How Tribalism is Killing Auto Racing
Everyone can pick sides and express their opinion. When opinion turns to gatekeeping and anger over one sport or another, the end result is not great.
What Exactly is Tribalism?
Everyone, regardless of interest in motorsport, has inevitably seen some form of tribalism. From movies to games, to racing, to cars, to political stances, and etcetera. Tribalism is the word that exemplifies the old adage, "My way, or the highway." Now, tribalism is not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes (when level heads prevail) a decent point or some kind of knowledge can be gained. However, in the year 2021, level-headedness is something that is hard to come by on most topics, especially on social media. The question is, how exactly is strong personal opinion aiding in bringing down an entire sporting institution? The answer to that is rather simple, and yet, very complicated all at once.
The Common Fan vs. The Hardcore Fan
In almost any genre, there are levels of fandom. The common fan: a more casual viewer whose knowledge about the subject is, typically, rather tame. They will enjoy what they see, unless it is a complete farce, and move on with their day. In the opposite corner of the proverbial ring, is the hardcore fan. The hardcore fan is, in layman's terms, a nerd. Hardcore fans will watch, read, and talk about anything revolving around that particular topic. Their historical and present-day knowledge of the subject is rather tremendous the majority of the time. They are much more judgemental than the casual fan when it comes to the product that is put in front of them. Something that a casual fan might glance over appears as a major flaw to the hardcore fans. Now, are either of these sides at fault sheerly out of principle alone? No, of course not! I consider myself a massive hardcore fan of racing as a whole, and I know many others who have just as big of a passion for racing as I do, and are some of the best people to talk to about it. Granted, just like all other categories and subcategories of fans, they do butt heads at some point. As mentioned before, the casual fan might not be as "in tune" with the product as his hardcore counterpart, this sometimes causes friction depending on the two party's mentality. However, this is a relatively rare occurrence, and most of the time the hardcore fan will help enlighten a new or more casual fan. So, who really causes all of this friction if it's not the hardcore or casual fan? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you... the "Marks".
Image from Comedy Central's "South Park".
"Okay Aiden, what on Earth is a Mark?" - You, probably.
Well, my friend, I am so glad you asked! The term "Mark" was originally crafted during the days of the traveling carnival, the birthplace of Professional Wrestling. According to a user from the Squared Circle Subreddit,
This term would worm its way into Pro Wrestling's subculture, among other sports such as MMA. This term would eventually evolve into what we know today as the modern "Mark". "Marks" nowadays are hardcore fans cranked up to level 101. Their average day consists of sitting down at a desk in their mother's basement, going on to social media (usually Twitter, but other platforms are available), and fervently defending their interests to any random Joe who would listen as if it was Stalingrad in 1942. Eventually, they might become tired and block the person who they needlessly attacked, or simply try and get them removed from the platform, before crawling back up the stairs to go and grab a 2-liter Pepsi and an extra-large bag of Doritos. Soon, the globulous creature will return to his lair, in pursuit of more posts to critique and report, before heading off to his/her dreamland where everything is perfectly perfect... as all things should be (to them).
You would think, in auto racing, that the majority of "marks" would emerge during the conversations over drivers, sponsors, or races. Granted, there are quite a few that do, but the topic in which I have found the most "marks" has been the issue of racing organizations themselves. The most recent example has been the constant back and forth that is the Indycar vs. F1 slap fight caused by the newfound international attention on the sport over the last few years. This is following the after seven-time NASCAR Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, three-time Supercars Champion Scott McGlaughlin, and ten-time Formula One podium sitter Romain Grosjean all announced their moves to full-time, or near full-time rides, as well as Fernando Alonso's attempts at completing his triple-crown. These moves set the auto racing media and fanbase into a frenzy, especially the always loveable, "marks".
The majority of the "marks" who came out of the woodwork over the course of these announcements and performances came after one thing: Indycar itself. This has been an ongoing war of words over the last couple of years, as Indycar has become increasingly more popular, and has attracted bigger drivers and manufacturers. If these were purposeful, analytical, or even coherent in nature, then maybe there could be a few decent points to be made. However, that is not the way of the "mark". The "mark" wants it his way, and only his way. So, why and how is a group of people's opinion so damaging to an entire sport? Well, it comes down to an outsider's perspective.
2018 Indianapolis 500. Photo courtesy of Indycar.
Imagine you are a brand new fan of racing, and you have just fallen in love with, say, Indycar. Now, since the majority of modern generations use social media to some extent, you most likely will start following their social media pages. Now, to keep up to date with the latest goings-on, you will probably start viewing their posts, and therefore, see the comments. When the top fifteen comments are nothing but "marks" vs fans, this could very well be a turn-off for a casual new fan. Maybe, if the casual fan is impressionable enough, it could turn them fully against the product they had just been a fan of. This is happening across every platform and every genre nowadays, and it needs to end.
In the words of angry old man/pro wrestling legend Jim Cornette, "Chocolate or vanilla, which one is the best? Okay, can I be mad at you for liking chocolate? I don't want to see- I don't want that f***ing chocolate near me, but if you like the f***ing chocolate eat the goddamn chocolate, as long as I can have my vanilla." (this quote is extremely ironic because Cornette hates... Literally, everything that isn't from the 1980s or prior.) In the world of auto racing, there is something for everyone. F1, Indycar, NASCAR, WRC, WEC, Formula E, Moto GP, Supercars, all cater to varying interests. Motorsports, as a whole, is unfortunately a dying form of sport. In today's age we do not need petty division caused by a bunch of "smart marks". Giving your opinion is one thing, but unnecessarily crapping upon another organization out of pure incoherent spite, at the detriment of the entire racing world, is just plain stupid. I am not saying that you should have to like something that you don't, of course not. When you do bring your griefs into the public forum, however, make sure that they are logical and have actual substance. Without actual conversation, racing cannot improve on itself, and new fans can't feel nearly as welcome. It is OUR motorsport, not YOUR motorsport. To close, I'll just end with one of my favorite mottos.
Like What You Like, Don't Be a Dick.
Thank you all for reading, liking, and following! I'll see you guys down the road!