The Blog Squad

Friday, May 30, 2008

Fighting is Not Part of the Game

I wonder what I would do if Danica Patrick walked toward me, appearing to have intentions of fighting. Fist fighting?

In my estimation, that’s what it looked like last weekend when she marched with her helmet still on toward the pit area of Ryan Briscoe. Moments earlier, Briscoe clipped Patrick’s car and put the best female driver in the world out of the Indianapolis 500.

Fortunately for all involved, Patrick was intercepted and convinced to stop her march and return to her area. If she had continued, it might have gotten ugly. Briscoe could have hit back in self-defense and done more damage to Patrick’s face than he did to her car.

Still, I have several problems with Patrick’s temper tantrum.

First, I’m sure she realized that this was an opportunity for “good television.” She’s no dummy. Patrick understands the value of air time. Call it the Anna Kournikova factor — become very rich despite little success in the arena of play.

However, Patrick is good at her sport. She’s so good that it’s disappointing that she needs to reduce herself to challenging other racers to a fight.

But this was an opportunity to win without taking the checkered flag. That’s why I believe she knew whatever she did in response would be good television. She was right. Even though Scott Dixon won the race, most everybody was talking about Patrick’s hissy fit after the race.

Second, Patrick probably believes that no male racer will hit her back. She has free reign to embarrass, to confront and to challenge her counterparts because she knows nobody will call her bluff.

That’s something I hope racing addresses soon, especially if she decides to cross over into NASCAR, where I think the men aren’t as gentlemanly as those in Indy. She might be a good lion tamer today, but at some point, if she keeps poking the beast in the eye, she will be bitten.

Third, what’s also unfortunate in this case is that Patrick may never be judged as wrong. She’s a minority in a world dominated by men. She’s had to fight to get to where she is now. But the majority of that fight was on the racetrack where she proved herself worthy. To take the struggle outside the lines, well, is crossing the line.

But the media responses have been disturbing. Some have praised Patrick for standing up for herself. Others have said she had every right to confront Briscoe since it was clearly his fault.

Perhaps she was well within her bounds to march.

But a professional always understands that bad events are part of the game and at times beyond anyone’s control. In this situation, that was the case.

Contrast what Patrick did to how her teammate, Tony Kanaan, responded after he was knocked out of the race by another woman driver, Sarah Fisher.

Fisher struggled to secure financial commitments from sponsors for the race and then experienced car troubles before the start. She spun out and ran into Kanaan’s car at the race’s midway point.

In a television interview after the race, Kanaan said, “I feel so sorry for her. I drove back in the ambulance with her, and she was just crying so much. She put so much into it, and I just feel bad for her. She apologized to me, and I should be the one apologizing to her.”

OUT AT HOME: I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept seeing Jeremy Bentham’s face in the coffin.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Whoa. Who cares how she throws.


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