June 7, 2012
By Nicholas Schwartz
Championships are the most elusive things in sports. To win a championship is to be gifted the greatest prize in your profession, and championship winners in any sport are to be revered forever.
Some guys are blessed and win multiple championships over the course of a career, and some just win one. But the vast majority of athletes, no matter how hard-working or virtuous they are, never do.
So how sad is it that Kurt Busch is a Sprint Cup champion, when a guy like Mark Martin will never share the same honor. Busch tarnished his already rotten image again at Dover, when he snapped at Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass on Saturday and threatened physical harm. Busch, of course, was already on probation for the last time he snapped at a reporter.
The troubling aspect of Busch’s outburst is how he turned a completely tame situation into an unacceptable one.
Pockrass is a veteran reporter who has earned the respect of both his colleagues and the drivers in the garage. A staggering amount of journalists and television personalities, when interviewing an athlete, ask embarrassingly simple questions that allow an athlete to spew out the same rhetoric they always do.
A true professional and a thoughtful journalist, Pockrass didn’t back down from Kurt Busch when he asked him what it was like to race under probation. It was a tough question, but a completely fair one. Busch, who obviously would rather be asked a question to which he could answer without thinking, inexplicably reverted to his old self: the petulant brat who’s gone from Sprint Cup champion to garage pariah.
Kurt Busch is a veteran, so certainly he has to know that that drivers have a symbiotic relationship with the media, and he has to maintain decorum at all times -- even when he’s asked the tough questions. Even a proven and talented driver such as Busch is only as good as his image allows, and right now Busch’s evil persona almost seems to fit a comic book.
Busch isn’t a guy people love to hate -- that implies at least some sort of respect from the public -- he’s simply a guy that people hate. And very soon, his image could cost him dearly with sponsors.
He’s already lost an outstanding place ride with Penske Racing, and now James Finch, owner of Phoenix Racing, seems to have given Busch his final warning. Finch had this to say on SiriusXM Radio Tuesday, as reported by ESPN.com:
"Here's the deal -- quit wrecking the cars, get a good finish, be nice to people. That's not real hard to do. It's affecting me. If I can't get a sponsor, I can't keep running without a sponsor. That's a slow death. I don't want to do that.”
According to ESPN’s David Newton, Finch was even more blunt in a separate interview: "If he's going to kill himself I'm not going to be in the airplane with him.”
Hey Mr. Finch: the time to jump out of that plane has long since passed. Cut your losses, and cut Kurt from the program. He’s repeatedly shown he simply is no longer fit to perform the duties of a respectable NASCAR driver off the track, which is just as important as one’s performance on the track.
It’s a sad state of affairs for all involved, but with each new development in Busch’s resume of rage, it seems to me that the 2004 Sprint Cup champion has passed the point of no return.
If you would like to learn more about Nicholas, please check out his web site at Sports By Schwartz. Nicholas is a Managing editor and sportswriter for The Duke Chronicle at Duke University.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.