We've all seen professional athletes in every sport who nobody likes. They are sore winners and sorer losers. When things don't go their way, they're quick to blame others: their teammates, their coaches, the rules.
The embodiment of this sour grapes sentiment in NASCAR in recent years has been Kyle Busch.
Like him or not, and without regard to how talented he might be, you have to admit that Busch often has a bad attitude. When he loses, he blames his pit crew, his crew chief, other drivers, anyone but himself. When he wins, it's all about how great he drove, coupled with the same canned lines thanking his sponsors.
The antithesis of this attitude is NASCAR newcomer Max Papis. There is nobody—and I mean nobody—in NASCAR who wants to be racing more than Papis.
His emotion shows through at at all times: during pre-race and post-race interviews, whether he's racing his way into the Daytona 500 or getting involved in a spectacular wreck not of his own making two seasons ago at Watkins Glen, Papis is always excited, always humble, always thankful to just get the opportunity to race.
And for good reason—not everyone gets a chance to race in NASCAR's top series and run with the worlds' finest. Not everyone gets to go wheel-to-wheel and door-to-door with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Such an opportunity could inflate a driver's ego, and it certainly has caused a good amount of chest-puffing from many drivers over the years.
But not for Papis.
Mad Max is always grateful for the opportunity to take the track. He's humble and thankful to his predecessors and his backers. He's always smiling. When some drivers are pulling "double duty" running two races in a weekend, Mad Max says he's running "double pleasure."
When he doesn't run well, he doesn't throw his team under the bus. He doesn't whine and cry like some other drivers when he gets caught in someone else's wreck.
NASCAR needs more drivers like Max Papis. Where has the emotion gone in this sport?
Sure, we see guys get happy when they win races and guys get angry when they lose, but who out there is just happy to have a chance to run? Who is excited to get the chance to compete? Which driver doesn't think he's entitled to a big sponsor contract or the best running car in the field?
Mad Max Papis, that's who. How can anyone not root for a guy who's simply humbled by the chance to be in the race? Imagine what NASCAR would be if every driver wanted to be there as bad as Max Papis does.
No matter who your driver is, we should all be pulling for Mad Max. There's no doubt that he makes NASCAR better.