There aren't many things American sports fans enjoy more than a brawl. Maybe it's the emotion that boils over from increasingly machismo sporting events. Maybe its American culture as a whole. Sites like World Star Hip Hop that shows nothing but home videos of various fights are some of the most popular sites on the Internet.
So when Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer, two of NASCAR's biggest names, threw down on a Sunday afternoon in front of the cameras, it was a huge hit. Jeff Gluck who covered the race for SB Nation called it, "fun." Talking heads on ESPN and CNN either dismissed the fight as part of NASCAR culture or just brushed it off as "boys being boys."
In a way, I agree with them. I don't know or particularly care about Gordon or Bowyer, so if they want to pound each other's faces in, I won't be shedding any tears.
But why is a fight between two white drivers with an almost entirely white audience considered "boys being boys," but brawls in sports with black players something worse?
When players from Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers brawled in the infamous 2004 "Malice in the Palace" there were columnists opining that Ron Artest and other Pacer players "deserved jail time."
When the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets fought in 2006, advertisers pulled sponsorships from then-Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony and the players were routinely blasted by the press and public alike.
The NBA has increasingly tightened the rules on hard fouls in an effort to prevent these brawls and the public backlash that comes from them, a campaign that's been successful.
People often compare pro hockey and basketball and ask why hockey players are allowed to fight with no scrutiny, but basketball players aren't. I don't buy this comparison because, like football, hockey is a sport that relies on brutality and fighting is inevitable.
NASCAR is not. A typical race consists of drivers careening around a track at 200 MPH. High risk sure, but NASCAR racers probably have less physical contact with each other than any other sport.
I don't want to hear the argument that there's not criticism because the sport isn't popular. NASCAR is consistently one of the country's highest rated and attended sports. Its racers rake in millions of dollars in endorsements, yet I doubt Gordon or Bowyer will lose a penny from these companies for their skirmish.
Gordon and Bowyer should and probably will be suspended. My beef isn't with NASCAR execs but with a fan base and media that condones fights between the Jeff Gordon's of the world while demonizing the Carmelo Anthony's.
Here's all you need to know about the double standard that exists. LeBron James and Dwight Howard were vilified nationally for doing nothing more than wanting to play in another city. Gordon and Bowyer rolling around the track like a couple of jackasses at closing time are "boys being boys."