Danica Riles Up The Humorly-Challenged

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The latest flap for Danica Patrick has landed her in hot water and I find myself in the unfamiliar spot of actually defending her. As I’ve said many times over, I’m not a fan of Danica’s, but I have come to realize she does have more driving ability than I had given her credit for. Her latest controversy bothers me, not so much because of her role in it, but by the reaction it has stirred.

For those that have missed it…in an interview for Sports Illustrated with radio talk show host Dan Patrick; Danica was asked "Hypothetically, If you could take a performance-enhancing drug and not get caught, would you do it if it allowed you to win Indy? Danica responded (while laughing) with Well, then it’s not cheating, is it? If nobody finds out? Clarifying, he followed that with “So, you would do it?” Her final response was Yeah, it would be like finding a gray area. In motorsports we work in the gray areas a lot. You’re trying to find where the holes are in the rule book."

 It looks worse while reading it, than it sounded on the air. The entire interview can be found and heard here.

What bothers me about this situation is the uproar that it has caused. There are a lot of reasons to chastise Danica Patrick, but this isn’t one of them. I had a problem with her attempts to bludgeon fellow drivers who had displeased her on the track. It bothered me that Dan Wheldon was completely overshadowed by a fourth place finisher, the year he won the Indianapolis 500. I grew tired of the hoopla in the aftermath of her unremarkable victory at Motegi. And not that I am the least bit offended by the sight of a scantily clad woman; but I often wonder how she ever expects to be taken seriously as a driver, with all of the swimsuit shots and the Go-Daddy commercials. These are some of the well-founded Danica rants that we have heard throughout her career.

But now we’re told how insensitive Danica Patrick is toward the ever-growing problem of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) in all of sports. The head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, claims that Ms. Patrick’s comments were “totally irresponsible”. These latest accusations against her seem so minor in their nature, yet can be so potentially damaging by their consequences.

Although the USADA sounds official as if it were part of the FDA or DEA, it is not. It is a private organization. According to their website, they began operations Oct 1, 2000. They are an independent anti-doping agency for Olympic related sport in the United States. I’m inclined to believe that Mr. Tygart is simply using this incident as a platform to draw free publicity to his organization, without regard to the effect on Patrick’s career. Obviously, it has worked. Before this happened, I had never heard of the USADA. It sounds like a noble organization and they have their place. I am against PED’s as much as anyone. In my opinion, the baseball record books are tainted due to the actions of players, and the inaction of Major League Baseball…but I digress.

Danica probably didn’t help her cause any by later explaining that it was all just a joke. Those that were originally incensed now became outraged. Those that didn’t care still didn’t care. As this firestorm has swirled for the past few days, I began to question myself. Was I missing something here? Do I not get it? Why is this no big deal to me? The more I thought about it, the more I realized…Yes, I get it. It’s the overly sensitive society that we live in today, that doesn’t seem to get it.

True racing fans see this as no big deal. First of all, I’m not sure what PED is out there that could make a driver perform better in the car. Most drivers already hold their right foot down hard enough. It is the non-racing fans that have grabbed hold of this casual comment and tried to make an issue out of it. These are most likely, the same crowd that love to crow how race drivers are not athletes and motor racing is not a sport.

Anyone who has ever heard a Dan Patrick interview knows that most of his line of questioning, is usually with tongue planted firmly in cheek. His humor is similar to Danica’s former boss, David Letterman. When I first read the transcript, my initial thought was “…that was a stupid question.” After hearing the interview, you realize it was intended to be an absurd question, which was in turn given an equally absurd response. Danica got it and was simply playing along. I feel certain that the majority of those squawking in public have not gone to the trouble of actually listening to the interview. Their over-reaction is based purely on what they read.

I want to keep things on target here, realizing that this is a racing site and not a political forum. If people want to read about the ills of society, they need to go elsewhere. But with this story, today’s society has crept into racing. Usually we crave whatever attention Danica can bring to our sport…but not this time. Just once, I’d like for the attention on Danica Patrick to be about something GOOD she did on the track.

The humorly-challenged lot out there doesn’t know how to laugh. They have seized this opportunity to trumpet whatever their worthy cause is, with no regard if a career is destroyed in the process. Our society has gotten way too sensitive. We need to lighten up. We have forgotten how to laugh…most importantly; how to laugh at ourselves. One of the positive changes I’ve seen in Danica is that she has shown the ability to laugh at herself. That’s something we never saw in her before, as she seemed to take herself WAY too seriously.

Danica Patrick’s career will certainly survive this. By the end of June it will all be forgotten. But the lasting message will remain. That is that no one is immune to the barbs of those in our society who have no sense of humor. I’ll bet Danica thinks twice before doing another “off the wall” interview and quite frankly, I don’t blame her. Who needs the headaches? Soon we will be left with nothing more than the Madison Avenue automatons that answer all questions by simply thanking their crew, the guys back at the shop and of course, their sponsors.

George Phillips

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2 Responses to “Danica Riles Up The Humorly-Challenged”

  1. I’ve never heard of the USADA either, and unless they have something on Jeremy Mayfield I’m not sure what relevance that acronym has to do with auto racing. Thank you for your outrage, now please drive through.

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