the matter up with his colleagues at Gawker, who have demonstrated on at least two occasions (example a and b) that they have no greater empathy for the average NASCAR fan.
Neither do I, actually, but that’s another subject.