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Morning Memo: Is The Gorilla Sick Or Just Not Eating?

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 16 2009
The grandstands at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will be packed this weekend. The parking will be on the house. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The grandstands at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will be packed this weekend. The parking will be on the house. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Let’s see what’s in today’s Wednesday Morning Memo:

* There it was, printed in Sports Illustrated on that thick glossy stock to which no known ink can properly adhere thus assuring messy smearing and transfer to everything from your white bread sandwich to your West Highland White Terrier.

“Give ‘Em Away”, the little SI headline said.

And under that headline was a short story about how blackouts are looming over the 2009 NFL season.

Get right outta town!

According to SI, nine NFL games were blacked out because of poor ticket sales last season, but this year, that number could go up. As many as 12 teams are facing the prospect of not being able to show games on television to local fans.

We mention this for two reasons:

First, to put into perspective the stories and scenes of empty seats at auto races. The 800-pound NFL gorilla in the room, it seems, is down to about 725 and apparently not immune to the ravages of tanked-economy-imposed emaciation. Thankfully, none of the wags who a year ago were calling NASCAR irrelevant and shouting that it should be euthanized, are calling for the NFL’s blood to be spilled.

Second, to also point out SI’s suggested response by the NFL and to compare it with what auto racing is already doing.

The mag – which I love even more these days because my good friend and sports writers’ sports writer , Joe Posnanski, has been added to its staff – suggests that the NFL give a nod to its fans by “relaxing” the blackout rules and give unused tickets to youth groups.

Some nod.

How about slashing ticket prices, cutting the costs of stadium food, offering free parking, instituting creative packaging of race-weekend deals, insist that NFL athletes become more fan friendly and accessible to those fans who do not frequent strip clubs? You know, do things that NASCAR and its tracks have already done as a nod to their fans.

Funny thing about 800-pound gorillas; they all die eventually and some succumb sooner if not properly fed and cared for.

Memo to self: Invite Roger Goodell to an auto race some time. Parking is on me.

* I’m getting a creepy feeling that Mark Martin is being set up for another public, well-documented, emotionally devastating, moment of career disappointment.

I’m getting the feeling this is not Martin’s year. Again.

Yes, new team, new circumstance, new Martin but I can’t shake the thought that he will head to Phoenix or even Homestead with the points lead and then have some bizarre misadventure, and fall a couple of points short of winning the championship that so many race fans so hope he gets.

Not sure I would want to watch that.

Memo to self: Have finger on a change-channel button on the remote when the ESPN announcer in the booth says, “Let’s go to Jamie Little who is with a crying Mark Martin”.

* Apparently not everybody agrees with my contention, as stated in a recent opinion piece, that a Chase without the guy who has won the most races this season (OK, is tied for the most wins) is more than just a little bit unsatisfying.

Not everybody, it seems, is going to miss Kyle Busch’s presence in the playoffs.

Allow me to use up a bit of cyber space right here to answer some of the emails I have received.

William wrote: The driver “who has the most wins at the cut-off race would be let in so you’d not keep out that champions efforts and still allow for consistency”.
Dear William: Huh?

Don wrote: So you are a Kyle Busch lover….I for one, and I’m sure many others, am glad he is not in the chase. And….Best driver in NASCAR, Busch! That will NEVER be the case.
Dear Don: I am not a Kyle Busch lover. We are just good friends.

Todd wrote: The best driver in NASCAR? Are you nuts?
Dear Todd: Clinically?

Todd wrote back: Even David Reutiman and Joey Logano can win with a Toyota! Put  Johnson in a Toyota car and he might win 15 races in a season.
Dear Todd: Reutiman and Logano can win in a Toyota, if it rains.

Memo to self: Put plans for writing a column that urges expanding the Chase to 15 races on hold.

* When it was announced that the Bob Bahre family had sold New Hampshire Motor Speedway to Speedway Motorsports Inc., most people assumed that the new owners would take one of the NHMS Cup dates and move it to another SMI track.

Vegas was a hip pick, as I recall.

Thankfully, that has not been done. Instead, SMI poured some money into the aging speedway and rewarded some of the best fans in NASCAR.

The autumn race up in New Hampshire was always a favorite. Leaves turning, nip in the air, the woodsy smell – all that crap.

The opinion here is that it’s great that a track with tons of character like New Hampshire has not been sacrificed to big-market-mania.

Sorry I will miss the fall race in beautiful little Loudon this year for the first time in many years.

Memo to self: Get one of those pine tree air fresheners, hang it on the rear-view mirror and drive around with the eyes closed this weekend.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, September 16 2009
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Jay says:

    Could NASCAR blackout races, too? Many empty seats at many tracks…

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    VERY good article. It is really refreshing to see someone in the media write about how the economy is hurting sports besides NASCAR. Thank you.