Supercross is huge. 70,000 fans attended just the race at the Georgia Dome last year. And there’s no bigger Supercross racer than James “Bubba” Stewart. So when news began to spread that he’d been arrested for impersonating a cop last night, people had a thing or two to say about it.
Show solidarity: grab a “Free Bubba” profile image on our Facebook page.
The news initially broke on the VitalMX forum.
Initial reactions were predictably skeptical. Several other topics sprung up calling out people for spreading false news.
Then the media reports began to hit. Once people started seeing Bubba’s arrest on TV, they began to accept the news. The first reactions were also somewhat predictable. I’m going to call these the:
Leave Bubba alone!
But then something extraordinary happened. Rather than descend into criticism of a role model gone bad, his fans found that they could actually relate to Bubba’s behavior.
Supercross fans are the greatest fans in the world.
This would have made a great t-shirt if Bubba hadn’t already been released from jail.
There was some admonishment of course, but rather than expressing anger or betrayal, Bubba’s fans instead expressed something else — sympathy.
We love Bubba.
Now, less than 12 hours after it was taken, Bubba’s mugshot is already becoming something of a Meme. Posters on VitalMX are using it as their avatar and we’ve seen many people using it as their Facebook profile photo too.
So why is all this significant? Compare the above to reactions to the revelation of Tiger Woods’ womanizing. Bubba’s been called “the Tiger Woods of supercross” yet his fans haven’t lost respect for him post-arrest. Why? Well, the nature of the scandal is different of course. Tiger plays golf, which, as far as we can tell, is watched by fat old white people who like nothing better than passing judgement. Supercross is enjoyed by a demographic that’s more active, more open to risk and more likely to have found themselves in Bubba’s shoes at some point. To quote one of his Facebook fans, “we have all done the same thing.”
But we think this is more significant than just different types of scandal and different audiences. Bubba represents a much healthier kind of stardom than Tiger used to embody. Rather than a godlike character capable of doing no wrong (Tiger, pre-sexcapades), Bubba has always been seen as flawed, as self-effacing and, well, as a human being. Real people make mistakes. Sometimes that mistake is impersonating a police officer while pulling over off-duty cops.