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Colin Cowherd implies southern culture to blame for Tony Stewart-Kevin Ward accident?

Colin Cowherd: Expert Sociologist is at it again.

The man that brought you previous lectures on how people in Ohio and Indiana are bringing unemployment on themselves and why Pacers fans weren’t attending games because of race is back once more to teach us all a lesson about how the world really works.

Cowherd spent some time on the Tony Stewart-Kevin Ward tragedy on his radio program on Monday.  He discussed the bravado of racing, the danger in drivers walking out onto a track, and how a tragedy like this was bound to happen somewhere.  But then, as happens frequently when Colin Cowherd tries to put on his sociology professor hat, his theorizing went astray.

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In comments that are sure to fire up the NASCAR fanbase, Cowherd laid blame at the doorstep of southern culture and their “eye-for-an-eye” mentality.  Here’s a transcript of his comments:

“The sport has a unique culture that I’m not part of.  I’m not a gearhead.  I’m not from the south, I’m not an eye-for-an-eye guy.  There is a certain southern culture, that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, and a lot of NASCAR drivers are from Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, California, Arizona, it’s a southern delicacy.  It doesn’t get ratings anywhere really outside the south…. it’s really, really part of the south and it’s an eye-for-an-eye culture.”

Of course, this makes no sense for a variety of reasons.

Yes, NASCAR is still very popular in the south, even as it has expanded nationally in the last 20 years.  But sprint car racing is decisively not NASCAR.  While NASCAR’s heritage lies in the south, sprint cars and open wheel racing has a deep history in the midwest, west, and northeastern parts of the country.  It’s like Cowherd just chose to neglect the entire history of open wheel racing in this country.  Almost four decades before NASCAR was founded, the first Indy 500 was ran in 1911.  That year AAA sponsored races in San Francisco, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Santa Monica.

Take a look at the STP Sprint Cars World of Outlaws schedule.  A vast majority of the races are in the west, midwest, and northeast.  Places like Rossburg, Ohio, Knoxville, Iowa, Stockton, California, and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada are not dripping with southern culture.  Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward were racing sprint cars in New York when this fateful incident occurred.  Ward’s schedule of events this year on his personal website went as far south as Pennsylvania.

What does southern culture have to do with any of this?

How someone can talk about “the south” as a reason for why a driver from Indiana struck a driver from New York at a dirt track in that state is incomprehensible.  A NASCAR driver was at the wheel when the accident took place, but that’s the only connection the series has to this incident at all.

Eariler on his program, Cowherd said this:

“Anger, poor judgment, bravado, settling a score.  Settling a score is what NASCAR has always done.  Fists, pit crews, throw helmets, run on to tracks, which is analogous to you and I running on a freeway.  This time NASCAR paid for it and Kevin Ward did with his life.”

Forgiving him for a moment for confusing NASCAR with the entirety of auto racing, Cowherd actually has a point that there is a larger culture at play here within any type of racing.   The emotion of the moment, bravado, and the value seen in drivers “sending a message” to one another drastically increases the risk of tragedy.  That doesn’t matter if it’s the Daytona 500 or your local dirt track.  Cowherd was sensible in also saying earlier that there are no clear answers here and anyone trying to ascertain the truth from watching a YouTube video is a fruitless endeavor.

Here’s the rub about Cowherd’s comments, which you can find in full here at the beginning and again in an interview with Marty Smith at the 22 minute mark, and really, the rub about Cowherd as a radio host.  He’s clearly a very talented talker and makes some good points in his monologues.  But when he tries to play this bizarre role of explaining the subconscious behavior of everyone he loses the plot entirely.  When he starts to be the authority on societal and cultural behavior, he steps into quicksand of his own making.  This is why Cowherd is so maddening.  Perhaps even more so than Skip Bayless.  You think he should be smarter than this.

There is some deep soul-searching that needs to happen at every level of auto racing.  Any driver tempted to get out of his or her car to confront another on the track should be prevented from doing so.  But to imply that this is something unique to southern culture, and thus the underlying reason for this tragedy, takes these ideas into a dimension of the absurd.  And instead of amplifying the point Cowherd is trying to make, his misguided, uncouth thoughts about NASCAR and southern culture dismantles it.

Matt Yoder

About Matt Yoder

Managing Editor of Awful Announcing and award winning sportswriter. Bloguin consigliere. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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