Woody: Chase Is Only Chance Against Football
Larry Woody | Senior Writer
For those who don’t like NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship, here’s something to consider:
NASCAR had no choice.
Football – college and pro – is king, and every year the kingdoms are growing.
If you don’t believe me check out the “mainstream” media coverage last weekend. Compare the inches/airtime that NASCAR’s big Richmond showdown was given compared to the amount of pigskin coverage.
In most media markets you had to look hard to find a blurb on racing. It was all football, football, football. The big college match-ups hogged the Saturday-Sunday headlines and the NFL’s opening Sunday smothered out everything else.
NASCAR? It is still running?
This is nothing new, of course. Even during NASCAR’s boom years when it was bragging about its huge fan base, it was forced to add a caveat: it’s the SECOND-BIGGEST spectator sport in the country, behind the NFL.
Even that’s not entirely accurate. It’s the second-biggest PRO sport. College football, with its hundreds of games every weekend, also surpasses NASCAR in attendance.
The three most popular U.S. spectator sports are, in order, football, football and racing.
That’s the annual autumn dilemma that NASCAR has faced for decades, and that’s why its leadership knew it had to do something. It had to come up with a way to generate more interest and excitement during its fall stretch run. Otherwise, football would totally take over.
Hence the Chase was born – a child of necessity, fathered by desperation.
Track attendance may not take an appreciable fall hit, but the vital TV ratings are vulnerable. NASCAR racing – the ride-around kind we see today – is not going to keep viewers glued to their wide-screens from start to finish. All NASCAR can hope for is that there are enough spurts of action to keep fans flipping back during timeouts and halftimes.
As if protecting its niche against football wasn’t challenging enough for NASCAR, the major league playoffs and World Series are just around the corner. Mid-week games won’t compete with racing for viewers, but the 24-7 baseball coverage – on top of the already-smothering football coverage – will push NASCAR ever further off the sports page.
The Chase won’t entirely solve the problem. I know how sports editors and program directors think (using the term loosely). They aren’t going to cut coverage of football and baseball in favor of NASCAR no matter how thrilling the racing may be.
The best that NASCAR can hope for is that the Chase will generate enough interest to keep it from being trampled into oblivion beneath the cleated stampede.
NASCAR is fighting to avoid becoming Fall’s Forgotten Sport.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments