Thursday, May 3, 2007

Well, it didn't take long for the "Backlash" word to appear...

I guess I didn't want to be the first to point this out in print, but I pretty much knew it was coming.

This editorial by Peter Gill from Planet F1.com is the first time that I've seen the concept of a Lewis Hamilton "backlash" actually spelled out, although all one had to do was read some of the letters and comments that have been flooding F1 websites since the last GP. Seems some people are very upset that our man Lew is receiving so much attention from the press. And not just the motoring press, but the mainstream as well.

"And he hasn't even won a race yet!", they fume. And so it goes.

Well, if I were Lewis Hamilton, not only would I try my best to pay the naysayers no mind, I would reflect on the very similar circumstances that have surround American motocross and supercross champion James Stewart. Stewart, now at the age of 21, has just last week achieved what some writers call the "ultimate prize" in American dirtbike racing when he clinched both the American Motorcyclist Association's Supercross (stadium motocross) national championship as well as the FIM's World supercross championship, becoming the first black man (or African American, if you prefer) to do so in the history of the sport. Yet, unlike Hamilton, James Stewart is no rookie. Despite his very young age, this is his SIXTH year racing professional motocross, AND he has won a championship in every one of those years, except for 2005, when injuries and illnesses prevented him from taking a title.

But, very similar to what Mr. Hamilton is experiencing at this very moment, Mr. Stewart suffered (and some would say, CONTINUES to suffer) a certain amount of fan backlash. I would go so far as to actually call it enmity. Severe dislike... even hatred. Because while some media types have tried to explain the behavior away as being part and parcel of typical boorish sportsfan antics, when reading some of the comments posted on motocross internet bulletin boards, or some of the letters sent to motocross publications, it becomes clear that much of the attitudes displayed have little to do with on-track performance and more to do with perceptions of personality.

Just as Lewis Hamilton brought with him a number of lesser racing titles before he turned a wheel in his first Grand Prix, James Stewart was a record-setting amateur motocross champion prior to his very first professional race. And while Hamilton took an astonishing third place finish in his first GP, Stewart finished second in his first Supercross event. Much was made of Stewart's performance; he was "too agressive" according to some... this after only his first race!

And just as with Lewis, the media descended on James and wrote article after article... and this further fueled the "backlash."

What to make of all this? Personally, I believe that thinking about it too much will be detrimental to one's health. Some people just don't like to see other people have success, that's the bottom line. Some folks have a tendency to find the negative in the positive, rather than vice versa. For them, the glass is not only half-empty, it's likely to spring a leak at any second! Just ignore them, Lewis Hamilton; you've got plenty of good folks on your side.

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