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Pedley: What’s The Guy Got To Do To Get Respect?

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, December 4 2010

Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson took the the dais in Las Vegas Friday night. For a change, to applause. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

As Champions Week in Las Vegas built to its annual exercise in awkwardness – the season-ending banquet  – the last couple days, I began to wonder about about Feb. 20, 2011.

I began to wonder what will happen when Jimmie Johnson steps onto the front-straight stage at Daytona International Speedway for driver introductions prior to the start of the 500.

While I am thinking that finally, finally, Johnson will get his due from the fans and be greeted with the type of welcome which Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Richard Petty would be afforded, I am also thinking: nah.

Such is enigma surrounding the best stock car driver in the world. Instead of ponderingwhether the U.S. Postal Service should show Johnson clean shaven, or, wearing a beard when they introduce his 44-cent stamp, I’m wondering whether he will be showered with F-bombs at the sport’s biggest event.

Five straight championships in the most important racing series in North America. And at a time when the competition is by-freakin’-far at its all-time high. (Sorry, Earnhardt, Petty, Pearson fans; you’re guys never faced 20 or more equally-adroit challengers week after week during their days.)

In other times, in other places, in other sports, Johnson’s accomplishment would have produced weeping in little old ladies. Hallmark would have come out with a line of Jimmie Cards and FTD would be lobbying Congress for Jimmie Day.

Jimmie Johnson would be a national hero.

I remember one time my friend Frank and I were sitting in an outdoor restaurant on a beautiful Colorado day. Tables and chairs were crowded close together. Frank tried like crazy to strike up a conversation with the young woman at the next table.

He was crashing and burning. Until he weaseled out info that the woman was from Brazil. Frank, a major Formula One fan, ask if the woman was an Ayrton Senna fan.


It was not until a beautiful Colorado night that I was able to get Frank out of that restaurant. And Senna only won three World Championships!

My guess is that Jimmie Johnson will not be bringing young couples together anytime soon. My guess is he will settle for polite applause on that stage next February.

And the search for an answer to the question of “Why?” will go on.

It makes no sense.

A guy who tortured and killed dogs and reportedly laughed about is crowned King of Philadelphia. A guy who demonstrated the type of moral corruptness usually reserved for ancient Greek tragedies is publicly begged to come back and save the “sport” of golf. A guy who made a mockery of everything that college stands for is given the keys to Alabama.

Johnson, whose lone crime was falling off a golf cart, is treated like a pinata on Cinco de Mayo.

Another quick anecdote. Flying into some race somewhere one time, the flight attendant gets on the PA and says something like: I see we have a lot of NASCAR fans on board. Any Jimmie Johnson fans? A loud response from a guy in the back was issued: “F-ing pretty boy!”

And, man, everybody laughed.

My hope is that by winning No. 5, Johnson has reached That Point in his career. The point where an athlete or actor or muscians who has been unliked and under-appreciated for whatever reasons, can no longer be treated by sane people with anything but respect.

At some points in their careers everybody from Muhammad Ali to Elvis to Earnhardt reached that point.

We will find out next February whether or not Jimmie Johnson has.

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, December 4 2010


  • Marybeth says:

    If he won with the full season rankings & if he won with a different cc.

  • SB says:

    Just maybe, if JJ haad won his 5 cvonsecutive titles under a season long system, he would be getting the respect you feel he deserves. Unlike a lot of media types, I don’t think a lot of people hate Johnson, I think he just isn’t the sort to generate much excitement either way, thus fans mostly don’t care one way or another about him. Too nice and too talented to hate, he’s just sort of a blank. Yes, he’s done something no one else has ever done before. But, be fair…we only had this ‘not-a-playoff’ format for 7 years. It just doesn’t have the same cachet as a 30 some race champion. Close, but no cigar. So, before you tell all those fans how stupid they are for not thinking JJ is the ‘greatest driver ever’, try to understand that for many fans, it just ain’t the same thing.

  • Terry says:

    NASCAR as a whole has become IROC boring….and JIMMY is paying for some of that….also..
    Why do people talk about NAMATH…..1 SUPER BOWL
    and not Starr 2 Greise 2 Ackman 3 Montana 3 Bradshaw 4
    They are respected but not REMEMBERED….
    like BROADWAY JOE “Willie” NAMATH.
    EARNHARDT-PETTY are over hyped by media and fans…
    than their abilities warranted. While no one say’s wow that Ned Jarrett could really drive. Pearson with far superior skills is respected but not reviered like Dale Sr.
    JIMMY will end up like Montana…..a champion because of the system. This is NOT correct but it will still be the case.
    Only 2 people I can think of who have been made into SPORTS GODS and loved-hated for it……and had the STATS to deserve every bit of it.
    BABE RUTH..(pitching hitting charity and partying)….Ruthian…
    MOHAMMAD ALI….speed power grace….global hero…

    they wowed and delivered

    • ed g says:

      Terry, you comment a lot here. Would it be possible to organize your thoughts before writing? You jump around a great deal from topic to topic. You don’t write complete sentences or paragraphs and capitalize in a very random manner. I think you might have some good points if I could tell what the hell you are trying to say.

      • Terry says:

        ed g….
        I am a fan not a proffesional writer. I am only an undergrad from a poorly funded state university.
        So,I will make this as simple as possible for you.
        If you can not understand or follow my musings, then I suggest you just reframe from reading them. That would make it easier on both of us. See, problem solved. Thank you for your concern.