07 July, 2011

Just as fake as the headlights on her stock car

It seems so often that I think of great blog topics, but as the day goes on I realize I won't have any time to get them written. This is a bit disappointing, although I try to keep as many of them as possible stored away inside my head. When I do get a chance, I often have to pick and choose what to write based on my time frame, and I think that's what I will try to do tonight.

A while back I got a chance to meet Danica Patrick. While this may cause some to weaken at the knees and become giddy as schoolgirls, it got a healthy eye roll from me when I found out. Hooray? I was going to have to travel and go to the skybox of a man I've never met, but supposedly she would arrive and be on hand for something. I began to think of questions and clever little ways I could ask her things. Most importantly, though, I wanted to see if she was truly as unpleasant in real life as she appeared on television. Little did I know how clear an answer I would get.

She arrived a few minutes after she was supposed to be in the skybox (not a surprise). The agent lady with her authoritatively announced that she would be on hand shortly and would only be taking pictures. Line up against the wall, don't talk to her too much, don't ask her to sign anything (we would be getting pre-signed pictures anyway), and they will have a photographer there to take pictures. Sure enough, she arrived as unhappily as she could, never taking her eyes off the diecast cars she was to sign. Her steely, serious look never changed as she kept her head down signing the little cars, moving silently down the line as people called out to her to say hello. When she was done she gave a half smile to no one in particular and moved to the end of the room where the pictures would commence.

My dad and I were toward the front of the line, randomly, and he kept egging me on to take out my little notepad and get her autograph, but I was hesitant. While we waited I glanced at her feet and saw Converse shoes---the same brand I was wearing, although hers were gray and mine were Ferrari red with Corsa on the sides. When it was finally my turn, just as she had done with everyone else, she frowned up until the point that the camera clicked. I stood next to her, towering over her petite frame that could only manage to dwarf my chest.

"Hi," I smiled sheepishly, seeing if I could get a reaction out of her before the picture.

She only partially turned her head my way, expressionlessly saying "Hey."

"I like your shoes," I grinned, pointing down to her Converses. "Great minds think alike!"

She looked down, her mouth back into her usual pout after faking a half-smile for the picture. "Oh. Yeah," she said matter-of-factly.

I pulled out my notepad and asked if she could sign it, and she literally reached out and tried to shut it. "No, there's a picture over there," she said pushing it away, "That's bigger than a little sheet of paper."

I paused for a moment before walking away, her (probably) autopenned picture burning my fingers out of a Go Daddy-induced blasphemy. I looked at my dad, who had seen and heard our entire conversation. I could tell the pressure in him was building, yet he also put on a fake smile and had his picture taken before walking away. "See ya later," he quietly said through gritted teeth.

As soon as he reached me, though, the smile faded.

"Let's get the hell out of here," he said staring at the door.

I agreed and we left quickly, telling Jim (the man whose company owned the skybox) thanks for having us and giving us pit/garage passes. We exited swiftly, and upon the door's closing my dad blurted out, "Holy shit, she is the biggest turd of misery I've ever seen! Who the hell does she think she is?!"

I laughed and agreed, "I didn't know whether to laugh or be mad when I was in there! She's exactly like I imagined!"

"She didn't smile, she didn't talk to anyone. Why anyone would think she was worth a damn I don't know!" my dad continued as we walked into an elevator. The female attendant shot us a curious look thinking we were talking about her.

"Danica," my dad clarified. "We just met her; we weren't impressed."

"You should have seen her the first few times she came here," she lady rolled her eyes. "She was followed by tons of bodyguards, used disguises, on and on."

It made for an interesting rest of the day as we walked around the track. Every Danica merchandise-clad fan that passed I just wanted to shake them and say "How can you like such an unpleasant person?! Doesn't personality or class mean anything to you? It must not, but then again you certainly couldn't like her for her driving..."

Just today my dad saw Jim again who asked him what he thought of Danica at the race. He said that he wasn't too happy.

"Wasn't she a piece of crap?" Jim asked. "The whole time she didn't laugh or smile or do anything! That was a mistake getting her to come, wasn't it?"

He proceeded to act out an alternative scene of Danica's arrival, instead having her apologize for not being able to sign autographs but thanking everyone for coming out to see her and support her. She was smiling, flipping her hair, waving to people and genuinely smiling.

Unfortunately this scene was all acted out by a 6'3 200+ lbs man with a deep voice instead of Danica herself. He told my dad that the pictures we took were being printed, framed and would be sent to us. Yippee.

It just perplexes me that people could still cheer for her without caring one bit about what kind of person she is toward her fans or even her fellow drivers. A relatively new Indy fan once asked me if any of the drivers had huge rivalries, and as I began to name them, I realized that 90% of them involved Danica and someone else.

"So basically it's Danica versus everyone else?" he asked. I thought that summed it up well.

The only one she didn't outwardly hate at the time was the much-maligned Milka Duno, but that was only because she had stood up to the prima donna by throwing her gloves at her (I gave her props to that, since only a woman could retaliate without fear of backlash by the public).

Later that day I walked through the garages and pits, and every time I would see a driver I would wave and yell "Good luck today!" Of all the drivers I contacted, every one of them smiled and waved back. Some, like Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves gave thumbs up, too. I even had a very pleasant conversation with Kevin Kalkhoven who generously gave his time to talk to me. I watched carefully as fans tried to interact with Danica, and rarely did she ever even make eye contact back with them, let alone wave or acknowledge them. I couldn't believe it. I just knew that the crowd would go crazy when they announced her in the driver parade (I gave a small boo), but they obviously didn't know her or didn't care. Men can't see past the body (whose appeal is naturally boosted by being around nearly all males), and both genders can't get over the fact that she's a woman in IndyCar. That, alone, is enough for them to root for her. But why shouldn't that same thing be happening to Simona de Silvestro? Or Ana Beatriz? To me they should be a hell of a lot more attractive than Danica, both in looks and personality.

Thankfully I think that as more interviews occur, more and more people are starting to see that Danica pales in comparison to Simona and Ana and Pippa Mann and the other women climbing through the ranks. I already thought it was a no-contest between Sarah Fisher and her back before SF became a car owner. But oh well. Should Danica jump ship and fly away to the fairyland that is NASCAR, good riddance. Let her find more money there and a whole new demographic. Let her smash into other cars to her heart's desire and pick fights with people who may just fight back. Let her lay on the hood of her car in her sponsor-covered bikini touting an "Official" something "of NASCAR." Her affection toward the camera will be just as fake as the headlights on her stock car, but she'll be all the better for it. Give her ride to someone who deserves to race in Indy. Give it to someone who knows that he or she will actually have to win more than once in 140+ starts to keep the drive. Give it to someone who will care about the fans. I certainly won't miss her.

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