Sunday, April 24, 2011
NASCAR Strong Amid Pro Sports Chaos
It was a shock to hear that Major League Baseball had taken over the day-to-day operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Team owner Frank McCourt, seen on the right, needed a $30 million loan from LA-based FOX TV just to meet his payroll last week.
Apparently that forced the hand of MLB commissioner Bud Selig, seen on the left. The Dodgers issue was only the tip of the baseball iceberg. The NY Mets lost $50 million last year and are well on the way to a potential financial collapse with comparable losses this year. Los Angeles and New York are the two top TV markets in the country.
Over on the hardwood, NBA Commissioner David Stern has divulged that 22 of his teams are on track to lose an estimated total of $300 million as the season winds down. There is little doubt that the NBA and the players may be headed for an extended lockout once this season is over.
Meanwhile, NASCAR's number one competitor is already in a lockout. The NFL and it's player's association are not even in the same ballpark on a new collective bargaining agreement. Since both financially healthy parties continue to do nothing more than posture, there is a very good possibility that there will be absolutely no pro football on the field at the beginning of this season.
The most recent shocking sports story happened two weeks ago. The owners of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were arrested by the FBI. The online gambling websites run by those companies were shutdown. The FBI alleged that the sites laundered money and defrauded banks to get around gambling laws. The money in question is said to be in the billions.
This put an immediate stop to many of the poker shows on TV. ESPN, NBC, Fox Sports and The Game Show Network all used a portion of the $26.8 million spent on TV advertising by the indicted companies to sponsor these series. There is little doubt that things are about to change forever in poker-land.
Finally, a while back TV viewers tuned-in to see 35 year-old Tiger Woods come from behind and win The Masters Tournament. It never happened. The wheels came off for Woods again and golf fans are now left with the usual cast of characters. Woods' TV profile has changed radically. No longer Superman, just another golfer.
NASCAR has basically been handed a golden opportunity to recapture the slice of the sports TV market that has been lost over the past five years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. emerging from his slumber, the new Kyle Busch looking to put his stamp on the sport and Carl Edwards trying to flip his way to a championship are just a few of the topics that have come forward this season.
After Easter the sport will head to one of the most fan and TV-friendly tracks on the circuit. With ESPN out of the picture with a scheduling conflict, SPEED and FOX will be charged with delivering a NASCAR tripleheader. That's right, a tripleheader.
Richmond International Raceway will have Denny Hamlin's charity late model showdown on Thursday night at 8PM ET. For the first time, it will be televised live by SPEED. This is a great opportunity to warm-up the crowd by letting them see a wide variety of NASCAR drivers from different series interacting on and off the track for a good cause.
Friday night brings the only Nationwide Series race ever produced and televised by SPEED. The network had played host to an ESPN-produced telecast after a rain postponement, but this is different. It's a NASCAR TV showcase.
SPEED has paired Darrell and Michael Waltrip in the TV booth with Rick Allen for the coverage. Ray Dunlap, Hermie Sadler and Krista Voda are the pit reporters. Any way you slice it, there's going to be a whole lot of talking going on.
Saturday night FOX has a chance to step away from the two-car drafts and get NASCAR back to the side-by-side short track action that fans love. It's going to be important for Darrell Waltrip to let Mike Joy call the racing. Fans need to be reminded of what a difference a strong TV play-by-play announcer can make to a telecast.
What an interesting week this should be. Perhaps, it could lead to an even more interesting season due to some amazing twists and turns among many of the other pro sports on TV. Instead of simply building toward the Chase, this year NASCAR may be building toward the Chase with no NFL football on Sundays.
That reminds me of a certain Daytona 500 when a blizzard across much of the country made it the only live sporting event on TV. I seem to remember a strong play-by-play announcer, some great racing and some post-race festivities making a big impression on a lot of people. It seems that formula has some history.
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