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Pedley: Roush Not Totally Wrong

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 22 2010
Jack Roush took on the media during the NASCAR Media Tour this week. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

Jack Roush took on the media during the NASCAR Media Tour this week. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

People in the media are dumping all over Jack Roush this week because of something the hyper-blunt team owner said during the Sprint NASCAR Media Tour on Tuesday.

Being a natural contrarian, I hereby do my duty:

There is some truth in what Roush said. He got some details wrong, he clearly does not have a total grasp as to the function of the media in an open society and the fact that it was Jack Roush saying it is, well, interesting. But there is a point in the rant Roush unleashed that should be considered.

It’s the point to which Marshall McLuhan dedicated his life: The media affects mass opinion.

This is paraphrasing, but what Roush indicated during a monologue during the a Tour presss conference is that fans think the racing in the Sprint Cup Series is good. He implied that complaints – those that have led to the decision to alter rules this coming season – have come mainly from the media. The media complaints have then rubbed off on fans, Roush reasons.

Roush then seemed to indicate that the media has a responsibility to promote the sport, not just report on it.

OK, the promote-the-sport thing? Garbage. Its an absurd and dangerous concept. (Interestingly, he is joined by Darrell Waltrip, whom Roush targeted by name, in that assessment as DW has, on more than one occasion, taken the print media to task for begin negative.)

Fans not complaining? I invite him to view some of my emails. It’s always tough to decide how much credence to give rants from outside world as those which find their way here do not always – if ever – represent an accurate cross section of the racing fandom. But displeased with the racing is what many, many fans are.

But the central factoid of what Roush said is correct. Believe it or not, know it or not, opinions are colored by what people hear and read in the media.

Yes, as wonderful columnist Tom Sorenson of the Charlotte Observer correctly points out, fans are capable of making up their own minds. But I think it is also correct that opinions are the result of not only what their eyes see, but what their ears hear.

That is, people’s opinions, even on common sense issues, can be, and are, swayed by the white noise of the media.

Madison Avenue is built on that premise: How else to explain the fact that people will pay for bottled water which is the same as virtually free tap water but costs more than gasoline?

I have a friend who is a huge racing fan. Smart guy, too. College grad. During the season, he calls or emails fairly often with complaints and compliments and observations about the sport.

All are interesting and valid. All are also colored in one way or another by information he has received by way of the media. Having never been in a garage, having never directly talked to a driver or a crew chief or Bernie Eccleston or Brian France, everything he knows about the sport he has picked up by reading or watching.

The guy does not always agree with what he reads or hears, but his frame of reference is shaped by the media whether he knows it or not.

And, garbage in-garbage out as they say in computer programming. (And there is more garbage than ever making its way onto the information superhighway these days as everybody with a computer has an on-ramp.)

No, Jack, not all fans are happy with the racing in NASCAR right now. And no, it is not TV or even the bloggosphere’s job to promote the sport.

But your point on the media influencing public opinion is spot on.

If you want to go after the media, go after it on bigger issues.

What you should have pointed out was the fact that the networks which cover the sport employ analysts who have direct ties – both familial and/or finanical – to the sport they are covering.

You don’t need to be an expert on McLuhan to recognize the ramifications of that.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at racintoday.com 

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 22 2010
17 Comments

17 Comments »

  • ANM says:

    Good posts by Gina.

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    3 or 4 years ago Jack R. said Toyota was going to come in and overwhelm the Cup series, even though by then Toyota had spent well over a billion dollars in F1 without a single win. As a result of his crying wolf, Roush got over a million dollars more from Ford, which he admitted and which came out of what had been Ford’s truck series support – so Roush helped Toyota dominate the truck series.

  • JoeW. says:

    Even though Jack may not be 100% correct in his statement, there is quite a bit of truth in it. The media does color some peoples perception. To Richard in N.C. Jack was right about Toyota too. They have completly taken over the truck series and it has hurt that series very much. I no longer watch any truck races because I do not like Toyota in Nascar and I never will. Lots of other people have stopped watching it too. I agree with other posters that D.W. makes me sick by hawking his store and talking about Toyota all the time. I do not think any commentator should be wearing shirts with any sponcer or manufacturer on them. That is a clear conflict of interest. Jack is very good for Nascar and has helped keep Ford in the sport. I can asure you that there are more than a few of us who will turn off Nascar for good if a day comes when Ford is not involved in the sport and Toyota is. Go get um’ Jack. I hope your team has a great 2010.

  • Gina says:

    oh yeah I forgot to mention. Don’t quote “loop data” at the fans about how many passes were made for the lead, blah, blah, blah. Who cares? If the fans don’t see if happening or it happens during green flag pit stops or lucky dogs, who cares? That’s not racing, it’s administration and no computer statistics will change the perception of boredom.

  • Gina says:

    All I want from the media is unbiased coverage, but that isn’t what the race fans get most days. Too many of the people, especially the TV personalities, are involved in the sport and are not unbiased. Like many of the other posters, I can make up my own mind. I’ve been to enough races in person to know what I see on the track and how much it has changed in the last few years since the IROC series took over and replaced the Winston cup racing that used to take place. Ugly car, boring tracks, boring races, boring chase, boring drivers. And NASCAR wonders why the fans have turned off?

    So now NASCAR is saying they are going to take off all the rules that they had imposed? That doesn’t address the real problem, the car that can’t pass.

    I find it insulting that NASCAR seems to think that the fans aren’t smart enough to know that what they are seeing is good racing or not and thinks that so long as the media and the drivers say everything is wonderful, the fans will go along with that. Competition, not high speed parades, might get the fans back, if it’s NOT too late.

    • Doobie says:

      Ugly car, boring tracks, boring races, boring chase, boring drivers. And NASCAR wonders why the fans have turned off?

      True, but don’t forget the world outside NASCAR: A fan who loses his or her job and/or struggles to pay bills isn’t likely to buy a ticket.

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    Just because someone has conflicts does not mean they are not truthful. When Roush made his ridiculous comments a couple of years ago about how Toyota was going to come into Cup racing and overewhelm everyone else, the result was he got Ford to give him the money they had been spending on the Truck series – but of course no one in the media commented that Roush’s Toyota menace comments were self-serving and unsupported.

  • Ed P. says:

    I wonder if ole DW thinks God believes it’s OK to have a conflict of interest? DW is always hawking God–specifically a Christian God–whenever he can. I wonder if he really thinks that being on Toyota’s payroll and pushing their product on TV during a race isn’t a conflict of interest? I wonder if he thinks we are as stupid as we look? He went after New Hampshire after the deaths there while being on the payroll of KY Speedway. Wonder of he tought his God thought that wasn’t a conflict of interest?…Sorry folks, sometimes this God stuff is just out of place and DW is the worst of the bunch.

  • Wayne says:

    Financial Ties, Like getting paid by Toyota and putting in plugs for them whenever you can. Plugging your merchandise store? Makes me sick. I miss the credibility of the Ned Jarrets, Buddy Bakers. I do tune these guys out. I love the truck series but haven’t watched any races with one particular person in the booth. The shame of it is these issues are so easy to correct, very, very easy. Can you hear me David Hill?

  • HCR says:

    Jack Roush has more insight and intelligence regarding Motor Sports than most of the Airhead Media combined. Other than intelligence,the main difference is MR. Jack Roush is Totally Honest and doesn’t suck up to Nascar’s Bosses and the reactionary,narrow-minded Media just to be Politically Correct or Popular ! It’s great to know you can trust someone in the Sport to be Up Front and Totally HONEST ! Kudos Jack Roush–win the 2010 Nascar Championship without being a Brown-nose like Hendrick !

    • Doobie says:

      without being a Brown-nose like Hendrick

      Speaking of which, guess whose idea the “Car of Tomorrow” was?

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    I have been a NASCAR fan since Richard Petty ran the hemi, and still am. Is it perfect, no. Is it boring, I don’t think so – I still enjoy it and look forward to Daytona as much as ever.Sometime in the last 12 to 15 years I have seen the mainstream media become distinctly more negative in reporting NASCAR – and much of everything else – than it was before. The media has just one obligation – to be honest and unbiased – and I feel much of the media fails in meeting its obligation. It appears to me that much of the media believes that being negative and critical will more likely attract readers than being unbiased. I very seldom see anyone in the media question whether the racing on the track might be better than what the networks, especially ESPN, show on TV. Thankfully we live in a country where everyone is free to have and express their opinion.

  • Alan Kulwicki Jr. says:

    Jack is right AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • SB says:

    I didn’t need anyone to tell me about the state of racing. In 2008 I left the night race at Bristol with 85 laps left in the race because I wasn’t seeing anything resembling racing happening on the track. Last season I sold my tickets for both races. This year, I didn’t renew my tickets to Bristol. I never thought I would do that. Racing isn’t the same. With the chase, the top 35 rule, the lucky dog, the interminable 1 1/2 mile tracks, I don’t need anyone to help me form an opinion about what I’m seeing (or, lately, NOT seeing) on the track. I used to live for Sunday afternoons. The past few years, I find mucking stalls in the barn is at least as entertaining as what Nascar has been shoveling at me since Brian France ‘revolutionized’ the sport. Frankly, I’m insulted that anyone thinks I have to be told what to think.

    • Ed P. says:

      We may disagree on Bristol SB but you are right. I don’t need the media to tell me what my eyes and heart see. NASCAR shills shovel the dirt at us to try to make us believe “passing in corners” happens a lot more and that we are stupid for not seeing how great the racing is. If the racing is so great and we as fans are just listening to the news media then why would any self-respecting organization change it up? Fact is, and studies have shown this, the last several years NASCAR flies the caution flag markedly more–markedly more. The CoT racing woulod be a total and complete disaster without NASCAr employing the “debris” caution option. I hate to say it but that no-debris debris has actually saved NASCAR from becoming a laughing stock of a series. I dare Ramsey Poston or any other NASCAR flack/hack to go and look at least all the 1 1/2 races last year and watch every start and restart. The majority of them have the lead car 10 car lengths ahead by the end of the first lap and then it’s all over, except for the use of yellow flags red flags and “competition cautions.” You know I think these drivers are brave people in many ways but in fist fighting, lets say, they don’t want to get their pretty face bloodied. So they usually “fight” with their helmet on. So when Jeff Gordon, with his helmet on, is fined $10k for shoving Matt Kenseth at Bristol a couple of years back…well that’s a joke. Jeff wasn’t going to get bloddied nor was he gonna hurt anyone. He just showed a little passion. $10 grand fine. What a bush–not Busch–league series. And unfortunately there is another subject. Chucked Busch as a sponsor for more money, and then they found out quickly more money wasn’t there. NASCAR has bullied their way to near oblivion. Well they can’t bullyfans. Fans have the ultimate weapon…THE CREDIT CARD. And ISC is seeing a lot less of that lately. Umm, is the media to blame for that?

  • Ed Namby says:

    One thing I forgot. I didn’t like what Roush said either. And I respect him greatly as a likely wealthy man, a darn good car owner that NASCAR needs and a helluva engineer. But he was smokin crack the day he made his comments…must have been. I will say that I have noted in the media that over and over again at almost every race, it’s a race for the scribes to get to their laptop and write “boring racing.” No matter what has happened on the track in a particular race a writer will write “boring” faster than a Ryan Newman qual lap. Everyone can’t wait to get to their laptops to write “boring” after a Bristol race now. It’s absurd. I agree with Jeff Burton on that one. Let’s get the news media’s largest butts writers together, stuff them in a race car a go round Bristol for 500 laps. I don’t think boring is what would come out of their laptops. To me Bristol had gotten to the point (before repave) to where there was 15 laps of racing and 10 laps of caution then 15 laps of racing and 10 laps of caution all the way to 500. It just wasn’t racing for 20 cautions in a race. I think Bristol is right on now. So in that rtespect Jack Roush has a point. I wish the media would just stop the race to call racing boring–because even piss poor, it’s not always boring. My gripe is with fake cautions and red flags and restrictor plates and penalties for every thing imaginable and on and on has sucked the life out of this sport.

  • Ed Namby says:

    Good article. I have complained loudly over the Internet on the State of NASCAR racing these days. It is piss poor. I don’t have to read it from you guys. And I should know I have been following this sport for 48 years now. And I have interviewed a crew chief before and I have been a catch can guy before and I have been in the media and did 3 laps at Charlotte with Rookie Kurt Busch at the last media tour I did. And I have sold popcorn and peanuts at Greenville Pickens Speedway in my youth when Ralph Earnhardt was in his prime on that dirt track. And I have swept floors on a first class Cup team before and I have interviewed Morgan Shepheard and Coach Gibbs and Bill Elliott and I have worked for David Ift and Cliff Champion and James Hlyton and I dropped a tire on a pit stop when Ricky Rudd was leading the Darlington race and gary Nelson was crew chief and chewed my ass out–I was how you say a bit under-physical for the task. All this doesn’t make me an expert on NASCAR racing but by gawd is does make me as informed as the next guy. And I am tellin you that NASCAR has legislated the life out of this sport and the racing is piss poor. Now let’s see if they can pull it out of its nose dive and save this thing. There was vision in Bill Sr and Bill Jr. Today’s Daytona Beach Bunch only sees $$$$$$. If they don’t repent they might as well turn the lights out because this thing is going down. And their arrogance could be noted when and if they read this comment by discounting it. “No”, I say? Hmmm. Anyone look around lately and seen how many of our institutions have gone belly up because no one was listening? Go ahead NASCAR be arrogant. Go ahead and give me more loop data. Because if you do then we can “color you gone.”