The slap heard through the sport the past Sunday has brought many opinions to light. I asked @TheOrangeCone to put his thoughts on it to blog as have I. (For the record, we don't agree!)
Will Kelly Haephy be punished for The Slap? Probably. Should she be? Probably. Should she go to jail for a her "vicious, premeditated attack" on Max Papis? No way!
Bumping and banging is part and parcel of NASCAR racing, particularly on the road courses, which, by the way, are now more full-contact than Bristol and Martinsville! When paint is traded and fenders dented, feelings get hurt and emotions sometimes get out of control.
When feelings get out of control, sometimes the line is crossed. I doubt Kelly woke up that morning thinking she couldn't wait to smack Max Papis across the mouth! But she did.
Undoubtedly there will be an "actions detrimental to the sport of stock car racing" penalty assessed. But undoubtedly video of those very detrimental actions will be used to promote the upcoming Truck Series race at Iowa and every other race on the schedule, probably for months to come.
So how detrimental can they be if they attract viewers? Race fans are begging for more drama, on and off the track, and this is it.
The last thing NASCAR, or any sports league/sanctioning body for that matter, needs is to lose control of its "locker room" to authorities. Imagine the police breaking up every hockey scrum or bench-clearing brawl...or the Clint Bowyer-Jeff Gordon donnybrook last fall at Phoenix.
We watch sports as a form of escapism and to live vicariously through our heroes on the playing fields and racetracks of the world. Let's be honest, who hasn't wanted to smack a driver in the face for something they've done to one of our favorites? It's not anything 99.9% of us would ever do, but's also something the vast majority have at least fantasized about in the heat of the battle.
Should girlfriends and wives be fighting? Maybe among themselves, but not with other drivers. Give her a public slap on the wrist and tell her where the line is and warn her not to cross it again. Then give her a private thank you for giving some much-needed attention and entertainment to the sport.
Put up a boxing ring to “settle” an on-track squabble? Guilty. Give a race winner a boxing robe in Victory Lane? Guilty. Build a race promotion around angry helmet tossing (or angry birds for that matter)? Guilty. Make a parody commercial out of the Allison v. Yarborough 1979 Daytona fight? Sure did! (shameless plug click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvZn50X2z3s&feature=c4-overview&list=UUHQFU9et72GcXT5weHey5pQ
We’ve done all of those things, so I guess it will be surprising to hear that I find Kelly Haephy slapping Max Papis this past Sunday, appalling. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I find it so appalling that I won’t post it here. We did retweet the video right after it happened. Not very proud of that. It wasn’t meant to be any sort of celebration or promotion of the sport, because it shouldn’t be either of those.
There is a difference between two professional athletes getting caught up in the throes of competition and a fan claiming the same. I will refer to Kelly Haephy as a fan until such a time it is actually confirmed she is a girlfriend/significant other, but regardless, it won’t change my opinion of her actions.
Did she ‘wake up’ thinking about slapping Max Papis on Sunday morning? I have no idea. I don’t know her, but I seriously doubt it. Just because it wasn’t pre-meditated doesn’t make her any less culpable for her actions. Yes, I said “culpable”. If that had happened in any other professional sport, we wouldn’t be debating whether she was in the wrong or if she should face legal ramifications because the police would have resolved that for us… on the spot.
As far as that video/image/action being used to promote the sport or an upcoming race? I hope not and I can safely say, not for Texas Motor Speedway.
Now, if the drivers go after each other… you darn well better expect it and so will they.
This isn’t one of those grey areas, folks and Robin Pemberton didn’t say, “Boys, and your girlfriends, have at it!”.