I want to like Danica Patrick . I really do. I want her to win the Indianapolis 500 and take a huge step for women in sports everywhere. At least win a few races other than a sole victory at the Indy Japan 300 in 2008 (which Patrick claimed based on fuel strategy).
But with every race that passes it gets harder to believe in her as much for her conduct off the track as her lack of success on it.
The latest incident occurred on Saturday as she blamed a poor qualifying effort for this year's Indy 500 on a poor car setup.
The bigger problem is that her comments were broadcast on the track's public address systems leading to a cascade of boos.
"I say one confident thing out there, that it's not me, and everybody boos me," Patrick said. "I don't know, maybe they were booing me before, but some of them were probably cheering for me before. I'm not a different driver than I was five years ago."
The reason for the jeers is that people are getting tired of Patrick's poor performance, but perhaps more her resulting penchant to blame everyone and everything but herself.
There was the post-race confrontation at the A.J. Foyt 225 at the Milwaukee Mile in 2007 with rival Dan Wheldon where she grabbed Wheldon by the arm and shoved him. To which Wheldon replied at the time, "She's messing with the wrong person if she wants to get feisty. I'm a lot tougher than she is on the track."
There was a collision with Ryan Briscoe that knocked both drivers out of the Indy 500 in 2008. A security guard prevented a raging Patrick from going after Briscoe.
There was the heated verbal confrontation with fellow female driver Mikka Duno at a practice session at the Indy Honda 200 in 2008. Duno threw a towel at Patrick in what some of the press called a 'catfight'. This incident combined with a WNBA brawl at the time clearly did not help the importance of women participating in professional sports.
Are there other drivers who get into confrontations all the time? Sure, but they also tend to win races because their competitive fire translates to the track. Not so with Patrick.
Granted, being the face of your gender in a sport is not an easy cross to bear, but clearly Patrick has capitalized on it. Her merchandise sales far outrank any other driver. Her endorsements have certainly not suffered at all. At this point, there might be more people who recognize Patrick as the GoDaddy.com woman rather than as a race car driver (perhaps they always did).
Herein lies the problem. She isn't coming close to succeeding as a race car driver. Yes, she finished fifth in points last season, but one career victory is what they call a 'fluke' in sports.
She has a first rate team in Andretti Green Racing, yet she is just 16th in points. Her part time foray into the NASCAR Nationwide Series has also yet to bear any significant results
So Danica I implore you, "Just shut up and win."
Then you won't be booed. At least not by me.