Sunday, October 3, 2010
The TV Curse Of The "Non-Chaser" (Repost)
Leave it to television to come up with yet another gimmick for the Chase. This time, it's a new word that is going to haunt the sport for the rest of the season.
While there are twelve teams that are running for the season championship, there are many top teams that are continuing to race to win. The fact is that there are far more cars on the track outside of the Chase than inside.
NASCAR is a sport that relies on sponsors. That reality is driven home every day with the current economic struggles of even the biggest teams. While marketing and advertising is a NASCAR staple, what sponsors really like is TV time.
Currently outside of the Chase are sponsors like Target, UPS, Bass Pro Shops, US Army, Budweiser and Home Depot. All the teams they sponsor, however, are still on the track and racing. Normally called by name on the live telecasts, ESPN has now changed all that.
Despite racing hard and going for a Sprint Cup Series race win, every single team outside the top twelve has been lumped into a new category that ESPN just loves. From Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Kasey Kahne, they are all now just called non-Chasers.
This allows ESPN to put all the focus on the Chasers and solve a problem that haunted the coverage last season. How do you cover the race while featuring the Chase at the same time? The answer seems to be simple, just pay attention to the Chasers.
Lumping 31 teams each race into the non-Chaser category lets ESPN remove them from the coverage and simply tell the playoff story of the contenders. It does not matter whether the cameras are showing Juan Montoya, Marcos Ambrose or David Reutimann. As long as that car is a non-Chaser, it just doesn't matter.
As the picture above suggests, there is a fundamental problem with this new non-Chaser approach. Despite the best efforts of ESPN to create a script that features the twelve Chase drivers, one reality remains. Fans do not change their allegiance in the middle of the season.
Just because Dale Earnhardt Jr. did not make the Chase, his fans are not going to burn their t-shirts, throw away their ball caps and simply pick a Chaser to root for down the stretch. The fundamental problem with eliminating the non-Chasers from the TV coverage is that fans of those drivers simply stop watching.
Should ESPN again present the Dover telecast as a saga of twelve drivers, the results will be the same. Fans of the non-Chasers eliminated from the telecast unless they are leading the race will simply find other things to do.
This Sunday, if ESPN decides to cover the race and let the Chase work itself out, the reaction from fans of non-Chasers will be very positive. But, one quick glance down the dial shows the NFL TV networks happily waiting for the disenfranchised NASCAR fans if this skewed TV perspective continues.
If your favorite driver is a non-Chaser, how are you reacting to this lack of TV coverage and in-race updates? If you root for a Chaser, what did you think of the last telecast? Is there a solution to the problem short of dropping the Chase entirely?
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