*Note:This is my first article inspired by my response to M Brian Ladner's writing titled "NASCAR and Its Fans: Are You Questioning My Fanhood?!". A good little sociological analysis of NASCAR fans and their driver bashing ways.*
There is no doubt that the world of sports inspires some of the most passionate responses in its fans. People will hoot, clap, stomp, whistle, laugh, cry, spit, and curse all over the actions of athletes at work. I'm almost sure more prayers have been breathlessly heaped on that proverbial hail mary pass, than for all the starving kids in Africa.
Such a silly thing when we look at it, really. But I'm not really talking on fandom in general, my focus is on the NASCAR fan. Fans who like to bash other fan's drivers...for sport.
Look around on the Internet and you're likely to find plenty of colorful commentary (standard chat room flame wars aside). Visit the track and your certain to find plenty of jeers.
Heck, all you really need are two loud mouthed fans of opposing drivers sitting in a single room, with the race on the TV and beer in the fridge, and you are good to go.
It can seem a little rough for the un-initiated, so for those who think that life should be rosy, and nary a bad word should be said about anybody's favorite driver, allow me to introduce you to Talmadge.
Now Talmadge is a "bandwagoner" if ever one existed. He's been with the sport so long, he has seen Daytona races on the beach. Talmadge has gone through enough favorite drivers to fill eight hall of fame inductions. His current favorites are Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, simply because they win.
Not that it saves even them mind you, Talmadge's latest tirade is that he is walking to Atlanta to park on the infield and personally kick Gordon's butt for all the "sweet talking" he was doing about Kyle Busch at Las Vegas.
Nope, Talmadge is in it for the sport of bashing your favorite driver, even if your favorite driver is HIS favorite driver, then his favorite driver doesn't deserve you as a fan.
Such is the life of our weekly pool, with a cast of characters who love to watch the races on Sunday and talk crap over coffee on Monday morning.
Add to this mix my Dad, the die hard Dale Earnhardt Sr. fan since the 80's who wears nothing but No. 18 gear nowadays; Paul who holds a love of all things Dodge; Sheralyn who pulls for Carl because of his "physicality"; Allen with "my man Tony!!" ; and Randy, our obligatory Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan who sees no fault in Jr's actions and decries the traitorous actions of a 3 man wearing 18.
The stories change week by week and the coffee pours freely, but make no mistake, the talk is centered around rubbing your nose in your own driver's happenings.
But the dirtiest of all talk centers around Talmadge. Half of what is said should not be printed, but I can give you the gist of such happenings.
It generally starts with Paul, who clamors in from the diesel Dodge, which Talmadge always has to wonder in amazement that it did not fall apart in the drive over. Were Talmadge not such a generous man, he'd have long ago called the police to tow the "piece of junk" off of "his" parking lot.
Then it's the sweet talk to Sheralyn, "why Cheatin Carl?", "that back flippin &%*&#...."; well, enough of the sweet talk.
And from listening to Talmadge talk with Allen, you'd think Stewart constantly needed to be fed and have his diaper changed.
With Randy, Talmadge only offers a Kleenex.
Then we reach the 18 fan, all but the best is saved for him. Talmadge will even steal Randy's barbs to toss towards the man who dares pull for Busch. As mentioned before, so much cannot be printed, but understand that there is a stream of obscenities so awesome that much of it is still hanging in the outer parts of space.
Which is funny really, considering that when Busch drove the No. 5, Talmadge was congenial to talk with.
"That boy can move" he'd say to my Dad, "since when did you have any taste?"
This from the man who bought the biggest Rusty Wallace poster he could find after Wallace threw the bottle at Sr., just to get under the skin of any 3 fan.
But such is the ways of old man Talmadge, once Busch started winning, he despised the person taking him from the pool so regularly. Just this week, he had to call my Dad at 6:45 Monday morning to tell him to get his hands out from the money jar.
You see, underneath the bald head and wrinkles, the mouth without dentures spurting lisped obscenities ad nauseum, is a man of quick wit and amusing candor. You may ask where I fit in with this pool of NASCAR bettors.
Well, I pull for Scott Speed. Add to that, I have been graciously spared from losing my money on a...well, more "sweet talk".
Talmadge is a diamond in the rough for sure, but I don't find him all that rare among any of the fans who can take a good chiding for their favorite driver. I've seen all kinds of things growing up the son of a fan of Sr. through the 80's when he was vilified—grown men hanging out of a charter bus to thumbs down and boo passing by our motor home that so happened to have a 3 painted on the back, en route to Talledega.
A man in the stands at Atlanta, wearing the Miller No. 2 and spending 50 laps cheering him every time he passed, and flicking off the 3 just as much.
It takes a lot pull for your driver through the ups and the downs, some people just want to test how far down you'll go.