Sports are great. And maybe motorsport is even better. It brings people of all types together. Countries come together. Philosophies come together. Religions come together. Politics come together. Usually when you are fans of a team or person, you can be diametrically opposed to each other but the sport brings us together. Why? We leave our baggage at the door. We don’t talk about religion or politics in motorsports. It stays behind the scenes. We don’t want to know.
I will admit as a fan, I’m not the biggest rooter of John Force. I, like many, don’t enjoy turning on a drag race and getting the John Force Show. Or pick up a brochure on a NHRA race and there’s John Force or one of his drivers, crew chiefs etc related to the John Force empire, on the cover. You know, there are other very interesting drivers and crews out there. But maybe even more distasteful has been his manipulating races to take advantage of the points system for his teams. Any racer will cringe at the idea of throwing a race.
With that said, I have always given John Force the benefit of the doubt. Why? His business sense and promotion ability. Whether we liked it or not, he’s the face of drag racing and is known to many in the world and offers drag racing and the NHRA a high-profile unlike like any other entity in the sport. He’s helped generate extra revenues which is why in part, NHRA and Force looked to be married; they are as their fortunes rely on each other.
On TV, John was asked a simple question related to a list Mike Dunn created of greatest drivers. John seemed agitated (seemingly at the idea that Mike would rate John higher – John didn’t want to be that high?) but then in my own view, he’s seems to have become more chippy since the controversy surrounding his purported throwing of races. Anyway, during the conversation with ESPN’s Dave Rieff, John turns away but then out of nowhere, comes back to the interview and says: “You’re like FOX News, Hannity and Beck. All lies. All crap.” Whether you agree or disagree with John’s political view – and yes, it’s political since Hannity and Beck are political commentators – he should never have uttered these words. Why alienate most of the fans? Why alienate any fans? Business-wise, this was a huge blunder. His marketing and PR people jaws must have dropped clear to the ground. Those pits in their stomach must feel like boulders.
What do Auto Club, Ford, BP (Castrol), Brandsource and other sponsors do? They have an investment in him now but what happens when contracts come up???
What happens now? If John’s people around him are smart (& he goes along with it), they’ll have him defuse this fast or his empire will shrink to a much smaller following and bye-bye super team. The NHRA, ESPN and related businesses of the organization will manipulate the story for ratings but then quickly shuffle it under the rug and hope this devastating instance, doesn’t have any long-lasting damage (ie losing dollars). They don’t want to see their little empire burned to the ground by a silly unneeded comment.
This is very disappointing to me personally. Not because John Force is this or that politically, it’s that I now know … and I shouldn’t.