Might as well, you know? What the heck…like I said, I’m not making many new friends lately, so let’s see if I can alienate anyone else. I’m the literary Walter White of RaceFansForver.
It seems like every Sprint Cup racing season, right about the time that The Chase for the Championship starts, there is a flurry of opinion-based articles written by the not so pro NASCAR media. And when I use “not so pro", it is meant as amateur, or not paid, or for lack of a better term, citizen journalist, not pro meaning “for” as in Pro and Con. In a word, the term not so pro NASCAR media is, well, me.
(I guess I'm saying there's a picture of me in the dictionary next to "unprofessional"!)
This flurry of late season amateur articles, written by us kitchen keyboarders, often will have something to do with being opposed to the Chase or some aspect or result of it.
I’m not here to argue all of those points, just one of them, and it is one of those side results of the process of determining a Champion in the way our sport does.
I’m not going to put it here, but there is a video PattyKay, my partner in prose, perfectly places in her perpetual periodic persuasions of former Indianapolis Colts coach, Jim Mora, responding to a member of the press who questioned whether or not his team could make the NFL playoffs.
Want to see it?
Go ahead, google “Jim Mora Playoffs Youtube”. Oh, you’re so smart! You clicked the link instead! Win!
So, yeah…playoffs. Every major sport seems to have some sort of playoff system to determine who gets that big (insert preferred Championship award here) at the end of the season. It’s a simple yet sometimes complicated method, usually a bracketed tournament, where two (insert units of recognizable sports association) will face off head to head in the standard fashion of their competition, and whichever one does better than the other in the fashion used to determine a winner and a non-winner will move ahead. Then the winners of each bracket face off in the next bracket and so on and so forth until there are only two remaining and this is what is usually the Championship determining (insert competition here.)
If I were doing this in front of a live audience I would stop here and ask if everyone understands, just to make sure, and then I’d move on, because everyone who is any kind of a sports fan should understand that for most sports, that’s how it works. There’s a regular season, and then there are a series of (insert plural of style of competition here) where by which some participants are eliminated and some move on to another round, followed by the final event to crown the Champion.
“Jim, where are you going with this?”
So, in the world of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, we have a system where there is a “regular season” and then a system to determine an ultimate Champion. Let’s use the paragraph above, but turn it into NASCAR.
No,…not yet, but remember that, because we’ll come back to it.
Let us now address the great debate.
One of the arguments I have heard, and not to single anyone out because it comes from multiple sources, and I just happen to not understand or disagree with it, is the concept that The Chase races are not really a “playoff” because in no other sport are those not eligible for whatever reason to win the Championship to compete in the Championship event. To put it clearly, it should not be called a playoff until other sports have all competitors on the same field at the same time. To put it even more simply, it should not be called a playoff until, on its grandest stage, the trademarked final “Big Game” that happens in February after all other National Football League games have been played, the NFL puts all 32 teams on the same field at the same time to play the game, and only the two teams that made it through the bracketing system without losing are eligible to win the Championship.
Not a football fan? Okay. To put it even more simply, it should not be called a playoff until, on its grandest stage, the trademarked final “big series of games” that happens in October and November, after all other Major League Baseball games have been played, the MLB puts all 30 teams on the same field at the same time to play the game, and only, to attach this year’s situation, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians are eligible to win the Championship.
The thought behind this complaint is that NASCAR, while only 16 drivers and teams are allowed to run for the Championship beginning with the race at Chicago, allows the other 24 teams to be on the track as well.
So, let’s consider the situations, and be open minded as you do, please.
Please tell, me, honestly and truthfully, when you have ever witnessed any of the following, let alone have it be standard practice?
1. 1. An NFL game, ANY NFL game, where there were 32 – wait…not even 32…where there were more than two teams on the same field at the same time.
2. 2. Any NBA, MLB, NHL or any other top tier sport which would follow the criteria set in No. 1.
3. 3. A Sprint Cup Series Race where less than the standard amount of drivers and teams were ALLOWED to compete in the event. (Let us be intelligent with our answers and not include those races where someone was disqualified for some infraction before the race and no other cars were available, as well as races where less than 40 cars showed up to qualify. Simply, a race where NASCAR announced that it would only allow X number of cars for whatever reason.)
I’m guessing you can’t, I couldn’t either, unless I brought up some obscure situation where it had to be done, but then again it is still not standard practice.
(Now, I wrote this line after I wrote the paragraph below. Please understand that this is not to be read in my “You’re wrong and I’m right” voice. It should be read in my “I’m down on my knees, pleading with you in almost a high whiny voice, to help me understand…help me to see what you see, and help me to understand it, and if, in my opinion, it has merit, perhaps you can change my mind, because I’m open to that. But help me.”)
So, if none of that happens in the regular season, why would you expect to see it in the races/events which are held to determine your Champion? Why would you expect the events to be held any differently for a playoff than you would for any other event of the same sport held during the season?
(Side note: Could you imagine what it would be like if, at Homestead, NASCAR only allowed 4 drivers on the track? You think people complain about the low attendance now?)
Now, let’s go back to the “insert NASCAR into the paragraph instead of another major sport.
There’s a regular season, and then there are a series of (insert plural of style of competition here, now “races”) through which some participants are eliminated and some move on to another round, followed by the final event to crown the Champion.
Yes in each sport the final game/series is called something special, such as the Stanley Cup Finals or the NBA Finals or the World Series or, dare I risk getting sued and say “SuperBowl”, but it’s called a playoff for all the other sports, and it’s also happening in NASCAR.
Okay, so if you are not a fan of calling it a playoff, there are other words. How about a “system of Championship Contention Elimination." Regardless of what it is called, and how it is run, it is what we have. And before this we had the other Chase, and before that the other Chase, and somewhere in there was a Chase with 13 drivers instead of 12, and the we had the old (Latford) system, and before that we had the one that was based on prize money and other things, and there was whatever there was before that…
The point is that we have what we have, and it’s the measure of determining a Champion, and you may not like it. I understand that. However, when it comes to some of the reasoning behind the dislike for it, some of it seems, to me, to be nit-picky. I’m not a big fan of all the yellow “Hey I’m in the Chase” crap all over the car, but I’m still going to watch and hopefully enjoy it.
I guess what I’m saying is that, for me, I don’t think the way the Champion is determined would ever drive me away from the sport. The rules are laid out, every team knows them, and there’s a system, and whoever thinks on it the most and takes best advantage of it is the team that will come out on top, and in my opinion, well deserving of the title of Champion.