Bobby G. On the Soapbox

On the Soapbox: The Fan


I wrote this column a while back. 2009 to be exact and while editing the main site,(WingSideUp.com), I decided to go back and read it. Considering some of the things that I’ve felt and posted about lately, I think it’s just as timely now as it was then.

Actually, maybe more so as our division seems as divided as it’s ever been. In a recent post I talked about the callous, diehard supermodified fan and how hard they are to please no matter what you try to do. After visiting Lake Erie Speedway for the Must See Racing Supermodified Series this past weekend, I think I can honestly say that I was pretty close to 100% right.

The only people who talked about car count or issues in the division were the people wearing Oswego Speedway, ISMA, or MSA t-shirts.

I believe that most of the fans in attendance had never seen the supermodifieds before and were amazed and entertained all night long.

From my viewpoint in the beautiful Lake Erie Speedway tower, and based upon discussions among those of us in the tower, the fans stayed in the game. They didn’t bicker and moan or leave early. They were excited, pointing fingers and smacking the person setting next to them because of the action on the track and the sheer enjoyment of being entertained.

Judging by the Tweets and the Facebook postings after the race, the greatest percentage of people were truly appreciative of the show regardless of car count. I won’t lie, I wanted more cars and feel like it could have been even better for the fans and promoter if there had been a 20 car field.

However, as I’ve often said, sometimes the best shows are those with fewer cars and more racing. This seemed to play out at this event, and it was enough to keep the naysayers at bay, except among our own circle of long time, die-hard fans and those within the power structure of the division that have selfish motives.

It’s been a while since I’ve played to a crowd that was that INTO a supermodified event and it was extremely pleasurable not only to me, but, after speaking to them afterwards, the drivers and car owners as well. I tend to see it more at new venues, so that much isn’t out of the ordinary. And to be honest, everything went right all night at Lake Erie. The teams co-operated in getting into their cars, the officials had it together, the drivers were more than kind and very engaging at the drivers autograph session, and there were no major cautions or red flags during the race. So that always makes for a show that is well received. Let me tell you though, the air was filled with electricity from the pits to the tower and it certainly resonated in the grandstands.

I hope you will consider the points in this column and at the end leave a comment and take the poll to let me know how you feel about the state of the supermodified Fan.

The Fan

(Reprinted from Wailing with Wing Side Up LIVE internet radio show)

Oswego, NY 1/26/09…..The off-season for a supermodified fan, for the most part, is one of great despair and save for a few days of indoor racing where you get to see your heroes, a time that is filled with impatience and longing that can only be met when you get that first whiff of methanol in the spring.

For some, they fill their idle time attending the many fund-raising functions, Christmas, New Year’s, Superbowl, and whatever holiday party they can come up with. It gives most a chance to catch up and enjoy the company of each other after digging themselves out of the snow bank, or in the case of our left coast brethren, a reason to brave the balmy sub 70s weather.

In the last 10 years though there has been born a new type of fan. This fan finds bits and pieces of information along the way eavesdropping on a great conversation. This fan is frustrated with the state of supermodified racing, or has been wronged or knows someone on a team who has been wronged by a track or sanction or other team and stews on the issue allowing others who feel the same way to add fuel to the proverbial fire of discontent. Building a case this fan, or maybe even another crew member or car owner, takes these things along with him so that it may be filed away for later use. He finds people who will listen to his cause and agree with his complaints. He stores it all in a mental file for only as long as it takes to get home and punch the button on the computer and log his opinon on what has become the bane of short track auto racing: the internet message board.

Now, let me just say before you start calling me a hypocrite that I have been fortunate enough to meet some of my closest friends via the internet and in turn the message boards surrounding supermodified racing. I don’t think that the venue is bad in and of itself because it’s like most things good; some bad apples find a way to spoil the bunch. I think if used correctly, and with respect toward the division,  they can be used to stay in touch over these long cold winters. I think they can be great avenues for letting people know that one of our friends is sick or hurting, or where the next fund-raiser is going to be held.

False Pretenses

I made my mind up that I would no longer post anything but true, factual information and not opinion or hearsay after it was brought to my attention that my name was being used and it wasn’t me that was using it. I guess I was kinda flattered that someone would think enough of the name I’d used for my column in MARC Times Racing News since the late 80s to use it in modern-day media form. Trouble is, from what I could gather some of the things this person was saying were being credited to me and were things that I wouldn’t say nor did I believe in. So I simply made a post using my name, and that I had never, nor would I ever, post on that particular board and that when I would post a message or start a thread, I always signed my name and posted my email address.

It seems easy maybe to hide behind a screen name. You are invisible, yet you are heard. Kind of like trying to figure out exactly who wrote the Kama Sutra. People will always wonder and there lies the problem. You can pose as someone else and do damage to a person intentionally and sometimes it happens without even meaning to. Why would you use a name other than what people know you as? And why wouldn’t you put your email address up so people can contact you personally? To me it’s kind of like a bully that likes to go around sucker punching someone. You walk up behind em and whack em in the back then run away and the person you knocked down never sees who his attacker was.

Opinions Are Like…

I hear people screaming free speech now. Here’s my take on that. Freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to slander someone with personal harmful words, whether it is towards another fan, owner, driver, track, or sponsor. Now there’s nothing wrong with having opinions. You have yours and I have mine. I speak mine publicly. It’s something I have done since I started writing back in high school and later on with my column. You aren’t always going to agree, and I’m not going to always agree. Sometimes it’s OK to disagree. The difference here is that at least you know who you are disagreeing with because the names have been signed, or at least the screen name is readily recognizable AND if all else fails, a means of personal contact has been left.

What’s not OK is hiding behind a screen name and saying things in a public forum. I have to ask, if you feel that strongly about something or someone, why you don’t take the time to ask them personally. A good friend of mine reminded me of that this year while hangin’ around the campfire, and for the most part, he was right. I asked a question of him that could have been taken as negative, when I could have just as easily directly asked the person that  I was wondering about. There was a bit of a misunderstanding, and some hurt feelings, but in the end we both understood each others point and our friendship continues to this day, but it reminded me that anything other than asking the horse and getting the answer from the horse’s mouth is pretty much just gossip.

Mr. Know It All

Maybe it’s that people feel that they have to be right about all things all the time. I think our Division, because of it’s unique nature, breeds a fan that is more knowledgeable than most from other forms of short track racing. We are, after all a pretty small family within a bigger realm. That in turn could mean that this amount of knowledge among fewer people gives less room for someone being wrong. It took me a while to learn and figure out that I didn’t always have to be right and that the people who really matter, the people who were the real movers and shakers, knew where I stood on a particular issue and whether we agreed on it or not, at least I had gained their respect by stopping to take the time to listen to their viewpoint.

Fan Frenzy

There are still plenty of fans that just want to go racing and root for their hero. Longtime fans that can mentor the newbs about the excitement of supermodified racing. Fans that prefer to do their bench racing on the back of a pickup at their local short track and reminisce about the old days while enjoying the new and fans that eventually want to become more involved within the Division.

I’d like to believe that there’s a lot of fans who still talk to the drivers and teams about why they are going here or why they aren’t going there so that the teams can give their side of the story. I am certain that there are fans that have the backbone and love of the DIVISION in their hearts to offer up a thank you to a driver for being there even though he may have taken out their own favorite a week before.

Two Sided Coin

Most drivers I have talked to laugh at most of the things people post on the message boards. Some tell me it’s funny because they read about what they are doing before they even know themselves. Many tell me that if it were as easy as some posters seem to think, that they’d gladly trade places for a weekend and let the keyboard jockey put his life on the line while spending all their money and time working on the cars.

I was recently at a hunting camp with a friend who does a lot of work on a Oswego supermodified. We’ve spent a lot of time in the garage discussing different drivers and the history of the Big O as I helped turn some wrenches. He told me about a driver that he simply could not stand. I listened and I could understand his viewpoint. Then I proceeded to tell him some of what I knew about this particular driver about how he had helped many local people, had opened his home to people who needed help, about how this driver really cared about what people thought and that he wasn’t the arrogant jerk many believed him to be. The cool thing is, we talked about this together over a beer and when it was done, I don’t know if he was convinced of my viewpoint, but we weren’t calling each other names. Imagine if that conversation had been started on a message board. It could have gotten ugly quick in some circles.

There’s nothing wrong with fans that can lend constructive criticism by calling or writing a promoter for information about a subject and then once answered let it lie. If you don’t like the answer you got, sometimes you have to keep in mind it was a rough night at the race track, and while I’m not making excuses for lame duck promoters, maybe you can give them another chance. I think that fans who lose the cynicism and hurtful sarcasm towards other fans, drivers, tracks or sanctions are the ones that truly love the division for nothing more than just wanting to enjoy a good night at the track. For those that don’t, all I have to say is “Hey partner, if you don’t like it, simply DON’T GO! Nobody is going to miss your negativity.” It’s ok to be upset, but man there comes a time when it just gets old. Sometimes all of that tongue in cheek insider sarcastic humor is more than the new fan or the unknowing fan can handle and you have to ask yourself if you letting your personal feelings ruin the division that you claim to love.

Users and Losers

Now we have some people using internet message boards laying claim to trying to make positive inroads when really it seems that it’s just another venue to be a voyeur and gather gossip. There are some, and I think they are in a very small minority, who truly use the ‘bitch boards’ , as several of my driver friends call them, for the betterment of the sport. To talk about fund-raisers, and giving a happy birthday to someone. These same people post useful information about how to get to a track, organizing bus trips, questions about supermodified history, and just to give a high hearty ho and a pat on the back.

But we also have owners and drivers bitching at each other and calling names because of earlier personal issues, fans taking sides and being vicious and vindictive and people saying that class is dying because nobody can get along. Who, or rather WHAT promoter would want to be involved with any of this negativity? More importantly why would anyone want to build, buy or field a car in a class with what could be perceived as non-stop bickering? We are, or have all been guilty of finding fault in another member of our family, and I’m not free from that guilt either. What I’m saying is that it would probably serve the DIVISION better if these types of issues were kept out of the public domain.

I can also see that down the road, that there will be new ways to further exasperate the problem. These new sharing sites that are meant for people to connect will in time, and I hope I’m wrong, grow to the point that people feel like they can talk about anything with no regard to people’s privacy. We are getting to the point in society that we need it faster and there is less focus on integrity or accuracy.

What We REALLY Need

We need people who are willing to put personal feelings aside to help the DIVISION. Walk the walk if you’re gonna talk the talk. I question myself all the time and just when I think I have an answer, I call on one of my mentors to guide me and direct me to make sure I am doing what is best for the DIVISION and not just spouting off at the mouth to be heard. I make a lot of mistakes in this but I am always trying to do what’s right without taking sides, yet also not allowing my beliefs, values and integrity to be compromised. Sometimes it works, sometimes I fall short, but I’m always trying. I know I have failed people, or disappointed them. I am who I am that’s all. I don’t write this for accolades or a pat on the back or to gain more friends or power. I’m just a guy from Indiana that was lucky enough to get to know a lot of really cool people throughout this supermodified journey. I’m nobody special really, I just want to see my supermodified friends across the country be able to do what they love to do and spend time with each other.

In the end that’s all we have. None of this other stuff means anything. We all get upset sometimes, and we all have our opinions of each other, but I am tired of the pettiness and bickering and downright mean and hateful things some people are saying. My friend Eddie Maxon told me once that in the big scheme of things supermodified racing wasn’t important. He’s right. But what is important is that I’ve been given the gift of many friends and have gotten to see my country because of supermodified racing. I don’t want to lose that so that’s why it’s important to me. If the internet message boards went away tomorrow I wouldn’t care one bit even though I’ve connected with a good many friends that way, as long as I could still get to a supermod show, I’d still see them around the fire and have some fun talking about the weather and who we thought had a good run.

Dig deep my friends. DIG DEEP and think about these things.

Take the poll below and then leave me a comment with your thoughts on this subject.

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