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Pedley: Busch Put His Finger On Sports History

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 14 2010

Not all of Kyle Busch's gestures involve three fingers. Some get him fined. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Let’s see what’s in the old Morning Memo today:

Kyle Busch, this week, apologized to NASCAR and race fans for the obscene gesture he issued from the cockpit of his Sprint Cup car last Sunday and that’s probably appropriate.

Busch need not apologize, however, to voters on the panel which selects inclusion into the Obscene Gesture Hall of Fame.

Arm extended yet cocked slightly at the elbow, hand beveled a bit at the wrist, good extension and form held for a good, I’d say, 10 seconds. Yes, Busch stuck the landing on that baby.

If not a classic – and only time will tell if it was – it was most certainly a top-tier effort in the annals of the Pro Sports Category of gesturing.

Perhaps not up there with the one Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams issued to Buffalo Bills fans last November – that was a two-handed classic which cost Adams $250,000 in fines – but you have to remember that Busch was encased in a cocoon-like safety seat and secured with multi-point seat belts. Conditions like that are just not conducive to doing The Double.

Besides, Adams is much older than Busch and has had more time for his anger to mature.

Time for a little history here:

According to a piece written this past March in the New York Times, Professor Ira P. Robbins of American University in Washington opines that use of the gesture dates back to the ancient Greeks or, even, before. Robbins wrote that the Romans were charmed by its power to insult.

Knowing of the Greeks’ and Romans’ love of spectator sports, you’ve got to believe the gesture was used by the athletes of the day – at least, that is, until they were shredded by lions.

Around here, it dates back at least 125 years as there still exists – reportedly – a photo from 1886 of a Boston Beaneaters pitcher flashing the gesture while posing with the New York Giants.

In contemporary America, the finger pops up semi-regularly at sporting events. At all levels of sport and in all disciplines of sports.

USA Water Polo Inc., for example thinks its used prevalent enough in its sport to write rule against its display during competition. To wit: 3. Using obscene gestures, or profane or unduly provocative language toward: (a) an athlete, (b) a coach,(c) a referee or (d) any person participating in, or conducting, USA Water Polo sanctioned events.

And, adding further proof that you can take the athletes out of sports but you can’t take the sports out of an athlete, Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky – a former Major League baseball player – recently gave the bird to a television producer, the Times reports.

My warmest, most personal moment involving the gesture in auto racing came at New Hampshire a few years back when Robby Gordon let one fly at a couple of we reporters as he sped off on a golf cart.

Some say that the gesture is used so often by so many people these days, it has lost its ability to shock, or even adequately insult.

Oh, leagues and series still officially look down on it. They still issue fines for its use. And in photos, the offending finger is blacked out or photoshopped out while in television it is pixelated out.

But the gesture inspires more snickers than outrage these days. It has attracted all sorts of cute, cleaver names – the one-finger victory salute (George W. Bush’s favorite), stuff like that.

Still, when a truly good one is launched, it makes for good copy.

And I’m here to say that Busch’s was a very, very good one.

Memo to self: Advocate for bringing back the forearm jerk or perhaps the thumb-nail-on-tooth flick.

As long as I’m on a rating jag, let’s revisit the Attack At The Track: Jeff Vs. Jeff.

Sorry folks, that baby between Gordon and Burton at Texas Motor Speedway last week was weak. It was a Vanilla Thrilla. It was Aprons on the Apron.

You don’t really expect drivers to bite hunks of other drivers’ ears off, but come on.

There was a little pushing, a meekly balled fist and that was about it. I’ve seen better action at a Macy’s shoe sale.

Memo to self: Avoid Macy’s this holiday season.

The decision by X-Gamer Travis Pastrana to move over to NASCAR to team up with Michael Waltrip Racing is all good.

Yes, there is the stuff about bringing a new demographic to NASCAR, new marketing territory to open up, that kind of business-page stuff, but for me, I like these guys.

One of my favorite people in the sport right now is motocross legend Ricky Carmichael.

I rolled my eyes as I headed over to interview him at Phoenix International Raceway a couple years ago. Great, I thought, a new breed of unemployable invading my favorite sport.

I walked away from the interview with a pried-open mind toward contemporary youth sporting culture.

Carmichael is smart, articulate and respectful to everything around him.

Give Pastrana a chance, fans.

Memo to self: Just a matter of time before some TV dude will call Pastrana the meat in the sandwich when he middleman in a three-wide situation.

Final thought…Jeff Gordon and Steve Letarte should have required Chad Knaus to put down a security deposit when they loaned out their over-the-wall guys.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 14 2010