My Brain on NASCAR: Keselowski a true hometown hero

col-cathyelliott (2)I snapped to attention recently when I heard a TV news anchor reporting a small but public war of words between a couple of high-profile celebrities.

It wasn’t the story of yet another back-and-forth sniping session that piqued my interest, however. It was the unlikely parties involved: Brad Keselowski and Madonna. When was the last time you heard those two names in the same sentence?

Actually, there is a connection between the iconic singer and the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Madonna and Brad both grew up in Rochester Hills, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. In an interview on March 11, Howard Stern talked with Madonna about her early struggles in New York City – which included a traumatic physical assault – and asked if she had ever considered packing up and going back home.

“Have you ever been to Rochester Hills, Michigan?” she replied. “”I just didn’t fit in. I just felt like I was with rich people, and I wasn’t, and I felt out of place. And I felt like they were members of country clubs and they had manicures and they wore nice clothes and I didn’t fit in. I felt like a country bumpkin. And I was resentful.

I just didn’t want to go back … I can’t be around basic, provincial-thinking people.”

Ouch. I guess when Madonna wrote “Express Yourself,” she wasn’t just kidding around.

The mayor of Rochester Hills responded with one of the silliest comebacks I’ve ever heard – “We build more robots than any other city in America” – but Keselowski took a more thoughtful approach. We all know he isn’t one to back away from confronting what we’ll politely call “disrespect” on the track, and the same holds true in real life.

So, in the “rather than keeping my thoughts to myself I’m just going to share them with the world” spirit of social media, he borrowed a page from Madonna’s songbook, got “Into the Groove,” and took to Twitter.

“My thoughts on Madonna’s comments for my Michigan followers – It’s difficult growing up in a low income area in a high income town. I know this first hand, that type of upbringing can give you motivation & a tremendous perspective on life. It can also lead to feelings of perpetual resentment and inadequacy. All of which I can identify with when going home to Rochester MI. Nonetheless, even if Madonna isn’t, I am and always will be proud to be from Rochester Hills, MI.”

For good or ill, the remarks, opinions and actions of celebrities seem to carry a great deal of weight with their fans. Brad Keselowski and Madonna both had to face a lot of adversity and work extremely hard to get to the pinnacle of their respective professions, and how they choose to use that fame is entirely up to them.

When given the opportunity to comment on their shared hometown, Madonna chose to denigrate it. Keselowski didn’t exactly compare it to Disney World, but he did manage to take a more positive, and much classier, approach.

As much as I applaud the skill of professional stock car drivers during races, there are times when I admire their behavior off the track even more. This was one of those times.

Oh, how I wish I had been a fly on the wall when Keselowski’s comments were brought to Madonna’s attention. If that actually happened, it is highly likely she said something like, “Brad who?”and dismissed the subject with a wave of her queenly hand.

But millions of American NASCAR fans know who Brad is, and on this day, he did us proud.

Cathy Elliott is the former director of public relations for Darlington Raceway and author of the books Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR and Darlington Raceway: Too Tough To Tame. Contact her at cathyelliott@hotmail.com.

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