In this day and age, if you're famous—or even remotely known—everyone's going to comment on you. To a large extent, this is the product of our digital age, where everyone has a forum for commenting (thank you, Twitter and Facebook) and where media outlets by the hundreds look to fill their pages. We have commentators, pundits, and opinion-writers. And bloggers. And tweeters. Everyone has a microphone and we all think someone out there wants to hear what we have to say.
I covered this issue in Braking Points with Racing's Ringer, an anonymous racing blogger who likes to sling a lot of mud and who took a severe disliking to Kate Reilly. The Ringer spent a lot of time in the book trying to damage Kate's reputation and tear her down emotionally. Truly, it wasn't hard to create that character, with all the examples around us.
Kate works hard to take the Ringer's beating in stride, reminding herself that she's got a job and a paycheck and supportive sponsors, friends, and family. Because those are what count. Those are what tell Kate—or any real driver—that he or she is doing a good job. Not the bloggers, fans, or even pundits.
I bring this up because it's come up, again, for Danica. Kyle Petty, current NASCAR commentator for SPEED, former pro driver, son of The King (Richard Petty), called Danica "a marketing machine," but "not a racecar driver." (Read more about it.)
Some of you are going to be cheering at the thought of Danica being taken down a peg (you know who you are). My response ranges between "And you were better than that, Kyle?" and "Scoreboard, doubters"—meaning, look whose name is on the marquee or driver roster.
Jalopnik summed up my first response spectacularly well, suggesting, "Let's make a deal here: If it takes more than 173 races for her to win a Sprint Cup race, which is how long it took you, then you can joke with your buddies about how you're a real race car driver and she's just some girl with a steering wheel." But I realize that response, while satisfying and entertaining is, pun intended, petty.
I side with Danica, who marvels that people tweet her wishing her ill (or even outright harm) ... yet they still follow her. In response to the furor over Petty's words, Danica spoke with the media on Friday. The bottom line for her is this: "It's a little bit funny, but the most important thing to me is that I can keep my team happy, we're moving in the right direction, that Go Daddy is happy and that when you walk out of the garage or walk around the track and meet a little girl that wants to grow up to be like you then you're doing something right -- those are the things that feel right." (Read more of her comments.)
In other words, focus on what you can control, worry about being employed, take your satisfaction from seeing proof that little girls are inspired by you. Ignore the talking heads.
And here's my punditry: She may not be the best that ever was, and she may or may not be worth all the hype. But she's making the most of an opportunity. Don't we all? You go, girl.
(photo from danicapatrick.com)