Rory Fitzpatrick. Josh Wise. John Scott. Matt DiBenedetto. What do all these names have in common? You can call them various things, but the one thing that they are all connected to? The power of fan voting.
Over the years, professional sports have attempted to become more fan-friendly, whether it be on social media or at the games, trying to get more fans involved in the game. A prime example of this lies in their respective all-star events; fans can vote for players to compete in a exhibition game. It’s meant to be fun for the athletes and the fans. Of course, this is also a very flawed system. It’s not uncommon for fans to select their favorite player, rather than the best player, into the event. To game the system, on some occasions, fans would attempt to vote an unlikely player in, with hopes of forcing the leagues to change their format. In 2007, NHL fans tried this with Rory Fitzpatrick, who had not recorded a single point as ASG voting approached, but failed.
Seven years later, NASCAR fans decided to try the method, though for a different cause. Guided by fans on Reddit, Josh Wise, who had never recorded a top ten in the Cup Series, was successfully voted into the All-Star Race. The next year, NHL fans successfully voted enforcer John Scott into the ASG. This year, NASCAR’s Reddit fanbase decided to make a resurgence in the All-Star Fan Vote, this time spearheading a campaign for Matt DiBenedetto.
Many might ask, “Why DiBenedetto? He’s in a backmarker car, he’s never won a race in NASCAR, he’s a start and park in the Xfinity Series, and he got a ‘lucky’ top ten, he doesn’t deserve to be in the All-Star Race!” Well, sure, he might not deserve a spot based on speed, but that’s the point of the Sprint Showdown. The Fan Vote is for drivers to get in based on merit, and with a drive like his at Bristol, he is most certainly worthy.
Many say that DiBenedetto, like Wise, would be a horrible pick for the All-Star Race Fan Vote, as he will be turning laps in the back of the field. So what? It’s not a points race. Wouldn’t it be something to watch the sport’s best duel it out with a different face than usual? How many times have we seen a Pro Bowl where Tom Brady and Drew Brees are throwing touchdown passes to receivers like Antonio Brown and Brandon Marshall? Doesn’t it get a little repetitive to see LeBron James wipe the floor each year? Many have stated all-star games have become “boring” for years now, so wouldn’t it be interesting to see Brady throw a pass to someone like Leonard Hankerson, or Russell Westbrook setting up Anthony Bennett on a fast break?
Voting an underdog into an all-star event is also a huge way to gain exposure and helps shed a new light on them. Since John Scott made the ASG and won MVP honors, he has been a fan favorite among the hockey community, both as a player and as a person; we don’t just know him as a goon who likes to fight, but also as an engineering graduate and a family man. When we hear Josh Wise, we think more than just a field filler finishing 35th every week, but also as a triathlete and dedicated teammate.
When you were a kid on the baseball team, what was the most important thing according to your parents and coaches? To have fun. Everybody has dreamed of becoming an athlete, playing on the fields of their favorite teams, but only so many can successfully go down that path. For every Peyton Manning, there’s 5 Luke McCowns. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a Luke McCown get a shot at making it big in an all-star game? It’s not a regulation event, so no harm, no foul.
Many guys don’t get the opportunity to call themselves an All-Star, and this could be their one shining moment. Matt DiBenedetto, All-Star NASCAR driver. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?