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!”.
I’m fairly new to the sport. Been around about five years and hadn’t had a lot of exposure before coming to work at Texas Motor Speedway. Obviously, working with Eddie and all of the great people at TMS, I was quickly knee-deep in a motorsports education. And it’s a darn good thing they taught me so well…
The first time I met Bobby Allison was during my first race weekend. I walked into my office after a particularly hectic morning, and there was an older gentleman patiently waiting in one of the two chairs (not the one behind the desk, although, that would have been fine but not his style at all.) He said, “Hi, I’m Bobby Allison. I understand you are in charge of an event going on tonight and I was wondering if I might get a couple of tickets.” And with that, he pulled out his checkbook. Even though I had only been on the job eight weeks, I was, thankfully, familiar with his name and quickly asked him to put away any means of payment; that we would proud to have him as our guest. (NOTE: I figured he was who he said so I put him at Eddie’s table that night. In hindsight, that’s pretty funny but only because he was who he said and therefore, I still have a job….)
Fast forward almost five years. We are having another “WILD ASPHALT CIRCUS” year. But this year, we want to reiterate, at Texas, you really do have to “EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED”. I mean, I’ve had some CRAZY race weekends! And I’ve seen it with my own eyes… so have y’all! (and CONGRATS!!) For the record, your CRAZY race weekends are MUCH different than MY CRAZY race weekends (CONGRATS, again!).
Back to the point, how do you illustrate and animate all of the unexpected that happens in Texas? I mean, it’s unexpected, right? Probably don’t have a camera aimed at it and in some cases, that’s probably best. ANSWER: You parody it.
How many times have we seen the moment NASCAR became mainstream? 1979 Daytona 500.
Man, that’s good stuff! And wouldn’t it be funny if………. Yeah, an idea born.
So, the first time I met Donnie Allison… was the morning of this commercial shoot. The Allison brothers had flown in the night before and had dinner with Eddie. I had them on set at 6:30 am. I had met Bobby several times at this point, but never Donnie. I was expecting another Bobby…. and there it was… true to form at Texas Motor Speedway… the unexpected. He got out of the front seat of the Tahoe and walked directly to me. I introduced myself and he immediately wrapped his arm around my neck, started walking with me toward set, and without catching a breath, questioned Cale Yarborough’s parentage. Oh, this is gonna be EPIC.
We walked to a truck parked at the edge of the set and put down the tailgate (c’mon… I’m from Texas. They’re from Alabama. What did you expect? White linen tables?). By this time, Bobby has joined us as well asn our director, Matt Singleton, with Deaton Flanigen Productions (yep, shameless plug). So, I ask them to tell me what really happened that February day in 1979.
I’m just going to stop right here and say, I don’t remember a time in my life that I have been star struck… truly. That is still the case today. But the closest I have ever been to being a “fan-girl” was when Bobby and Donnie Allison were standing in the infield of Texas Motor Speedway and telling me about that day, that race (yes, they remember the whole thing), that final lap, the wreck, what was said, and the fight. I sat mesmerized for 30 minutes, and so did Matt. It was nothing short of magic. At the end of the story, Matt and I looked at each other and said almost at the same time, “Why in the hell didn’t we have a camera rolling for that???”.
Here is the end-result of the day. We laughed on every take. I guarantee we could sell the outtakes. We watched the playback on set after each take with Bobby and Donnie. We belly-laughed every time. We hope you enjoy it. But at the end of the day, we hope you know that you can’t predict what will happen in Texas. I have certainly learned that first hand.