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Voices from the Heartland: Even the “Rosetta Stone” Couldn’t Help You Understand Brian France!

We’ve all seen the commercials: Rosetta Stone is touted as the most effective language learning method/software available. Their concept is not to teach with flash cards, dictionaries, or memorization drills, but rather, “By surrounding you with words, images, and the voices of native speakers, our method lets you progress naturally from words and phrases to sentences and conversations…” or so says their website. However, when it comes to understanding the ramblings of Brian France, I think even the makers of Rosetta Stone would throw up their hands, head out for a cocktail, and declare it some sort of “Crackerbonics.”

Be that as it may, whenever France does decide to speak, it is I who always seems to draw the unenviable task of trying to translate his missives by this site’s managing editors. The credentials I bring to the table to accomplish this task, as seen by the editors, are A) I’ve tried it before, B) they assume I drink more than them and may have some sort of inside understanding to Brian’s way of thinking, and C) they assume I drink more than them and am used to enduring the kind of headache that such an assignment is sure to produce. There is, however, another credential I have recently obtained that may help, and that is a “Gold” rating from the “National Career Readiness Certificate” program.

Under this program, one of the tests is “Reading for Information.” It is based on levels that range from 3 to 7. The following is what my certificate says about my results…

“This person scored at Level 7. Individuals with Level 7 skills can apply concepts from densely detailed selections, such as excerpts from complex regulatory and legal documents, to new situations. They can understand difficult concepts and complex procedures containing jargon and technical terms whose definitions must be derived from context. Level 7 is the highest level measured by this test.”

The most recent attempt by Brian France to coherently speak publicly that I have been assigned to translate stems from an interview with Dustin Long of The Virginian-Pilot. Long’s interview lasted about 15 minutes and he (Long) offered no opinion or attempt at explaining what France was saying. To be honest, I don’t blame him. I, however, using my “Level 7” skills, will attempt it; or, at the very least, show that the man actually said nothing at all and that Dustin Long lost 15 minutes of his life that can never be recaptured.

When asked his feelings about recent comments some TV personalities made during interviews and the Talladega broadcast, this is what France had to say:

“Clearly, this is a sport that has a lot of opinions, and most other sports channel their thoughts and criticisms differently, and that is an unusual thing that we have to have people within the sport openly just criticizing as we go along, but maybe that’s something very unique in NASCAR that no other sport has to sort out. We’ll sort it out.’’

Hmm. Brian clearly hears a lot of talk around him… but I think he has no idea what anyone is talking about. Don’t all sports have “armchair quarterbacks” with pre-game shows, halftime shows, and post-game shows? Don’t all those TV personalities offer their “opinion” and criticisms? How is NASCAR unique? “We’ll sort it out” clearly means, “I don’t have a clue, but I’ll have Ramsey Poston look into it and publish something almost as ridiculous as what I just said.”

Next up, Brian was asked to clarify his feelings that some fans think NASCAR is trying to keep the broadcasters from telling the truth….

“It’s not that way. We fully expect a lot of criticism for any number of reasons, judgment calls that are made, officiating calls that are made, and some strategy or policy decisions that are made. We’ve always had that. That’s OK. What I’m saying is in opinions that are under the guise of criticism or being critical that just go on and on and on without much thought, that’s different from some policy or rule violation that we didn’t handle correctly. Somebody is more than fair to criticize us. It’s just there’s an unprecedented level that occurs when you espouse your opinion about how to do one thing or another.”

While that is a pretty long “clarification,” it does start to reveal what is wrong with France’s thinking or perception. It is OK to criticize… just don’t keep doing it! Brian, there is a reason that there is an “unprecedented level” of criticism. This current regime under which NASCAR is now ruled has all but ruined what was once a good thing. If NASCAR is so good at listening to the fans, aka “criticism,” why are you doing nothing about it?

Fans are gone, ratings are… well, let’s tackle that question right now! Brian was asked why while some think a raise in NFL ratings are a result of the current recession, NASCAR’s numbers continue to drop? For it does stand to reason that even if a fan can’t go to a race or game they would watch it on TV, right?

“Because there’s not one thing,” was France’s reply. “The recession, you can make the case, I would agree with that. I think there’s a sense of community, a sense of people aren’t going out as much. They’re going to focus on something, it’s probably going to be their favorite team. I would agree with that. But if you don’t have storylines and nine other things going your way, then you won’t get all the benefit of that, and the NFL has a lot of neat storylines with Brett Favre coming back and lots of parity in their league and they’re doing really well. In our situation, you can’t compare us to any one sport, but, obviously our storylines aren’t what they have been in the past and will be in the future. That’s just the way it goes.”

OK, well how many storylines do you need? Dale Earnhardt Jr., as “reported” by the National Enquirer, is in a “death spiral,” Jeremy Mayfield is “on drugs,” France family members are on drugs and terrorizing the city, Jimmie Johnson is making history, fans are getting hurt in the stands by flying debris which will never happen again thanks to super secret fence design, NASCAR wins awards, HoF inductees are selected, etc, etc. The bottom line is, (and I find it absurd that a “marketing genius” such as France can’t figure it out) is that your “product” simply sucks of late!

Speaking of the “product,” wouldn’t it behoove the CEO, grandson of the founder, the ultimate man responsible, to be concerned about each and every show he puts on? Especially something like the 40th anniversary of the show at a track that was one of his family’s greatest achievements, Talladega?

“I didn’t see it. I really didn’t see all of it.”

Well, at least that quote needs no explanation! Ironic, though, how it explains a lot about what is wrong in our sport today. Moving on, here are some of Brian’s thoughts about the “competition” level in NASCAR.

“I think we’re getting better and I think it’s very good… it’s easy to get off-track when you look at how good Johnson has been, how dominant, he’s been and sort of forget that there’s been lots of hard-fought passing and racing that has gone, but there has. We’re quite pleased with it going into… finishing up in 2009. I think what the case is you have certain drivers like Carl Edwards who has not, although he made the Chase, he hasn’t won a race and he was developing his fanbase, won so many times and ran up front most of last year, has not done that this year. Dale Jr. obviously has not performed the way he wants to perform. It’s very driver specific. Those two guys represent a lot of fans, especially Dale Jr. If they’re struggling, it’s easy to say the racing is not as good as I think it should be. If my football team is not winning, I would think the league is not having as good of a year, too. That’s normal.”

Well, I’m sure Dale Jr. will be relieved a bit to know that he now shares part of the blame for NASCAR’s woes with Carl Edwards! And we have learned that Detroit Lions fans, and Tampa Bay fans, and Packer fans, and Bear fans, etc. all think that the entire NFL sucks because their teams are not doing well!

Folks, this could go on and on but it is at this point that I must apologize to you, the reader, for I have failed you. This hasn’t been, as promised, a “translation” of Brian’s comments, but more of an “journalistically unethical” depiction of Brian France himself. I’m sorry, but just like the announcers in the booth at Talladega, I call ’em like I see ’em, and I clearly see… well, I don’t know what the heck I see. After reading through the whole interview, even I, with my Level 7 “Reading for Information” rating, cannot make heads nor tails of what this guy is saying.

How’s that old saying go? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result… (see Brian France)… or something like that!

Stay off the wall (and please resist the urge to bang your head against it after reading Brian’s interview!)

Jeff Meyer

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