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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Danica adoration needs to be kept in check by media

First off, let me just that I have absolutely no idea how well Danica Patrick will do in the long run with her NASCAR career, and neither do any of the so-called experts who might claim to have a crystal ball on this matter.

The facts are simple. She has done three races. In two of them, she has been taken out in wrecks not of her creation and in the other she was just slow and unable to do much of note. Not until this year and probably beyond will we really see if she is making the progress necessary to become a Cup driver in the future.

With that out of the way, I now focus on a topic that no doubt has frustrated many other fans besides me … and that is the media’s endless adoration of Danica that is at times on the wrong side of professional reporting.

I’m not mad at ESPN for hyping Danica, as that was expected. She is a huge star, and drew record ratings for them, so I was not concerned by the constant presence of Danica every third sentence of every race broadcast she was involved with. I fully expected it.

My concern comes with how some reporters handled it, tossing aside their journalistic hats and jumping so hard onto the Danica bandwagon that it was dragging on the ground. At one point Saturday, the rain delay allowed Dr. Jerry Punch to sit down at length with Danica and talk about her experience so far. Punch, a reporter with decades of experience and the respect of race fans including myself, did not function as interviewer here. He was a cheerleader, defending Danica against all criticism before she even had a chance to do it herself. At one point, while discussing her struggles in her first few Nationwide races, he ended the segment by telling Danica, “I’m proud of you,” like you would say to your child who has just fallen off their bike after attempting a difficult drive.

The problem is, Danica is not a child. She is a grown woman.
Folks, I can’t recall the last time any NASCAR reporter has told Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson, or even a lesser-known male driver, that “I’m proud of you.” It was a point in the interview that really threw me off, as I wondered why that kind of talk is even considered on the very professional ESPN broadcasts.

Then it hit me. ESPN has to root for Danica. The reason they are “proud” is they will make a ton of money if Danica succeeds in NASCAR.

As I said at the start, she may succeed or she may not. Time will tell, but that’s not what I’m discussing here. I’m just saying that I get a little annoyed when I see stuff like this. ESPN has every right to promote that Danica will be racing on their networks over the weekend as much as they want. But when they start openly pulling for her to do well, becoming basically fans of hers instead of broadcasters, I get discouraged as a journalist.

I’m just glad I won’t have to see it for another three months.


Blogger Willy said...

I agree 100 percent...but what is the difference when they pull Danica and/or for drivers that should be better than their PR ( insert Earnhardt and M. Waltrip here). There is a lot of focus on those drivers even though their success is at best average and if not for the name would probably be hunting for a job. They may not say "I am proud of you" to those drivers but heir media coverage says the same thing.

February 28, 2010 at 12:56 PM 
Blogger GinaV24 said...

I agree. I would love to feel like I could cheer for Danica as a professional driver, but the hype and the cheerleading has simply turned me off. I want to decide if I am going to cheer for a driver or not based on my observations, not what the media or NASCAR for that matter says.

They did the same kind of thing with Montoya, Logano and the cheerleading that Fox does for all things Waltrip and Toyota leads to a loss of credibility.

Just cover the race. Let me watch Danica race for a while and just cover her in the race like a regular driver and then I can decide to cheer for her or not.

February 28, 2010 at 6:27 PM 

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