NASCAR: Fans Of Carl Edwards Should Be Ashamed Of Themselves

NASCAR isn’t like team sports in that in that fans focus on specific drivers as opposed to an entire team or organization. As a result there will come a point in the life of every NASCAR fan in which their favorite driver is no longer racing.

On Wednesday Carl Edwards announced his retirement from NASCAR. This announcement comes less than two months after he was a bad restart away from possibly winning his first NASCAR championship. The shock and surprise of the situation created a lot of buzz around NASCAR, especially with fans of Edwards. Unfortunately, not all of the buzz was positive.

NASCAR Fans’ Conundrum

In NASCAR there will come a point where the person you root the most for will no longer be around. This conundrum happens much less frequently in other sports since you’re usually rooting for a team as opposed to be specific athlete (sans golf and a couple of others). If you’re a fan of football or baseball there is always the chance that your favorite team might move (like the Rams and Chargers) but the odds of a team completely disappearing are slim. Yes there have been cases where professional sports teams have folded completely, but in team sports that just not the norm.

In NASCAR however, the shelf-life of your favorite driver could be anywhere from 5-15 years. Let’s say your 12-year-old is just getting into NASCAR and they love Jimmie Johnson, there is a good chance that sometime before their 18th birthday Johnson will have retired and they will need a new favorite driver. Depending on who you like and gravitate towards and the success they have in the sport, this cycle could easily repeat itself 3-5 times during the lifetime of a NASCAR fan.

Carl Edwards Shocked Us All

This brings us to Carl Edwards and his departure from NASCAR. At 37-years-old Edwards has decided to walk away from a sport that has been a passion of his for the majority of his life. At 37-years-old Edwards, who one might argue is in the prime of his career, is hanging up his helmet because he sees no reason not to do so. After almost winning a championship in 2011 and coming close again in 2016, Edwards leaves JGR (NASCAR’s most dominant team heading into 2017) and a racing career that many thought would continue for many years to come.

So where is the rub you ask? The rub comes from the response of many of Edwards’ fans. Before I delve into this, let it be known that I am not speaking for all of Edwards’ fans, in fact I might not even be speaking for the majority of them. That being said, social media has been abuzz with emotion the last 48 hours and many of those emotions have been coming from fans of Edwards.

Some Fans Don’t Get It

Is Carl Edwards walking away from NASCAR in the manner that he did surprising? Absolutely. As a fan of his do you have the right to be caught off-guard and wish that your all-time favorite driver wasn’t walking away from NASCAR a few years earlier than anyone thought possible? Of course you have that right.

The proverbial line gets crossed when fans begin to express how Edwards is wrong for walking away from NASCAR, or that he is abandoning his fans, or that he owes it to those who supported him to keep racing and run for a championship. It’s these same fans who don’t believe that he is walking away for the reasons that he said on Wednesday, they believe there is some hidden reason because the reasons he provided simply aren’t good enough for them; they’re too simplistic.

What’s wrong with leaving on your own terms? Walking away on your own terms (and in terrific health) from a sport that does untold wear and tear on your body is a luxury that many professional athletes never get to experience. Whether it be because their own stubbornness kept them around too long, or injuries caught up with them too quickly, there aren’t many top-tier athletes walking off into the sunset on their own accord.

On Wednesday Carl Edwards did that and his fans should be standing up on two feet and applauding him for it as opposed criticizing him and not taking him at his word.

Athletes Aren’t Indebted To Their Fans

This might come as a surprise to some people but at the end of the day, athletes don’t owe their fans much of anything. Professional sports are the profession of these athletes, it might be a game or a competition, but it’s their job. These jobs are used to provide for themselves and their families and these jobs often come with sacrifices and consequences that you and I will never be able to truly understand.

Just because you buy their jersey, t-shirt, diecast car, poster or any other merchandise; it doesn’t mean that they somehow owe you something. Does Carl Edwards love and appreciate his fans? I am sure that he does. Should Carl Edwards let his fans dictate his life and his career because he appreciates them and their support? Absolutely not.

If you’re walking around today feeling betrayed by Edwards, if you took to social media over the last 48 hours to bash his decision to walk away, if you and other fans have come together to discredit his reasons for leaving the job that he loves; all of you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Edwards put it the time, sacrifice and effort to get where he has gotten at the age of 37 and if he wants to call it a day, that’s his call and his call alone. When you’re 65 and you’re done with your normal 9-5 job and it’s time to retire, are you going to let the guy in the office who likes talking to you about NASCAR for 10 minutes every Monday keep you from starting the next phase of your life because he doesn’t want to see you go?

Of course not.

So what in the world gives you the right as a fan to belittle and tear down Edwards for making the decision that he felt was best for himself and the people that mean the most to him in his life? In case you haven’t figured it out by now, nothing gives you that right because you don’t have the right to do that. If you’re this emotional and this blinded by your fandom that you can’t see the bigger picture here, you might need to use this moment to reevaluate some things.

In case you forgot, you’re a NASCAR fan and in NASCAR this stuff happens. If you remain a NASCAR fan, it will most likely happen to you again at some point, so why not break the cycle now, you’ll be better because of it in the future.

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