(Editor’s note: The title of this post is an obscure Teen Wolf reference, for all of you who weren’t awesome enough to get it on your own. At least my mom thinks I’m funny.)
I have a confession to make. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I had a reason for doing it. On Saturday of this past weekend, I… watched a NASCAR race.
*hangs head & kicks the ground*
It went against everything in my belief system but I focused on the task at hand in order to cheer on Alex Tagliani. In the end, the Villenueve make-contact-and-never-lift maneuver (or the “Villain-maneuver,” if you will) reminded my why I don’t watch this sport on a regular basis, but nonetheless, I enjoyed watching the guy I was cheering for.
That night, I went to the Indy Mile for the AMA Flat Track Nationals. Another confession: I’m a flat track virgin. I agreed to go because I like speed. And also, the deep fried Twinkies served just outside the track at the State Fair. Can’t really say which one I love more.
At first, I just watched in awe at these guys keeping their bikes upright at that speed… on dirt. It was incredible and I was having a GOOD time. But it wasn’t until they announced No. 31 that I was having a GREAT time.
No. 31 is Dan Ingram, a 47-year-old, Clermont, IN native who had a massive motorcycle crash during a flat track race in 1993, and decided to come back to the sport he loves after 19 YEARS.
After hearing that story, how could you not cheer for this guy? Another fan favorite was Shayna Texter, the first female in AMA Grand National history to win a GNC Pro Singles Main Event. The fans loved her, but as a rule, I don’t cheer for a female just because she’s a female in a male-dominated sport. Oh you do? Good for you. I don’t. Set down your glass of Hatorade and let’s move on.
I know what you’re thinking: What is she getting at here? All this NASCAR nonsense and flat-trackin’ has a point, and the point is this: That day, I watched two events that are outside of my sports arsenal and enjoyed both because I had a REASON to CHEER for SOMEONE.
Back in the day, I attended my first Indy 500 simply to cross it off my bucket list. Before I ever heard the ‘Start Your Engines’ command, I had no intention of ever returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But as luck would have it, I watched the race with my dad, the man who could probably give Donald Davidson a run for his money. The man who told me everything I needed to know as those cars went round and round. The man who gave me REASONS to CHEER for those PEOPLE.
I say “those cars” and “those people” because that’s all they were to me, at the time. Random people under a helmet driving in cars that went really fast. But by sharing their stories – rivalry, comedy, history – my dad helped me to choose the ones I would cheer for and more importantly, made me want to watch more races.
From that day, my first race day, I was hooked. And that day is what I focus on whenever I meet an IndyCar virgin at the racetrack or talk to a new fan through social media. I try to remember that although I love this sport, to them it might just be a bunch of people in helmets driving really cool cars really fast. They need someone to cheer for. They need a reason to watch the next race, a reason to come back next year. They need to have a GREAT time instead of just a one-and-done GOOD time.
As a side note, I was tweeting about the whole flat-track experience on Saturday night. The following morning, Jeremy DeRuyter, the owner of Thirty4 Racing (one of the flat track teams) tweeted at me and asked if I had a good time. I was stunned… and taking notes like a good little PR person.
Thank you to Jeremy for giving me another person to cheer for when I go to my next flat track race (Go Thirty4 Racing!)… and I will most definitely go to another flat track race. Thank you to Tag and Dan Ingram for emphasizing the importance of “telling the story.” And thank you to everyone who realizes the power of “just one more fan.”