Let me tell you a story about a Danica hater. This goes way back. Circa 2004-ish, right after her infamous FHM photos came to popular light and Bobby Rahal was squiring around this hot little number named Danica who talked kind of brash.
She had a thin ladder series record and was talking about driving in the 2005 Indy 500. Immediately The Media raced over to photograph her. Talk to her. Talk to other drivers about her. IndyCar got precious little media then (as now) so what they did get seemed inordinately Danica focused. The rest of IndyCar was Jan to Danica's Marcia. "Danica, Danica, Danica ... am I invisible?" They tried putting on the giant afro wig (if you didn't see the Brady Bunch or its movies you may be lost here) but to no avail.
But then the hater started reading things that challenged the notion of uncaring, me-first, Princess Sparkle Pony bitchiness. And the hated (Danica) never seemed to return the hate. Ever. That was strange. How could a me-first princess NOT lash out at people who wanted to take away her spotlight?
ALL AN ACT FOR THE CAMERAS, the hater insisted. She has great handlers. She's insincere and just acting. Defiant in his hate, he hoped she walled it every race and was sent back to Illinois in tears. But then she drove well in every 500 after the first one, which he had dismissed as a fluke result of thanks to a tricked out engine (and probably some secret sauce that gave her a mechanical advantage), fuel mileage and Sebastien Bourdais' timely crash. She drove REALLY well in many Indy 500s in a row. WAIT, wasn't the Indy 500 the hardest, most prestigious, highly pressured race in the world? If that was true, how can Danica be a poser if she drove well in them (top 10 in all seven of her Indy 500s except one [P22] including a P4 and a P3, average finish so far: 8.7)?
The "No Talent" tag started to slip. SCREW THE EVIDENCE, the hater insisted, she's a self-centered attention whore!
But then,the hater MET Danica Patrick. Met her several times. During brief interview sessions after IndyCar qualifying. While other drivers frequently skipped the "bullpen" or acted pissed to be there -- with no allegations of princessness, interestingly -- Danica ALWAYS showed up. She answered every question for the least of the media (lesser-known pubs, even ... gasp ... bloggers). It was only five minutes, but during that time she was attentive and forthright. She was ... enjoyable to talk to. She had a sense of humor. And Danica also began to smile more and scowl less. Was she ... happy? How do you hate happy?
SHIT. This reality did not fit well with the hater's expectations. Because hating was so FUN. So deliciously mentally rewarding. It made the hater feel good to release venom on Danica.
Sarah Fisher would save the hater! Surely Sarah would confirm that Danica was all an act. That the real Danica was conniving and manipulative and mean.
But then Sarah didn't do any of that. Sarah wasn't angry at Danica (not outwardly, anyway). Sarah was focused on making the most of her circumstances and not hating on or being jealous of Danica. Sarah had a team and a husband and a family and was happy. HAPPY. This was a blow to the hater, because the hater liked Sarah a lot. And the hater thought that Danica got what Sarah DESERVED and it wasn't FAIR, dammit, and the hater would then throw stuff.
Ironically, it was Sarah Fisher who finally broke the hater of his hate. Her refusal to hate led the way to the good side of the Force. The hater began to be more objective about Danica. He dropped the dual standards for behavior of men and women drivers -- which ironically he railed against all the time -- and saw that Danica was not more princessy than any other driver (all drivers of both genders are at least a little princessy at times). And the hater stopped hating and started appreciating. Yeah, some stuff about Danica he didn't like, but some stuff he did like, and some stuff this former hater ... gasp ... even admired.
Then this happened. The hard-core hater talked to Danica, one-on-one, for 15 minutes. I was that hard-core Danica hater. Me. I'm embarrassed by it now. After interviewing Danica and seeing her sense of humor and having her talk about crying her eyes out and why she's more "kittens and rainbows" since 2010, well Darth Vader was transformed back to Anakin Skywalker. And lo, the hate left the hater and the hater became a fan.
Not because I think Danica is hot. Not because I want to have sex with her. Not because I want her to give me more interviews so I can get Web hits and tell everyone that I'm "tight" with Danica. None of that. Because I think she has talent; I like her personality; she's a great female business person and she's playing by the rules of sponsorship/racing (I can hate the game without hating the playah) holding her own in a male-dominated sport and she's really a pretty nice person, from what I can tell. So Danica Patrick is a Woman of pressdog® and I cheer for her. Openly. I wear her fan shirts in public. I still criticize her when she screws up, but fair is fair, and I want her to succeed.
The warm fuzzy cherry on top of this story is my last interview with Sarah Fisher as a driver a few months after talking to Danica. Sarah and Danica are two different people with very little in common, aside from gender and a love of racing. I loved talking to Sarah for that story as much as I enjoyed talking to Danica. Two interviews to put a bow on this story of a redeemed hater.
I was prompted to write this big confession by Danica's kittens-and-rainbows demeanor at the NASCAR media day yesterday. She's happy, with a new boyfriend, laughing and talking about their relationship and answering whatever nutty questions get put to her. At ease. Resulting stories are here, here and here. This Danica is difficult to hate, although many will still find a way. All she does is answer the questions put to her and create monster exposure for her sponsors. If you gotta hate that, then hate on.
But take it from an ex-hater: let go of it. Cheer for whoever you like and let go of the hate of others. Hate is an acid that corrodes the hater and infects your entire life. I know first hand. Let go of the hate in your life and join the good side of the Force. It's better over here.