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Why must the greatness be stopped?

Another NASCAR season is over. Another Awards Ceremony has been held. A press release paints the Las Vegas banquet as must-see TV. My mailbox (that’s the online kind) is crammed with fans who claim it makes “Car 54, Where Are You?” look like “Masterpiece Theatre.”  Even after the racing stops, the spin goes on.  

As I watched the Annual Recitation of the Sponsors in the comfort of my home, my mind couldn’t help but wander. Occasionally, I’d perk up to watch, just in case Carl Edwards decided to try a back flip in formal attire.

Now that another Season in the Life of Jimmie Johnson has run its course, there’s this pervasive view that, somehow, “Johnson is ruining the sport!”  How? By being great?  

At least five fans have written recently to inform me, and by extension that segment of NASCAR that reads letters that may or may not be circulated further, that they “are not going to watch another race until someone besides Jimmie Johnson wins the championship.” 

Are they actually in favor of rigging next year’s Chase? Do they want Johnson to be handicapped, as is the case in certain horse races, so that his No. 48 has to carry more weight … or … less fuel … or … something?  

After five consecutive championships, Johnson has extinguished the familiar flames of fan protest. He’s made it ridiculous to claim that, (a.) he’s just an average driver and it’s “all car,” (b.) his crew chief, Chad Knaus, is “a cheater,” (c.) NASCAR is somehow “in bed” with the owner of Johnson’s Chevy, Rick Hendrick, and (d.) Hendrick, that diabolical mastermind, signed Dale Earnhardt Jr. only so that he could lock him up in some imaginary dungeon, starving the great Junior so that all his sponsorship money could be diverted to that rat-fink Johnson.  It would really be useful if the five-time champion’s name was Snidely Whiplash.  

Those who still cling to the above theories may take some time to respond because their offseason hobby is seeking out foreign birth certificates for certain prominent politicians.   

To what stage has five straight championships elevated Johnson? For the great majority of the sport’s fans, Johnson has at least earned grudging respect. 

But they still think he’s ruining the sport. He wins too much. His team is too good. It’s not fair.  How can excellence be deemed distasteful?  Johnson ruining NASCAR? No one thinks Tiger Woods ruined golf (if so, it ought to be booming now). Bud Selig doesn’t have his office besieged with fans demanding that Albert Pujols choke up on the bat.   

Sure, there are 43 cars on the track each week, and Johnson only drives one of them. That’s no different than a golf tournament, though, or the Tour de France.  Stock car racing is garrulously partisan, and a lot of them, quite frankly, are just grumpy about Earnhardt Jr.’s decline. The ideal scenario, probably, would be for Kyle Busch to win a championship because he’d be much easier than Johnson to beat up on. All Johnson does is smile, be easygoing, polite and laidback, then climb into his race car and win damn near everything in sight.

Guess that’s just no fun.

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