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 Columns & Editorials

July 6, 2000

Why Are They Still Booing?

As adults and racefans, sometimes we are definitely wishy-washy. OK, you have liked Jeff Gordon since his sprint car days and his Ford Baby Ruth days. Then after he won that first championship and started making records of his own, he was OUT. OUT to his fans, but not all fans. The real "diehard" fan is the 8, 9, l0, ll, 12-year old who wears that t-shirt and hat proudly, and who never changes his loyalty no matter whose record is broken or whose toes are stepped on.

Last Saturday, as my daughter and I enjoyed the Pepsi 400 as much as the drunks would allow us to that surrounded us, there was a young boy, maybe 9 years old, sitting close to us all decked out in Tony Stewart hat, shirt, and colors. There was no doubt in his mind that Tony Stewart was 'THE MAN, HIS MAN." Every time Tony would get close to the front, the boy would jump up and run to the railing and just hold on for dear life. The thrill of seeing his "guy" get those 5 extra points for leading was overpowering.

When Terry Labonte and Michael Waltrip came spinning and whirling down the front stretch right in front of us, the boy could not help but be afraid for his Tony. Not that he wanted to see Michael, Terry, or Jeremy hurt but he came to see his guy win and no one could take out "his guy."

The only thing that really got the boy's attention was the lady in the hot pink somewhat of an outfit that paraded in front of our section just to get whistles and "nice going guy" to her husband. Of course to all the women, she was not exactly a lady and the outfit basically said that in itself. Not the way to dress for a race since yes, the kiddies are in the audience. Just showing once again, it is not the racing that is important to some, it is the drunken stupor or stares and whistles.

The race had a last minute caution, and Tony was up there but not enough to win the race for his little fan. Then just as Jeff Burton started his Victory Lap, I heard sobs from a child. Being that I have a 7-year old, I am very tuned in to sobs. I started to look around and discovered it was my little Tony Stewart fan, all red-eyed and full of tears. Meeting his mom's eyes, I asked her, "Was it the race?" and she said,"Yes."

Being a mom sometimes makes you a universal mom. You want to protect all the kids and make things right for them. I knew that I could not give this boy the winner he wanted but I could assure him that Tony will win again and one time, he will be there for that win.

Children don't change their favorites like we do. They pick them, they collect them, and they stay with them. And just maybe, the heroes will see how much they can help these young fans in their rocky road to adulthood. We are all responsible for our children; just some are more 'seeable' than others.

So next time you are at a race and you are close to kids, try not to downgrade any driver because you never know who might be his fan, like my little Tony Stewart fan. He clapped for every driver introduced and yelled, of course, for Tony but when all the boos came out for Jeff Gordon, I heard him ask his mom why. And you know what she said..."Because he can drive too good."

-Jane Smith-

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