The Lady in Black: Thoughts and Hissy Fits
by: PattyKay Lilley
Good day race fans. This is your raving reporter, the Lady in Black, coming to you from steam-heated North Georgia, where after almost a week of temperatures north of 100°, the grass has turned brown and faces have turned either red or green. It’s been that sort of week in NASCAR too.
When old PK came in here this morning, she was thinking of regaling you with some sort of rerun of the Mashed Potatoes and Gravy vs. Mac and Cheese 400 presented by Quaker State on Saturday night at Kentucky Motor Speedway, but I muscled her out of the way and took over the keyboard. So… while I’m here and she’s off having coffee, I’ll say a few words about that before moving on to more important stuff.
Ol’ Bruton Smith, a man you can be sure has never been seen in the same room with Boss Hogg, got it half right this year, and maybe can’t be held responsible for the half that went wrong… but I’ll do it anyway. Traffic? What traffic? See? No problem! Traffic flowed like water over a dam; like wine from a decanter into a glass… yeah, I like that one better! 105,000 in attendance, it says here. Adjust that southward by about 25% and you’re probably flirting with honesty, but it wasn’t bad, all things considered. Still more than they managed to fit through the gates last year.
The race was still a stinker, but that part isn’t Bruton’s fault. It’s those blinkin’ IROC cars that barely clear the ground and can’t pass each other that spoil the race… every race on a mile-and-a-half track. Brad won, and in this camp, that is always a good thing. We like that lad here in Libby Land. He’s Good Brad even when he’s being Bad Brad.
So what was the problem? For those in the stands, other than the stifling heat and a boring race, there really wasn’t any. For those watching on TV, well, the number of problems were legion, starting of course, with the aforementioned KFC commercial, which ran consistently throughout the evening, over and over and over, until every one of us could recite it by heart.
Much as with FOX, race coverage takes a back seat to conversation on TNT, this time between the slightly acid-tongued Kyle Petty (Look who’s calling whom acid-tongued) and Wally Dallenbach Jr., with an occasional not too well informed comment from Adam Alexander, whose name should be spelled Ralph Sheheen. Like many other journalists, a vast number of emails and comments have crossed this desk begging for relief from the TNT Tyranny and the onset of ESPN. Two more races this year! Just two more; I promise.
One of those is the upcoming Firecracker 400 (Firecracker was always good enough for me! Maybe when they make the Coke free…), which used to be held in the morning, for a couple of reasons. One was so that the teams could have some time to be with their families over the Holiday, and the other was because Florida mornings are relatively rain-free. That is not the case with afternoons or early evenings in the heat of summer. Remember, NASCAR wisdom is and has always been an oxymoron. (Oh, look it up)
I “think” I remember seeing that TNT will be doing their famous (infamous?) commercial-free version of this race, and they can well afford to do so, as they’ve crammed them all into the four races that have already aired. Still, commercial-free doesn’t mean exactly that. It means that instead of hearing a commercial, the race camera (I think TNT only has one) will play follow-the-leader for two minutes while printed messages will appear on the larger half of your TV screen, promoting the sponsor that was kind enough to forego spoken ads as long as you sit still and watch their name on the screen. I find these pseudo commercials still present an excellent time for a pit stop or kitchen break.
For the last TNT race of the season, we move to the flat mile in New Hampshire, and if I were to give you here my honest opinion of that track, you would blush… even if you are an old sailor! Given that we are talking about a race on NASCAR’s most boring track presented by Infomercials Я Us, my suggestion would be to go to the beach, enjoy the sun and sand, have a cookout while you’re there and come home just after the race ends. Then we’ll be on to Indy and ESPN, with TNT in the rearview mirror.
Bonus thought: at the end of this year, NASCAR regains control of its own website, nascar.com, from Turner Broadcasting… it was a hangover from that first network deal that began back in 2000, and would take a month to explain. I have no clue how rock solid the TV contract between the two might be, but my uneducated guess is that NASCAR does all it can to get out of that last year with them doing the 6-week summer break. No, don’t smile yet, because that just might mean six more weeks of FOX, but you would see more of the race, even though you’d also see more of Waltrip times two. Tough choice there…
Now then, let’s move right along to my reason for taking over this week. How about that Chase for No Sponsorship? Did I hit that square on the head eight years ago or what? I told ‘em, NASCAR, that is, that it would drive out the sponsors and in turn would ultimately drive out the fans as well. What self-respecting sponsor wants to pay the freight for a car that won’t be seen again after week 26 of a 36-week season? Worse yet, the “top 35″, which generally translates to those with the most sponsor dollars to spend, are guaranteed to race, while any new team aka new money trying to break into the sport is forced to fight and claw for one of the remaining eight spots weekly. Gee, remind me again why we have teams starting and parking…
The current reigning King came to power in 2004 along with the Chase for No Sponsorship and the Lucky Dog rule, which is equally obnoxious, but does serve the purpose of making the stats look far more competitive than the race itself ever was. Back when all that started, the old gal that owns this keyboard wrote a piece called, “NASCAR Doesn’t Love Me Anymore.” I’d like to talk her into doing a rerun of that one, but only if you all beg for it. This space costs money, or so I’m told.
Along with all the new “ideas” introduced by the third generation of the Family France was the great Western movement… Kansas, Chicago, Fontana, Las Vegas, second race at Phoenix, etc., and the sweeping out of what have come to be called the “Core fans” in favor of a much younger audience. Y’all are free to translate “Core fans” to “Senior Citizens” or maybe just “Old Farts” if you like. What I’ve always had trouble understanding is why the rush to be rid of the very folks that have the most disposable income to spend? It never quite made sense until this morning.
As we do every morning, PattyKay and I, we began our day with a trip to Jayski to see what happened in the racing world overnight, (Jay gets up earlier than we do) and there it was, staring us right in the face. The ugly truth!!! It began this way…
“Kahne vs. Earnhardt, Jr. in finals for “Drive for the Cover”:
This is it. A month of voting by the most passionate fans in all of sports has whittled down the field to two mammoth combatants: #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. and #5-Kasey Kahne. Two more weeks of voting between this pair of NASCAR stars will decide the victor of the Drive for the Cover campaign – and the ultimate prize of gracing the NASCAR The Game: Inside Line cover.”
What follows is a post that my alter ego, PK put up here on RacersReunion after reading the entire piece on Jayski:
Well fellow race fans, here it is, right under our noses… the battle of the century it seems, yet I must confess that this race fan has never even heard of this. While we foolish old folk are watching our boob tubes or worse, spending our hard earned cash on admittance to a race track, thereby ensuring the financial success of someone named France or Smith, the target demographic is amusing themselves by choosing which pretty boy will adorn the cover of “NASCAR, the Game.”
Now, I don’t know if that “Game” is X-Box, Sega, Nintendo, Wii or any of a hundred other makers of finger-controlled amusement… perhaps all… I am clueless as to how all that works, but I sure do know what it ISN’T. It isn’t RACING! I do believe we’ve found the answer! Instead of working to keep alive the history of our fading sport, the new way to reach them is to change the entire sport into a hand-held package of fun… to go along with the other 43 hand-held devices they already have in their teen-caves.
No wonder NASCAR doesn’t give a rip what we say about racing. Sneakily and quietly, they have already won over the Pampers Posse with which we have been replaced. No, we won’t see them in the grandstands. Their seats are anywhere they happen to be, and their view is not of the live race we watch, but of a self- designed world of make-believe where they are the only winner and the competition always loses. Just as in school, there is no need to learn humiliation or acceptance of one’s place in the world. They build their self-esteem on foundations of shifting sand and dreams, with never a thought that anything could possibly go wrong in that little land through the looking glass. Why, just look. The most important thing on their vapid young minds is the Cover-Boy for the latest game. The details follow, if you really have the stomach for this sort of nonsense. As for me… I want my world back!!!
Yep, I think the old gal nailed that one, but I still want the last word. Did you notice the part that said, “ the most passionate fans in all of sports?” Really? Surely, you jest! These are children, and they are not voting on a sport, they are voting… a term that has come to mean pushing a button endlessly for weeks at a time… for a picture on the inside flap of a video game. What on earth does that have to do with sports, let alone “All sports?” Methinks someone gets far too carried away with his superlatives.
If that is what we are now supposed to see as being a race fan, then count me out. Somehow, I always thought that going out to the track, regardless of weather, sweltering in the heat or sitting out the rain, actually enjoying the lungs full of dust I took home from the dirt races, or shivering from the wind in March was all part of being a fan. Now they want me to sit home and race with my fingers? Uh-uh! Not me. How about you, race fans? What’s the ultimate prize in your opinion? Choices include the Cup from whichever sponsor presents it at the time, or your picture on the cover of the Music City News… Oops, pardon my Country Music sneaking in there, I meant NASCAR, the Game.
And that’s just what’s on my irritated mind today…
I’ll just pop in here long enough to thank the Lady in Black for stopping by and to sign off for today. Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!
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