Voices from the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday October 20, 2010
This last week, fellow journalist Dustin Long of the Virginian Pilot scored what, in my eyes, is a major scoop; he saw and asked Brian Z. France a couple of questions which Brian responded to before being, as Dustin put it, “led away from me” (presumably by highly specialized animal trainers.)
The questions were about A) the continued dropping of television ratings and B) what more he (Brian) could do, including the possibility of picture-in-picture commercials during the race. Here are Brian’s remarks, respectively:
“We’re working on it. Racing is great, and over time that takes care of things. We’d like to have better ratings, but we will over time.’‘
“We’ll look at everything we can do. Ultimately, the racing, which is phenomenal, will carry the day. That’s our product.’‘
In reality, this exchange between Mr. Long and and Mr. France probably lasted less than a minute, seeing as how it took place as France was leaving a press conference announcing the planet-saving news that NASCAR will switch to ethanol-blended fuel. However, in that short span of time it took France to utter those few sentences, a few points as to what is wrong with NASCAR become glaringly obvious once again.
First of all, I’ve come to the conclusion that France and his minions must be incredibly busy people. How many times, just in this year alone, has Brian said, “We’re working on it” or “We are looking into it?” That is a lot of “working” and “looking!”
Now, I realize that running a huge business such as NASCAR must be very complicated, and each issue must be “looked into” on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately for us race fans, when Brian speaks, it becomes more and more obvious that the cases he is “looking into” appear to be filled mostly with scotch.
Secondly, did you notice, in those few sentences and that short time span, how France tried really, really hard… not once, but twice… to convince you how “great” and “phenomenal” the racing… ’scuse me, I mean product… really is? It simply boggles my mind why this guy hasn’t been elected to a public office by now! At the very least, he could be, “The world’s greatest used car salesman. In the world!”
Unfortunately (to me anyway), the further I read Mr. Long’s blog, the giddiness I always feel when reading the latest Brian quote turned into disappointment as I read quotes attributed to Bruton Smith, owner of ISC’s chief rival, SMI. I say “unfortunate” because I have always kind of respected ole Bruton. He was, after all, the main thorn in ISC’s and the France family’s side all these years and, quite possibly, the one man that might be able to fix the mess that Brian has made of NASCAR in seven years if only given the chance.
“You’ve got to look at competition on TV today and that’s one of the things,” said Smith. “I’m not sure we’re down 25 (percent). I have difficulty believing that, but here again, if you start a race at 1 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, look at all the competition you have on TV. I’m not sure that 1 o’clock is doing our sport any favors.’‘
“If people want to tune in and watch football… and every game seems to be about the same… if they want to, let them. Let’s say by 2 o’clock they’re tired of it, and then they’ll come over and watch a real sport. Maybe that’s what we ought to be doing.’‘
Once again, this columnist asks; at what point do you become so rich and obtuse that you lose all your common sense?
The problem is NOT the start times. The problem is NOT (ratings wise) the economy. The problem IS the “product!” Not so much the actual racing… good or great racing is a subjective thing and determined in the mind of the individual viewee. No, the problem is the Chase. The problem is Brian France himself and his determination to even turn racing into a “product” with contrived drama. The problem is that NASCAR thinks we are stupid and do not know what we want to see racing-wise. The fixes are right in front of their faces, yet they are blind.
For all their “working” and “looking into it,” why can’t they see what millions of NASCAR fans (past and present) are saying? In today’s age of the Internet and instant communication, how much easier could it be to know or find out what the customer (us) wants?! All they have to do is read the comments at any one of a number of racing Web sites!
The fans have been speaking for a number of years now; first with our money, and now with our viewing habits. Yes, the economy has been bad, so we stay home and watch the race instead of going to the track, that part I get. However, why aren’t we tuning in to the race? We are… you watch the first 20 laps or so… flip over to football (or whatever), maybe back to the race during the occasional commercial to check the position ticker. Tune in for the last 25 laps, and you’ve pretty much seen the whole of NASCAR’s new “product!”
Another thing that NASCAR, and apparently Bruton Smith, fail to understand is the concept that not everyone is a “one sport fan.” Yes, I love racing, but I also love football. When I was a kid in the ‘70s, I might have not been so inclined to change the channel… because you actually had to get your butt off the couch and turn the dial on the TV to another channel (no, really! You actually had to get up and walk to the set!)…but that is a moot point because NASCAR wasn’t on television then. The fact remains, however, if the viewer can see the “whole” of a three hour “product” by watching the first and last few minutes, well, seems to me that maybe the “product” ain’t so good! I mean, do you really have to sit and watch all 30 minutes of an infomercial to see just how amazingly well the latest food processor works? No, you can cover it in 10 or less.
On a different note, and one that may ultimately help NASCAR’s product, I hope and pray that Jimmie Johnson wins his fifth Cup title this year and continues for a sixth and possibly a seventh!! No, it’s not that I am a Jimmie Johnson fan, it’s my thinking that the more titles J.J. wins, the sooner they will get rid of this contrived drama called the Chase!
Let’s get back to racing. No Chase, more points for a win. Simple really. Not hard work, no excessive searching or “looking!”
Maybe that is why I am still a poor man with common sense!
I honestly tried, but I cannot resist taking one more parting shot! I know I’ve caused some longtime readers some hair loss in the past by posting actual Brian France quotes. Here is my chance to make it up to you with the following BZF quotes from October 16th concerning ethanol fuel:
“NASCAR is committed to being an environmental leader, and the sport has taken significant steps over the years toward conservation by introducing measurable, best-in-class initiatives in recycling, alternative energy, and carbon mitigation. The transition to Sunoco Green E15 takes our long-term sustainability strategy to the next level. Sunoco Green E15 is good for racing, good for the environment and good for America. While fueling the same close, door-to-door racing that thrills our fans, American ethanol creates jobs in the United States, helps foster energy independence, and continues the greening of our sport.”
I got a hundred bucks that says he read that verbatim! Any takers? Gotta love highly trained handlers!
Stay off the wall,
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