When I turned on the tv this morning for my morning dose of sports news I found that much of the conversation and reports were centered around the recent running of the Daytona 500 and myself personally not being a fan of NASCAR or racing in general, I found myself in a unique situation when reading about sports, that I am not very knowledgable about a particular sport. Not to say that I don’t know nor have I ever heard of many of the participants in the sport, but that I don’t know much about the ins-and-outs of the sport, for example, I would not have known that the Daytona 500 had been ran this weekend had it not been reported. Jimmie Johnson went on to win his second Daytona 500 in the 55th running of the race, but he was in the background of the story. Instead, the focus solely fell on Danica Patrick, the most famous woman in racing and the focus of much of NASCAR’s attention outside of the racetracks and the die hard fans. The reason for the attention on Danica was not because she came in second place and it was a hard-fought battle where her and Johnson were neck and neck up until the finish of the race. No, the focus on her was that she is a woman, and she was in the lead for a little bit. What? The fact that at one point she was in front of everyone else, until she wasn’t? Where are all the accolades and articles and reports about everyone else that took place in the race who was in the lead at one point during the race? Other than Jimmie Johnson, there is none.
Danica Patrick is a ground-breaking image in the NASCAR scene, as she is a woman in a sport surrounded by men. She is a woman competing on a male-dominated stage, and she is not awful. That’s not to say that she’s the best, though. Ask any true NASCAR fan what they think about Danica Patrick and their answer would be “She’s awful!” And looking at her overall career, it is because in the grand scheme of things, she is. Her career includes 0 wins, 8 top ten finishes, and 2 poles, encompassing both Sprint Cup and Nationwide series. Danica finished 8th in this weekends Daytona 500 race, the highest finish for a woman in the history of the race, but does she deserve all of these accolades solely because she happens to be a woman?
I couldn’t help but think that Danica to NASCAR is similar to Rosa Parks to the Civil Rights movement, as she is the ground-breaking figure that encompasses history, and is a martyr for their cause. Most would say to this “Danica a martyr? If that is what martyrdom is, sign me up!” Yes, she does happen to be famous worldwide and is one of the most recognizable figures in her entire sport, but her fame and fortune does not represent her talent. Is there any pride in doing what she does? If I were an athlete that worked hard everyday to be one of the best people in my sport, I would not want fame at the expense of my talent. Yes, William Hung gained worldwide fame on American Idol, but was it because he was a phenomenal world-class singer, or was it because people saw him as a target for other purposes? You be the judge:
I think that Danica’s fame and success is detrimental to women in sports as a whole. With the way women’s rights have grown over time, I would be hard-pressed to find many self-respecting women who would want to have fame and success solely because they are women, because they are outliers in a field of conformity. I think that the fact that she is the most famous NASCAR driver outside of NASCAR circles is detrimental to the sport, and I feel that notoriety should be based on success. Who is the better basketball player? LeBron or Scalabrine?
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