Stretchin’ the Truth along the Backstretch -- by Ira Ostenheimer 
Friday, January 15, 2010, 12:28 AM
Posted by Administrator
XM Sirius NASCAR Radio, the 24-hour a day source of information for all things NASCAR ... it's a place to hear and be heard, moderated by the likes of Dave Moody, Claire B. Lang, Chocolate Myers, Buddy Baker and Suzy Q. Their popular call-in format serves as a soapbox for the multitudes who make use of the opportunity to voice their opinions and share their thoughts about this driver or that rule change. It’s not serious drama but it is entertaining -- much of the time. For the most part, the announcers are spot on, well informed and outwardly tolerant of opinions that differ from their own. They try to chart an even course between fact and fiction but sometimes they drift into the land of make-believe.

Such was the case of Jerry Bonkowski, the host of “Backstretch”. This past Sunday evening's topic was, “What is it about NASCAR that sets it apart from all of the other sports in terms of its clean image and its ability to steer away from the scandals that other sports have experienced?” He cited the prevalence of steroid usage, gambling, infidelity, guns in locker rooms, drug busts, and on and on, so seemingly prevalent in other sports, never wavering and always pointing out in great detail how squeaky clean by comparison NASCAR is from top to bottom and everywhere in between. His comments would lead one to believe that they had found the moral high ground, leaving basketball, baseball, football and golf in the dust, lesser entities who continue to search for a way to right the alleged wrongs they have perpetrated upon their faithful followers, the fans.

I would like to think he’s right but I know better. I didn’t hear the entire broadcast but I heard enough to come away thinking that no sport, including NASCAR, holds the monopoly on clean living. Glaringly absent were the recent events in Daytona Beach that involved one of the sport's royalty, little mention of the ongoing drug issue involving a well known driver who claims his innocence following a dirty test, the lab that tested the specimen, or the periodic suspensions that occur within the rank and file for drug-related rule infractions.

We all want to think the best about the sport we love but the tendency of some members of the media to sugar-coat reality has become apparent to others, too. Shawn Courchesne (blogs.courant.com), in his January 8, 2010 blog, went into great detail about “Sweetened Tales Help Make Sure Some in the NASCAR Media Don’t Hurt Any Feelings”. In his comments, Courchesne made repeated reference to the lack of objectivity some media sources have demonstrated and their tendency to accept things without analysis or question.

Objectivity appears to be on the wane and much of this can be attributed to the demise of traditional coverage sources, the ones who made a point of making sure they reported the news as it truly existed, the ones who didn’t accept things on face value, the ones who thought before they spoke, the ones who knew what they were talking about, and the ones who didn’t use Twitter to promote their own viewpoint.

Perhaps Bonkowski was just trying to encourage conversation on his show. Most, if not all, of the callers I listened to seemed to agree with him. Maybe I’m the one who’s not being objective this time.

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