As a writer, one’s responsibility is to be as honest and unbiased as possible, but especially to maintain factual accuracy throughout one’s work.
Admittedly, I dropped the ball on that a couple of times in last week’s article “Danica Patrick: 7 Reasons Her Move to NASCAR Has Been a Huge Disappointment.” I neglected to mention that Andretti Autosport, back when it was still Andretti Green Racing, had won its last championship in 2007 with Dario Franchitti, not in 2005 with the late Dan Wheldon as I claimed. I also made a mistake in confusion on where Patrick’s cars have come from this Sprint Cup season; the initial ESPN reports from January say that Stewart-Haas Racing provides them, which is correct, although the SHR press release suggests that collaborative partner Tommy Baldwin Racing fields the cars.
For those reasons, that article is not one of my finest moments. Those aren’t mistakes that I should be making, regardless of some of the fatigue-related struggles I’ve been dealing with lately. No excuses. Those are easily checked and rechecked facts, and while I should have done so with the Andretti instance, I did so with Patrick’s Cup cars and misinterpreted the details.
That being said, the responsibility of the comment section of aforementioned article is not the responsibility of the writer, it’s the responsibility of the reader—something that I think goes completely unacknowledged on the World Wide Web in general. People spend an incredible amount of time freaking out about a Twitter account they follow, or an article they don’t like, so on, while forgetting that it was their own free will that brought them there.
Let me put it bluntly: unless you are being forced to read the content placed in front of you, you yourself bear some responsibility for any discomfort you feel in reading something, especially when the content of that something is made plainly obvious before you open it. In other words, “if you don’t like it, don’t read it.”
The Danica-lovers have, of course, come out in full force in the comment section of that article to launch their own attacks. The article attempted to be very level-headed in its analysis of the disappointment that has been Patrick’s career so far: her cars have been good but not great, she’s had about a thousand voices in her head (a tough situation for anyone in any walk of life to deal with), and maybe, just maybe, she isn’t quite the driver that folks want her to be.
Of course, people like to make assumptions and accusations based on the article. Let me address them, one by one:
- I am not anti-Danica. In fact, I’ve defended her multiple times earlier in the season and telling people to be patient with her. But at this point, having failed to make any meaningful progress over the course of the season in her finishes, her season has been a disappointment. One can only call her Nationwide top 15s “de facto top 10s” because of the many Cup drivers in each race for so long. I made that argument earlier in the season, but I no longer judge it to hold weight, because those top 15s aren’t even good enough to get her into the top 10 of Nationwide points.
- Writing an article that criticizes Danica’s performance does not make one misogynistic. In fact, I can name you multiple female drivers who are as deserving as any driver in their respective series: Johanna Long (Nationwide Series and 2010 Snowball Derby winner), Simona de Silvestro (IndyCar and four-time Atlantic Series race winner), Ana Beatriz (IndyCar and two-time Indy Lights race winner), and Pippa Mann (IndyCar and 2010 Kentucky Indy Lights winner). At this point, I would also like to add that all of these drivers have scored development series wins; besides her 2008 IndyCar victory at Motegi, Patrick hasn’t won anything. I’m not exaggerating; go look at her career tables.
- To those who think I have “anger issues,” and the person who flagged the article as offensive, two things: first of all, Bleacher Report writers are given assignments, and I get a lot of Danica articles because people like to read about Danica (you’ve proven that) and the aforementioned decent analysis I’ve previously posted. Second of all, frustrated people (internet commenters in particular) tend to project their own problems on others; am I angry because I have some sort of misplaced hate for Danica, or are you angry because I’m not writing glowing praise of a driver whose performance doesn’t merit it? I’ve looked at some of the people who commented on the article, and some of them are either brand new to B/R or only comment on Danica articles.
That all just goes back to “if you don’t like it, don’t read it.” The content of the article is made plainly obvious by the title. If you’re a Danica fan, what compels you to have to read it, to have to disagree, to have to make accusations of others’ biases without acknowledging a bias yourself?
Danica is a touchy subject because of media oversaturation, but one simply writing that she has underperformed doesn’t mean that one has a major anti-Danica bias. And yet so many have an incredible insecurity about that. Could it be because she’s actually underperforming? And why is that insecurity the problem of somebody who’s trying to document the other side of the story, the one that’s not full of praise that keeps the sponsors happy and floating those fat checks into the sport?
This year, Danica Patrick is a driver who hasn’t yet finished on the lead lap in a Sprint Cup race in defending championship-winning equipment, and who only flirts with cracking the top 10 in season-ending points in a series where only 14 drivers have earned points for every race. Does that sound successful to you?
In the end, though, this is much ado about nothing. I’m just a guy who writes about NASCAR on the internet, and you’re just someone who reads about NASCAR on the internet. We, directly, owe each other just about nothing. You don’t owe me comments and I don’t owe you responses. In the end, we barely even owe each other respectful discourse; this is the internet, after all, and nobody seems to hold to that. In fact, the majority of the people who read this will probably interpret me as a pompous ass, which is truly not my intention, rather than someone who’s attempting to be calm, reasonable, and most of all truthful. I promise you that I’m not trying to be rude.
All this does is reaffirm two things: my responsibility is to be more accurate, and your responsibility is to avoid things on the internet that piss you off. Remember: it’s only the internet.