Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Stick-And-Ball Implosion Continues


At the beginning of the year, it appeared that NASCAR would once again take it on the chin. Where TV ratings were concerned, it had been a four year steady decline.

In 2010 the NFL had wiped NASCAR off the map where September through November ratings were concerned. Since then LeBron James had made his "decision," took his talents to South Beach and drove NBA ratings through the roof. It was not looking good for the left turn gang.

But a funny thing is happening as June approaches. The landscape of the many sports we classify as "stick and ball" is changing. It is not a change for the better. The list of ongoing problems and developing situations is amazing. The latest crisis just hit Monday afternoon.

Here is a brief overview of some current issues:

NFL: No end in sight to an ugly lockout by the owners. At the present time, there will be no NFL games come September. The argument is over approximately nine billion dollars in revenue to be divided between the teams and the players. The owners say they are prepared to sacrifice the entire season if needed.

NBA: Commissioner David Stern has stated 22 of his teams are on track to lose an estimated total of $300 million this season. There is little doubt that the NBA and the players are also headed for an extended lockout after the season is over.

MLB: Teams in the two largest TV markets, New York City and Los Angeles are in crisis. The New York Mets are on track to lose over $50 million dollars this year and may face bankruptcy. Commissioner Bud Selig was forced to take over the day-to-day operations of the Los Angles Dodgers. Team owner Frank McCourt recently had to take a $30 million dollar loan from LA-based FOX (TV) just to meet payroll.

Golf: Tiger Woods is on crutches. His lower left leg is in an orthopedic boot and he is unable to hit a golf ball. He failed at the Masters, pulled out of the Players Championship and has just withdrawn from The Memorial. There is no firm date for his return.

NHL: An outstanding playoff game seven between Boston and Tampa Bay drew very high viewership in those two TV markets, but only slightly over two million total viewers nationwide. While Comcast/NBC has secured the NHL rights for the long term, several years on the VERSUS TV network has left the sport in a lurch.

The most recent bombshell may start a very fundamental change in the perception of major college athletic programs. Click here to read the Sports Illustrated feature article detailing the amazing happenings within the Ohio State University football program.

Highly-regarded head coach Jim Tressel, who is pictured above, resigned on Monday. Reports suggested his only other alternative was to be fired. Tressel was trapped within a corrupt and unworkable system that major college football coaches around the country deal with every season.

Tressel basically ran a business that made millions of dollars for the university and gave only scholarships to the players. Decades ago, this might have been a trade that made sense. In today's reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

"Big-time college athletics appear to be spiraling out of control," says Pete Thamel of the New York Times in a Monday story. "Tressel’s resignation is the headline in a year that has had major investigations of the national champions of football (Auburn) and of men’s basketball (Connecticut)."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, NASCAR has had three very different stories unfolding over the past two weeks.

First, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading on the final turn of the final lap of the most recent Sprint Cup Series race in Charlotte. His running out of gas made local sports TV highlights nationwide and was the lead story on ESPN's SportsCenter.

Secondly, superstar bad boy Kyle Busch was clocked at 80mph over the speed limit in a hot car with his hot wife in his own neighborhood. He wound-up with just a ticket, but news of the incident went viral. In a flash, the story was global. Imagine that, a NASCAR driver speeding down a two-lane Carolina road.

Finally, former Formula-1 driver Kimi Raikkonen decided he would like to sample NASCAR. His huge international fan base watched Raikkonen hold his own in a Camping World Truck Series race in Charlotte and finish 15th on the lead lap. The next weekend, he returned for a rent-a-ride in the Nationwide Series. Suddenly, rumors are swirling that "The Iceman" is coming to NASCAR with Red Bull in tow for 2012.

What an incredible swing of momentum for NASCAR through an amazing set of circumstances. You just can't make this up. The NFL is on strike with the NBA set to join them. The world's top golfer is injured, hockey can't get TV viewers and the Dodgers and Mets are essentially bankrupt.

As if on cue, NASCAR's top series heads to a sellout crowd at Kansas Speedway next Sunday afternoon. Saturday's truck series race may not have Raikkonen, but it is also sold-out. It will be fascinating to see if the sport can continue to build momentum, increase attendance and continue to slowly push up TV ratings.

Sometimes, things just happen. If there was ever a weekend for NASCAR to put on a good show, this might be it. You just never know what the ultimate reward for that might be.

We invite your comment on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

27 comments:

KoHoSo said...

I'm not sure that I would be quite so enthusiastic but things are lining up well for NASCAR.

The strongest point I would contend with is how much the resignation of Tressel is going to affect America's perception of college football. I think this is especially true if there is no NFL for a month or longer and the major television conglomerates start throwing around money to put some games on Sunday afternoons (and I mean good games, not North Central Missouri Technical State Bible College & Beauty School against Eastern Southern Pennsyltuckyana A&M).

College football and basketball have been rocked by significant scandals in recent times and the ratings and dollars keep flowing in. Heck, even more people might watch just to watch the Buckeyes suffer.

The way I see it, it's always the same. Something happens every year whether it's with a player, a coach, a booster, or, this year's other big off-season story, a corrupt bowl game. Yet, once the season starts and people start looking at who's undefeated even before three games have been played, the frenzy continues.

A senator might raise some fuss and a pundit or two might go on a mini crusade, but all will be well in college football this season, same as it ever was. As a person born in an SEC state which is also prime NASCAR territory...well, I think we have seen how much people like me will put up with to continue to follow a sport they love.

Still, if more attention comes to NASCAR as it continues to put a good product out on the track (regardless of whether or not Fox has been showing it on TV) while other sports flounder, that's fine with me...or, maybe more people should be like me and enjoy NASCAR and college sports and hockey and IndyCar. ;-)

JMHO

Adam Wood said...

Wow...I can't recall the last time a truck race sold out. The people in and around the Kansas Speedway must really love NASCAR. I was worried when they got a second race date that they would lose attendance like Auto Club Speedway did.

I hope it's a good race and I hope FOX doesn't get too wrapped up in celebrating their last race that they keep the focus on the race. This past Sunday may have really turned on some people to this sport, maybe some who left it will come back too.

Bill said...

The absence of Tiger Woods this year has ADDED to the excitement of the PGA Tour.

Just look at all the fresh faces and new winners.

A playoff almost every week - who could ask for more?

Leave golf out of your "implosion scenario."

Tiger Who?

OSBORNK said...

I hope the folks at Fox can produce a good telecast for their last performance. If they could borrow the director from Speed's truck crew and keep DW under control, it could be a big boost for NASCAR. If they use the same director and DW is turned loose to do his thing, it could hurt and drive people away.

Since this is the last Fox broadcast this year, I'm afraid DW will be even more out of control than normal.

Sophia said...

Bill

Agree about the loss of Tiger Woods. While sponsors & PGA touted him & counted him to bring big $$$ it is nice to see OTHER GOOD PLAYERS get attention.

What happened with Tressell is he got CAUGHT. This stuff goes on everywhere and folks know it. still, it's a shame but somebody needs to fix this mess. I'm weary of scandals in sports. But the sanctimoniousness of some of these colleges makes me sense.

Add Notre Dame making a young man go high in the air in a flimsy camera rig & crash to his death. On a day the winds were at 60 mph?! To record a training film to study.

It's all about the DOLLAR$ even at these so called traditional, old time schools. Disgraceful.

I also read the ratings for Indy500 were higher than NASCAR 600. This is good for Indycar but that sport now gets buried on Vs except for 4 more races.

Daly Planet Editor said...

While the absence of Woods may have opened the door to new faces, that has not translated into TV ratings.

As Woods goes, so goes the sport. Until he is done, that may well continue to be the case.

Anonymous said...

Just my opinion, but I don't think Nascar will benefit from the implosion of stick/ball sports. My friends that follow stick/ball don't watch auto racing of any kind. I think if no stick/ball was on television that they wouldn't watch auto racing. Those folks are just "different"!

Anonymous said...

Well I don't care at all about NBA, college sports, golf, MLB lost me for good last players strike & I only casually look at NFL so I won't miss it. I am an NHL fan although my teams are done so I won't be interested in the finals. All that leaves me for regular fan sport viewing is the various auto racing series & I prefer NASCAR the most. I would definitely like to see attendance & TV viewer capitalization to fill any void left by other sports' problems. I'm happy with the season so far but I'm certainly not willing to "manufacture" any moments as a desperate grab!

GinaV24 said...

It would be better if the race wasn't at Kansas. At least for the purposes of the TV viewers, the track doesn't show exciting racing. It may be different AT the track.

The owners of the NFL might want to re-think their theory that it would be worth losing the whole season. It took years for MLB to recover and after many years of being a NHL fan, I have never followed it again after their strike.

I don't watch college sports at all, so while I am probably an anomaly, essentially this means nothing to me.

for myself, not having other sports on TV won't matter for my viewing of NASCAR. The weather in the fall is some of the best there is in NJ and honestly, the crux of the matter is that NASCAR/ESPN needs to present some compelling racing to watch, otherwise I'll enjoy the nice weather and catch up with the results and the race on the DVR.

Ir42nate2bhere said...

I have to agree with koHoSo on the college issue.USC imploded recently, just a blip on the radar. Up here in Big10- Big East country,the tickets will be sold and the viewers will watch their schools.SBD post an article on May 16 with headline"PGA Tour rides ratings rebound into TV talks",and today a story attributed to SBD posted on CBSSports.com says NFL ticket sales are ahead of last season( though it may be an accounting ploy).So I think we need baby steps here on the implosion idea.

OSBORNK said...

I don't think the stick and ball sports have much inpact on racing viewership. However, there is one difference. If the race is boring and there are no stick and ball sports on, instead of tuning in to a game, the off button will be used.

Buschseries61 said...

What Anon @ 12:12 said x 2.

The effects will be seen in the fall with the chase lacking competition with the NFL. That is the only place I can see NASCAR fan growth compared to last year.

GinaV24 said...

OsbornK, I agree with your last comment. For me, that will be my choice.

Alan said...

I think that NASCAR should take every advantage of the other sports having issues. It is a very basic rule of business that if my competition has disgruntled customers, I'm going after them! I know I won't get them all, but if I can get them to sample my product I will surely gain a few of them. If it were me I would try to reach out to the fans in every market that has an NFL team and ask them to give us a shot.

Offer an NFL season ticket holder an incentive to "Join us on your Sunday off". You like tailgating? We've got tail gating! You like hard hits? We've got hard hits! You like stratagy? Exciting finishes? Rivalries? Should I go on? Racing is the only sport that has arch rivals going head to head each week.

I would even revive the campiagn from a few years ago about "When we want more money, we race for it!" I can see no down side. And if I were in the NASCAR marketing department, I would be working on this non stop.

Alan

Daly Planet Editor said...

Nate,

The OSU story is going to change major college athletics totally over time. SI.com is on the tail of other major programs and you bet the fall-out from Auburn and UConn issues is going to dovetail right into that.

As for SBD, I will let that go. The PGA Tour is lost without Tiger. You can twist ratings all you want. Golf is a disaster without the top superstar.

Remember, even though NASCAR ratings are in the commode, the PR guys can still spin them as being up X% over last year or last week. The reality is quite different.

Chris Collinsworth came out today saying he sees at least 50% of the NFL regular season as gone already.

That opens the door for no live sports TV competition starting in Sept. on Sundays. A very popular rumor is that ESPN will immediately move the Sprint Cup Series races to ABC if that happens.

I'm not trying to build a conspiracy theory here, just pointing out the rather incredible series of events that in one way or another is going to impact NASCAR TV ratings going forward.

JD

glenc1 said...

agreeing with KoHoSo again. Anyone see the 30 for 30 about SMU? Yikes. Eric Dickerson still says his grandma gave him the TransAm. 30 years later nothing in college football changes; people are outraged for a bit, schools get fines & suspensions, and no one does anything about it (the culture of it all). But hey, I bet those Bible & Beauty School kids can play ;)

I wish I thought all these things 'befalling' (if you want to call it that) other sports are going to increase opportunities for NASCAR, but personally, I think the boom is over. I suppose if Junior goes on a tear ratings would go up, but that would happen regardless of what's happening on the front of the sports page. People either like racing or they don't. Personally, baseball bores me to tears, but others are going to say the same thing about racing. I watched the NW Race, the F1 race, the Indy 500, the Cup race and the sports car race all in one weekend. Probably insanity. Of course...I was doing other things while they were on.

Baseball has a lot of perfectly healthy teams with lots of fans. I don't seem them making the jump to NASCAR. And I don't think Kimi moving to NASCAR is going to get more fans from anywhere but Finland. If golf slips a bit ratings wise, again, I don't see that translating to new race fans. You might get a few here or there, but I can't see these things as a huge opportunity. Just curious--do they do the 'seat license' thing at Kansas, or did the truck race sell out on its own? Whichever, it will look good on TV.

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI...every NCWTS race at Kansas has technically been a sellout. They only sell season tickets and they do a great job selling those out to the people who want to watch the Cup races. A great many of those people also attended the NNS and NCWTS races as well as the IndyCar races when they ran there. But even if you saw empty seats, the races were still "sellouts".

Bill said...

With all due respect, Tiger Woods is not what he was sold to be.

How do you know ratings will be any better if he ever wins again? He is a horses ass in interviews and press conferences. He lies about his injuries just like he did about his marriage.

He is not my role model - quits after a triple bogey and nine holes at The Players. Give me a break - take some Advil and press on to the Back 9.

We are talking about a player who has dropped to 13th in the world golf rankings.

Your buddy Erik Kuselias called Tiger "done" on The Morning Drive earlier today.

Players today are not scared of TW like they used to be. He no longer intimidates anyone on the PGA Tour. He needs to go back to chasing waitresses at the Waffle House. Maybe being over-sexed will help him find his game again?

Kenn Fong said...

J.D.,

I think sports fandom is a lot more complicated than a zero-sum game. I recently gave up the Sports tier on Comcast to get a bunch of other channels including BBC America and Turner Classic Movies. Because it included MLB, NFLN, ESPN Classic and News which I'd had as part of the Sports Tier, I decided I didn't need to pay just for Speed. I miss hearing Dave DeSpain and Steve Byrnes, but not enough to pay to just see those two fellows.

I don't think I'm using the hour a day when I would play my recorded version of "NASCAR Hub" to watch stick and ball sports. (I no longer watch "NASCAR Now" either.) And come the Fall, I think if there's no NFL, I'll just watch more movies on Sunday, and I'll read more books.

Junior's resurgence has me a little more interested this season than last, but I'm from Missouri on this before I'll commit to watching every single Cup race from beginning to end again -- as I had in the past -- whether live or on DVR. One thing that would help is if the races would be shortened to 400 miles or fewer, except for the classics like Daytona. Watching a race shouldn't be as much an endurance feat for the viewers as it is for the drivers.

West Coast Kenny
Alameda, California

Anonymous said...

I believe if all the planets align, nascar will get a lot more exposure but not a great increase in viewers/fans. For that to happen, networks and nascar will have to make MAJOR changes to their total broadcasting practices.

Sophia said...

Chris Collingsworth is going to help coach local HS team, I think it is, this fall, just to give himself something to do.

NCAA has had problems for many years, been discussed on local talk radio & many have felt the OSU could be a tip of the iceberg deal. With the big HITCH to most folks being Tressel wrote books on ethical behavior. The Password is "sanctimonious"

Should be interesting how this all pans out in the fall. But I think the diehard football fans will still watch college esp if NO NFL to watch.

Delenn said...

JD,

Your knowledge of Nascar is great. Your knowledge of golf is not.

Golf is not a disaster without Tiger. Quite the opposite. You may want to look at the fact that none of the majors is held by an American, and the Europeans won the Ryder Cup too. The European Tour has 6 of the top 10 players (and one of the other 4 is South African). American golf as a whole is down at the moment.

As for "twisting ratings", it serves your purpose to twist Nascar ratings being down, yet it does not serve your purpose for Golf ratings to be doing well, even without Tiger. Really?

And finally, Tiger will never be back to the way he was. He may well win more majors, but the new generation are not scared of him. The McIlroys and Kaymers of this world just he him as one of the crowd, and they are dragging the Donalds and McDowells of the world with them.

My suggestion JD. Stick to Nascar, where you seriously are one of a kind.

Nascar can really benefit from the lack of Sunday football (I believe we will miss the whole season). Although some college games will be transferred to Sunday, Nascar really has an empty goal. If ratings cannot do well, they may as well pack up and go home.

As for the effect on college football of "The Vest"s issues, none. Seriously, what with USC, Auburn (possibly), the bowl games issues, what is one more issue? College football like-for-like ratings will be up this year again.

As always, thanks for this blog from this side of the pond.

Anonymous said...

It *could* be an incredible swing of momentum. But when asked point blank if NASCAR was going to do anything to go after the fans of lockout-NFL, Brian France told Bestwick on ESPN that no, NASCAR wasn't going to do anything differently.

What's more, if NASCAR's success is built on the failure of other sports, then it will merely evaporate once the other sports get their houses in order.

Anonymous said...

Never had a great deal of interest in golf (on tv ) nor MLB and now hockey interest is almost all gone since the strike.The game of hockey has changed and now it seems they are out there trying to kill one another. Still like to watch all things nascar but find DW has chased us away from all the pre race things in the cup series, like practice and qualifying and our one time favorite Trackside.We watch the race but only when we can pick up the audio on radio. Nationwide is the only series not polluted by Waltrips so we still enjoy that series. Indycar has always been a big favorite as is V8 Supercars and the sportscars. This strike by the NFL will definatly hurt. How will we ever live without our NFL games?

Matt TSB said...

The Dodgers owner is going through a divorce for the ages and the Mets owners lost a pile of money with Bernie Madof (sp?). Neither team's issues have anything to do with the health or popularity of the game and I think you know that.

Hockey is what it has always been, a regional sport with a passionate fan base, it will be over shortly, and barely have started up again when the Chase ends.

The NBA has less time left than hockey this season and starts at about the same time if there is a season.

College football has been filthy forever and the lastest "scandal" is unlikely to turn off anybody who hasn't been turned off already.

That really only leaves the NFL as a target of opportunity for NASCAR. They may miss some games but I think both sides know that missing a season is not in either's best interest.

Most teams are having "Captain's Practice" away from team facilities to stay in shape, and I suspect if the lockout gets settled the league and players could be ready to go in a hurry. The networks will toss standby programming over the side in a heartbeat to get football back on TV.

This is one case where I think Brian France makes sense. DO what you do, maybe people will like it, but I wouldn't go too far overboard tryingto attract new fans who number one likely aren't there to be won, and secondly aren't likely tor hang around. Who knows, maybe he has learned something over the past few years.

Palmetto said...

Delan, none of golf's majors winners are American, but so what?

Dale Jr. hasn't won a race in over two years, but he's still has the single largest following in NASCAR. If he retired tomorrow, a lot of his fans are specific '88' fans, not general NASCAR fans. They won't transfer to their loyalty to another driver; they'll just stop watching racing.

Ditto Tiger and golf.

Don said...

TV networks consider NFL the original reality shows. they don't cost a lot to produce and they bring in a ton of money and the right demographics.

There is no way that the networks will tolerate missing a season. They'll throw money at anyone they can find to make sure they don't miss a season.

I can see crossover between golf and other sports but I don't think NASCAR will pull any viewers from that pool.

ESPN will sell the heck out of NASCAR if they have to but I don't know that they'll gain many viewers. Those that they do win over will cross back once the FOX coverage begins the following season.

I don't know if interest in racing will go up but I hope a few people try it out and gain a greater understanding of what it's about. We're still stuck with the "going around in circles" metaphor while other sports with equally ludicrous goals are considered legitimate.

FWIW, I'm hoping the beneficiary of any outages is Indycar more than NASCAR.