The view from my couch

In Good Hands?
by Sally Baker
February 25, 2004

It appears that Brian France doesn't know the difference between racing (a sport), and “entertainment”. Granted, he's a marketing man, and by his own admission, spends little time in the garage and pits at the tracks. His background tends to show up in catchy, Madison Avenue phrases like “Realignment 2004 and Beyond”, ala Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story (entertainment), and “Chase for the Championship”. That's his new, Not-A-Playoff scenario that locks all but 10 teams out of the possibility of a finish in the top 10 in points, no matter how well they run in the final 10 races.

Brian France was the force behind the new $2.4 billion television contract that claims to make Nascar races available on network TV. Mostly. Many fans are still frustrated that Fox moves some races to their cable affiliate, FX, and NBC moves some to their cable partner, TNT; channels that are not available to them. The new contract also appears to have given the networks a large voting bloc on where, when, and how fans will view races. (See “Chase for the Championship” above.) That's not necessarily a bad thing. We can now see every race in all three top series televised, qualifying, practice, happy hour, and lots of extra Nascar based programming.

Someone in this mix doesn't seem to think that racing is exciting enough unless they jazz it up with rock music, computer graphics, and lots of entertainment celebrities. The only real problem here is whether the racing, the only reason there is a “show”, is going to be lost in the shuffle.

Change is inevitable, but shouldn't come at the cost of good racing. Whatever decisions are made must not be made for “entertainment” value, but better racing. Many fans objections to races being taken away from tracks like Rockingham might not be so strenuous if the new dates were awarded to tracks that provided the same quality of racing, rather than to increase advertising rates, number of seats sold, or expand the demographics. The fact that racing entertains people does not make it “entertainment”, per se. Someone needs to remember that it is a sport, and not turn it into a made-for-TV “entertainment”. I personally don't believe that any activity where people routinely risk their lives should be sold as entertainment. I find that idea callous and demeaning. Movies and football are entertainment. Racing is…well, racing.

Brian France's father and grandfather, while guiding Nascar to its present popularity, loved racing first. It remains to be seen if he has inherited a love for the sport, or simply a love of the bottom line.

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