As Requested By the Fans… and Other Fairytales
I bid you welcome gentle readers. Some might have noticed that I’ve stopped greeting our assigned reader of all things NASCAR. We are still read… each and every column… but if no one listens, we might as well be that tree that falls in the forest when no one is around. If we’re not heard, then why bother?
If one listens to the NASCAR spin coming out of Daytona Beach, you’d think that the fans ran the show; that they have only to ask and they’ll receive. Supposedly we asked for the Chase; we asked for the Lucky Dog rule; we asked for counting by onesies because we couldn’t understand Latford; we asked for the COT; we asked for an ever-changing point system; we asked for Stage racing and we asked, along with “all the drivers” for that 5-minute crash clock.
Really? REALLY? How many of those things, or the numerous other changes foisted upon us over the past decade and more did you request? Do you even know of a fan that asked for any of those things? By and large, the folks that come here to read and comment do so because these pages deal with logic and common sense. The things suggested here are summarily ignored by those running the “show”, though they come from some of the most devoted fans of the sport that still care. So… who and where are these “fans” that requested all the change and are listened to so intently?
NASCAR has what they call a “Fan Council.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Have you ever wondered who they are and why they seemingly react favorably to every idea that comes from Daytona Beach or Charlotte? Well, your scribe is acquainted with several that have served on that Council, though quite honestly I don’t think I know anyone currently admitting to membership. To start with, one has to be aware that any poll is only as good as the questions asked, and can be controlled by those same questions.
For the most part, I’m told the questions come in survey style, where answers are typically yes or no, with no place for comments. Sometimes the fans were/are asked to rate something, from 1 to 10… those include such things as races, sponsors, broadcasts, etc., but again, the answers were numbers only, with no comments. Occasionally, I’m told, a space for comments appears at the end of the survey, but I’ve yet to find anyone that was privy to the results of a survey or to anyone else’s comments. One perfect example of a question with no “right” answer would be, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Think that one over… it’s all about how the question is worded, and remember, the choices are limited to yes and no.
Here, we sometimes have discussions that go on for days, with intelligent folks contributing thoughts and desires, likes and dislikes, which NASCAR would do well to read and heed. Instead, they lean on fixed and guided surveys that contain loaded questions; then here comes another zany idea or crazy change and we’re asked to believe that the “fans” requested this. Um… NO! The fans did not request or even consider most of the things that have taken this sport on a path to the nether world “Like a snowball headed for Hell!” (Thanks Merle Haggard… I love that line and borrow it often)
Let’s look for a minute at the TV ratings for the first 4 races of 2017.
Links are from SportsMediaWatch.com where you can read much more about not only the Cup races to date, but Xfinity and trucks as well. No longer do the fans get even the always inflated attendance figures from a race, but we have eyes, and excepting Daytona, even grandstands greatly reduced in seating capacity are far from full and in some cases almost empty.
This scribe grows weary of hearing how attendance and ratings are down for other sports as well, so it’s no big deal. When I read that the NFL for example… that bastion of the sporting world that is so praised and emulated by Brian Z. France… is down 6% compared to NASCAR being down 49%, I’m sorry folks, but that is HUGE! NFL is off a tick, but NASCAR, once the #2 most watched sport in America is only half of what it once was.
Maybe it’s no one’s fault. I honestly don’t know, but I know that everything that has been suggested by folks here has been ignored… with one shining exception. A few years back, NASCAR announced the end of the “guaranteed top 35”, which meant that the top 35 in points would be in the race no matter what. Someone finally saw the fallacy in that and that it made qualifying virtually unnecessary and rendered the Twin-150s at Daytona a joke without a punchline. The fans rejoiced! At long last, someone was listening! Not so fast. A year or so later, the Charter System was introduced, and there were then 36 cars guaranteed to race. We’re not supposed to notice that sleight of hand I guess. They merely undid the first guarantee to make room for the second, which I’m certain was already in the plans or at least on the drawing board.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve grown extremely weary of being lied to, conned and treated like a fool when I’m not. I love racing! That statement can’t be challenged. I’ve loved it since I was a young teen, and still do. However… I don’t love, nor can they make me love an endless series of gimmicks and tricks that wouldn’t fool a 5-year old, yet they expect me to become the trout on their hook. Nope… not gonna happen.
The important line in that statement is, “I love racing!” What it does not say, gentle readers, is that I love NASCAR. I very much fear what will eventually come to pass is that sanctioning body will be gone from racing. The snowball mentioned above is picking up speed and is close to becoming an avalanche. It hurts my heart to think of the jobs that could be lost, cities and towns dependent on races could be financially crippled (See: North Wilkesboro) and a once proud sport in shambles with the pieces there for the picking.
No, they’re not listening to us. I doubt they have any intention of listening to us. Racing, in the guise of NASCAR, has become a huge tax write-off for the France family, and we the fans are merely pawns in the game they play. When I came to the keyboard today, I had at least ten reference pages open dealing with what I thought I might say. Instead, I went in a single direction and cited none of them but the TV ratings. That’s OK, as I’ll write again. I just wish that once in a while they’d give me something positive about which to write.
Oh Lord, just when you think it’s safe to go back in the water, here come the sharks again. I just read something on the NBC website that hit me in the pit of my stomach and then bounced off the walls on its way back. Please, tell me this is a joke… even though it’s not funny! NASCAR is going to put restrictor plates on the Xfinity cars at Indy! “Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it!” Indianapolis Motor Speedway is flatter than my singing! Does no one remember New Hampshire, when it seemed to someone a fine idea to put restrictor plates on the Cup cars there? New Hampshire of course, is another very flat track, and the addition of restrictor plates made passing not unlikely, but impossible. Jeff Burton started outside Bobby Labonte and passed him on the first lap, for the only pass of the race. Burton led all 300 boring, sleep-inducing, soporific miles of that rolling cure for insomnia! So, with that in mind, let’s try it on a track 2.5 TIMES as big and see how that works.
I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but tears are going to win, I’m sure. NASCAR says if they like what they see, they’ll be extending the idea of plates to the Cup cars for 2018. Oh wait! That’s not all! Speculation abounds that if NASCAR likes what they see, they’ll be considering adding plates to the Cup cars at Pocono and Michigan as well. Has the whole world gone berserk? Flat tracks with restrictor plates. NASCAR, I promise you one thing. Do that and I will not watch! There would be no reason to watch. I sleep perfectly well at night. Good grief, who stays up nights thinking up new ways to screw up racing?
Oh, and NO, the fans did not request this either!
“I spent more time than I would have liked last week explaining to people how a driver with an average finish of 15th (Kevin Harvick) was then leading the point standings, while a driver with a sixth place average finish can be eighth.
It's honestly not that enjoyable a practice when the people I'm explaining it to look at me as though I'm selling snake oil.”
Those words come from an ESPN article by Rickey Craven, and are but part of a much more comprehensive collection of thoughts. I find them interesting, especially when one is looking at the points and how they stack up after 4 races in this young season. In what is supposed to be a “Win and you’re in” system, we see young Kyle Larson atop the leaderboard. The funny thing is, Kyle has no wins; he’s won no stages and he has no bonus or “playoff” points. He’s there for the simple reason that he has raced extremely well to date, and has left many of the others in the dust.
Some of the expected front-runners are far down the list. Jimmie Johnson is 91 points off the pace; Matt Kenseth is down 112, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 114 and Austin Dillon 118. At this point, I’m not even sure what that means. I do know I’d be amused to see Larson go into the playoffs as the point-leader by simply racing the best and beating the rest. Isn’t that the way it used to be… in the days before the games and gimmicks?
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout and I’ve found a true Classic for your listening and watching pleasure. This is an early edition of the Porter Wagoner Show. It features one of Mama’s favorites as a child and still today, Tex Ritter. It also gives us a look at Mac Magaha, that adorable fiddle player that was a one-man show all unto himself. We were fortunate to see the Wagon Masters several times in live shows, and they were awesome. Please enjoy!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!