by: Tim Leeming
You know, if I gave these Legendtorials a title each week, the title of this one may be something along the lines of “The Absurdity of Sports.” (Editor’s note: And if he gave these Legendtorials a title each week, someone else would have one less thing to do) Those of us who hang out here on RacersReunion often lament the fact that racing has turned into an enterprise driven by money. I guess the guys who were the pioneers of the sport wish they could have enjoyed even a small percentage of the monetary rewards today’s drivers receive. But we have talked this subject to the point of no return in many Legendtorials and other venues of this website and it is a constant topic of conversation between many fans and corporate sponsors. Money drives the sporting world, not only that of NASCAR, but all other professional sports as well. Gone are the days when “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” were the buzz words for athletes. Today it has been rephrased to read “The thrill of money and the agony of no sponsor”.
Let’s look at this past weekend’s Super Bowl. How Professional Football ever obtained the status it has in this world in beyond my comprehension. Having worked with someone very closely aligned with the NFL for many years, and having watched he and his wife attend the Super Bowl every year, I have firsthand experience in the absurdity of the NFL. For those who are fans, I’m pleased you have that outlet, but don’t you ever dare look down your nose at me because I’m a stock car racing fan. I want to take a minute to examine just a few bits of information about the Super Bowl this year.
My source for this tidbit of information is NBC Nightly News, Thursday, January 31, 2013. The “average price” of a ticket to the Super Bowl was $3,400.00. That’s right, that’s what was reported. That caused me to do a little research on the ticket sites on line and what I discovered was, to my mind, unbelievable! Face value price of the Super Bowl tickets was $550.00 to $850.00. Ticket prices on sites that resold tickets from what we in South Carolina would call a “scalper” were going from $2,500.00 to $10,000.00 per ticket. Just as a point of reference, I checked the Daytona Speedway ticket site, and tickets are available in the grandstands from $55.00 to $195.00. I’m not sure what the infield prices are but I think the last time I paid for an infield ticket, back in the early ’70s, it was like $15.00 for the entire weekend. I started getting press credentials in 1975 and never bought another race ticket after that.
The NBC Nightly News also reported that the cost of a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl Broadcast was 3.8 MILLION dollars. This costs does NOT factor in what it cost the company to produce the commercial and pay the participants for their time. So, let’s say, for point of discussion, that the average cost of a 30 second spot during the telecast of the event is closer to FOUR million dollars. For whatever unjustifiable reason it has occurred, the Super Bowl Commercials have taken on an entire life of their own. Some folks watch for the commercials only, not really caring who is playing football. Maybe that could be used as justification for these huge expenditures of money by these corporations, but do you realize that FIVE minutes worth of those commercials could fund a Nationwide Team with first class everything for an entire season or TEN minutes worth could fund a Cup team with first class everything for the season. Somewhere, the NASCAR advertising gurus missed the boat when they don’t present the fact to these companies that for the same amount of money they could get their logo and info on a rolling billboard (haulers included) for display to millions throughout the year. But you all have heard my opinion of advertising executives in the past so I don’t need to go back into what idiots I think they are. (Editor’s note: I have to call “Fuzzy math” here. By my reckoning, $4 mil for 30 seconds = $8 mil per minute. $8 million x 5minutes = $40 million, and there isn’t a Cup team, let alone a Nationwide team raking in that much loot. Last I heard, the going rate for a well-funded Cup-level operation was at $25 – $30 million.)
I am aware that many, if not most, of the drivers are fans of football. I think it was a couple years ago during the Super Bowl that the network camera zoomed in on Jeff Gordon in the stands. After this past Sunday’s event in New Orleans, I would think the biggest fan of all would be Juan Montoya. Once the lights went out in the Mercedes Benz Super Dome, it made the jet dryer debacle from last year’s Daytona 500 a lesser event. While rumors persist that Juan was in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras and ran into the light pole, I have factual information that says otherwise. This time it was NOT Juan’s fault.
We are a couple of weeks away from stock car racing cranking up in Daytona. While I enjoyed what I saw of the Rolex 24, I am very excited about the upcoming speed weeks. I am aware that the events are scheduled a week later again this year, as they were last, because Brian France bowed to the threat of the NFL to expand to an 18 game season, as PattyKay has already pointed out on the site. Being the race fan I am, and as I stated last year, I think that decision is asinine at best, and totally, completely, and entirely poor judgment on the part of Brian France. Why do we, the NASCAR fans, have to wait an extra week, lose the advantage of the Presidents’ Day Holiday, while waiting on the mind trusts of the NFL to decide when and how many weekends they plan to tie up television time. I must say, the recent press being given the NFL on the necessity of safer rules to prevent player injury has shown a side of ignorance that could only prevail in the stick and ball sports world. I read where one of the players conceded the fact that it is a dangerous game because guys hit guys. Duh! What took that so long? Now the commissioner of the NFL is hot to trot on better protection of head injuries, which have been so prevalent in the sport. This, after how many years of football?? Do you get the feeling these folks are clueless? NASCAR has been clueless for a long time on many things as we have all seen, but the speeches and comments from the NFL this past week makes one think the world of football is just waking up to the fact that a 350-pound dude slamming the hell out of a 250-pound dude may cause some physical problems. I’m sure the press would have given all that more ink, but after seeing all the tattoos on those Super Bowl players, I would think the NFL has used up its government allotment of ink for the next ten years at least.
As we approach the upcoming start of our season, I want it known that I absolutely detest those in the sports media who insist on calling the Daytona 500 the “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing”. I would prefer that there is no reference made as to anything to do with football, basketball, baseball, or whatever sport is using a ball to accomplish whatever it is they are trying to accomplish. The Daytona 500 is rightly called “The Great American Race” which I think may have been coined by Ken Squier. If not by Ken, I can be certain I will be corrected before this show is over. That is a much more definitive description of what transpires in Florida on a February Sunday afternoon each year since 1959. Each year, as it gets close to Daytona 500 time, I pull my Greg Fielden books off the shelf and read about all the past Daytona 500s. Each and every one holds some special memory, either from being there as I was every year from 1962 through sometime in the 90s, or watching it on television, or, as in the first three, on the radio. Can I pick a favorite? No, and I’ve tried.
I have special memories of that first one, when Lee Petty won in that photo finish. Then there is 1962, my first time there, and watching that black and gold number 22 Pontiac, with Fireball Roberts driving an almost flawless race, coming home first ahead of my guy drafting right on his bumper. Is there anyone here who remembers what Smokey Yunick did to expedite putting oil in the 22? I’ve never forgotten that conversation. How about 1963 and Tiny Lund in that Hollywood scripted race? Then 1964 and the Hemi Plymouths and Dodges. The King wins his first Superspeedway race and the first of 7 Daytona 500s. 1967 and the rain and again, the King wins. Ok, I’ll stop with all that. Maybe next week I’ll pick a 500 and read the story directly from Greg Fielden’s book. (Legend, before you do that, I’d like to remind you that we only recently concluded on our Home Page what was thought to be race by race coverage of the Daytona 500, the first 50 years, by Matt McLaughlin. There was, however, one article missing, and therefore, four races from the late ’80s were not covered. Might I prevail upon your “good nature” to make one of those your target race?)
Whatever happens in Daytona on February 24th, we race fans can be sure it will be memorable. That’s what the Daytona 500 is all about. I personally thought the halftime show of the Super Bowl, with the exception of the kids from Newtown, sucked. I also think that most of the prerace show from Daytona will suck as well. When I used to go, I went to see the race. If I wanted to see a musical act, I would go to a concert. I don’t want actors, actresses, models and celebrities prancing around gathering the attention of the cameras. I’m there to see a race. I’m there to see the drivers and the crews do their jobs. I’m there to hear the sounds made by roaring engines and the whine of the air wrenches as pits stops are made. I’m there to see the flash of color as the cars come by at blinding speeds. Yes, I may not be in the grandstand or infield at this year’s Daytona 500, but my spirit will be right there as I kick my recliner back and settle in for the afternoon. In my world, there is no sport but stock car racing. In my world, winners are decided by the black and white checkered flag waving in the wind, not by the black and white striped shirts of whistle blowers who can decide, by a penalty call, the probable outcome of a football game.
So, Mr. Football Commissioner, hope you had a good time in New Orleans. Hope you finally figure out how to protect the heads of those guys playing that rough sport. Do me a favor though, if you would. If you aren’t going to use up 18 weekends next year, call Brian and tell him to move the Daytona 500 up a week. I would appreciate it. After all, the Super Bowl is the “Super Bowl” because it is hyped for weeks. In reality, it’s just another football game with more publicity. The Daytona 500 is The Great American Race because there is nothing else like it anywhere. And that’s the truth!!!
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(Editor’s note: Tim Leeming is a member of the regular cast of the Tuesday evening racing show ” Racing Through History”, presented on Zeus Radio Network by RacersReunion®. Archives can be found by following the link. Live broadcasts can be heard from 7:00-9:00 PM every Tuesday. Please feel free to join us in the RacersReunion® Chat Room for the show.)