Monday, November 26, 2012

A Fish Out Of Water

56 year-old Canadian comedian and TV show host Howie Mandel will host the Sprint Cup Awards on Friday. Mandel will lead NASCAR through a completely scripted sequence of events that will once again play to an empty stage. The Sprint Cup Series banquets held in Las Vegas have been a bust.

The participants in the festivities will depart from the Concord and Charlotte, NC airports and fly the 1900 miles to Nevada. It would be much easier if they just drove downtown. Charlotte is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and is currently working very hard to revitalize itself. The NASCAR Plaza and the Charlotte Convention Center are two key pieces of that puzzle.

While a move away from New York City in 2009 was much needed, the Las Vegas destination has not offered the kind of high-profile post-season platform the sport has been seeking. This year, some of the other functions taking place in Las Vegas the same day as Friday's banquet include a national Chiropractors convention, a meeting of certified public accountants and ambulance company owners from across the country looking at new vehicles.

Click here for the website of the Charlotte Convention Center. Right on the front page it promotes the Convention Center as being adjacent to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It seems ironic that this association is part of a pitch to attract business conventions to the area, but has so far failed to lure NASCAR's own end-of-season function to the facility.

Several cities were in the final competition for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. One key reason Charlotte was able to close the deal was the promise of a new forty thousand square foot addition to the existing convention center space. The new ballroom was built as a part of the Hall of Fame. The idea was to make the Hall a unique attraction for convention business from around the country.

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) is struggling to effectively use the Convention Center facilities. The Charlotte Observer recently offered the fact that the Convention Center is used only 35 percent of the available time as opposed to 57 percent for other facilities the same size.

Click here for a map of the downtown Charlotte convention facilities that include the Hall of Fame. The idea is to make the entire complex available to larger scale conventions who have flexible facility needs. That would seem to fit the very definition of NASCAR's post-season requirements.

In addition to the actual Sprint Cup Series banquet, the current post-season function is spread over several days and contains several different events. Some of these wind-up being lost in the shuffle. One untapped resource is the National Motorsports Press Association Myers Brothers Award Luncheon. This informal funtion offers candid and sometimes emotional comments from a wide variety of NASCAR personalities.

There has also been a "Victory Lap" that has morphed from a parade of showcars into a burn-out contest and celebrity ride-a-long for NASCAR journalists. The subsequent informal question and answer session called "NASCAR After The Lap" has become a fan sensation and one of the few times drivers can offer candid comments in an informal setting.

While several of these activities are designed for NASCAR fans, Las Vegas is not. The Charlotte area already offers racing shops and a bevy of NASCAR-related attractions. There is little doubt it the banquet came to town additional fan-friendly events would spring up around the area.

Click here for an Observer story documenting the fact that the Charlotte City Council is debating offering a subsidy to attract a key convention to the city. It's a statement on just how tough it is to get that type of business to come to a market and location like Charlotte. Just what does that say about NASCAR?

The time is right to make a switch and bring NASCAR's post-season activity back to the very city that put its faith in a Hall of Fame for the sport. The move would be good for Charlotte, for NASCAR and for the fan base. Bring the banquet to Charlotte.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.


GinaV24 said...

makes sense to me, have all the hoopla in Charlotte and it would let NASCAR fans (however many are left) see many of the race related sites at the same time.

Maybe they should let fans attend the banquet, too. That would be away to engage fans again.

I don't plan to watch the banquet, honestly it is terrible TV and not even remotely entertaining. I'll catch my driver's speech on youtube.

Mike in Pittsburgh said...

Ether have it Monday night in Miami after the race or preferably Sunday night after a Saturday race. or have it Monday in Charlotte but let it be a free for all 10 quick interviews not a stuffy scripted show.

Buschseries61 said...

This seems so logical, it just puzzles me how NASCAR thinks (or just doesn't think).

I don't think I'll be watching the banquet this year. It has nothing to do with Keselowski, it is due to the dry, boring, scripted nature of the banquet as you stated. There's really nothing that seems interesting about it or different from last year. Maybe I'll miss a few jokes that I can read the next day.

And Howie Mandel....this entertainment part of the banquet is always 'a fish out of water' with random celebrity hosts, guests, and musical guests that are barely associated with the sport headlining the evening. Oh the cringeworthy jokes over the years....

OSBORNK said...

I don't know that there are enough fans left that care enough to attend or even watch a boring scripted event that is the follow-up to a boring scripted "Chase". The powers that be don't realize that as the list of possible champions shrink, so does the interest of the fans who support the out of contention drivers. They know that the drivers they support will be totally ignored. Then, once the championship is decided, the "show" will have nothing new to show and people will have no reason to watch it.

Before the Chase and the domination of a few elite teams, people watched the races late in the season in hopes that their favorite driver would win a race and very few people cared about who won the championship. The chance of a non-chase winning a is very low and a non-chase driver getting any attention is long gone.

Anonymous said...

I never watch these end of the year
banquets no matter what organization they are for.Just a bunch of back slappling,bad jokes,
and showing people who don't really
want to be there.Crown the champ,
and be done with it.The MAYAN
callender predicts that next year
won't ever come,so let us go out in
a way without useless t.v. coverage.

Tim said...

You conclude NASCAR makes rational decisions. NASCAR has never acted rationally and probably never will.

Anonymous said...

The decision to move the banquet to Vegas was as much for the teams to let off steam after a long season as it was for any other reason. It's not ALL about us fans. The teams need a reward too.

Anonymous said...

I will just leave it at JD is 110% correct. MC

Anonymous said...

Why Vegas? Most of these teams - even the megabuck ones - are horribly cash-strapped and need to make payroll for their people - flying halfway across the continent and getting hotel rooms and ain't realistic, isn't helping anyone, and by all rights, Nascar oughta know better.

As it turns out, Nascar doesn't give a damn - the big difference here is that Brian France is an incompetent idiot...good for him that he inherited a business...otherwise, I'm not sure he could shovel crap.

It's a good article, friend - I suspect it'll fly over more than a few heads and you'll get unduly criticized.

Anonymous said...

JD, it makes too much sense for NASCAR to understand. (shaking my head and rolling my eyes)

53 yr. fan said...

I don't believe NA$CAR would get
support from local Charlotte fans.
They have been soaked by local
politicians who made outrageous
predictions of attendance to land
the museum, along with being
stuck with an upcoming baseball
stadium and an arena against the public's vote. Everything local is about "uptown" while suburbanites are taxed to pay for it.

Stick with the Biff. said...

I would make it up to the teams. It's not for the fans, it's for them. I can't think why many fans would want to be there in person. There's a lot of boring award giving that we don't ever see even on TV, not to mention the rubber chicken dinner. I would think it would be a fun weekend for the teams in Vegas, but anon 6:50 does make a point--is it too much of a travel/cost burden? Even the big moneyed teams are looking for cost cutting. Even at home they might find ways to make it special. I was staying at a hotel once and there was a sports group staying there that I knew to be local. I was puzzling over why they were in a hotel when I overheard one of the parents say that because they weren't going to the national competition, they decided to stay in a local hotel so the kids would get to enjoy the things they would have, the pool, the fitness rooms, going to dinner, etc. I suppose there might be ways to do some things, like give the ladies a spa day, something like that; so even though they're 'home' they could make it fun.

I'm not going to judge Howie's performance before it happens, but we have all seen that the banquet's comic touch had been largely lacking over the years. I like to watch the driver speeches to some extent (the ones we can count on to have some humor) but mostly it just hasn't been great TV.

Off topic, can I just say how sad I was to hear the F1 sendoff yesterday? Sigh.

Colorado said...

The overwhelming majority of the audience at the actual awards show, is not the fans, but rather industry execs, manufacturer honchos, and the over-the-wall guys. It has nothing to do with the fans or the rest of gthe team back at the shops. Each year that I have watched the awards, I cringe at the fake smiles and the fake drama of the always-used "Championship Winner head shot, with the second place contender just past his face in the background as he toasts him on camera so it looks as though they actually like each other good for the sponsors to show sportsmanship" crap. The awards shows needed a boost OUT of NYC, as the people there(the majority) could care less about NASCAR. The move to Vegas proved promising, with a chance for the actual fans to attend, but soon became, as JD says, a fish out of water. I can even see now, the almighty Hendrick/Dupont/5 Hour Energy Drink/Toyota/Chevrolet forcing Bowyer and Gordon to announce on tv, that they are good friends, and just had dinner the night before... BTW, has everyone seen the blatant politicking from ISC helping the Staten Island residents from Superstorm Sandy? Really? How much more fake can NASCAR/ Lesa France get?

17972 B. C. said...

To me it is not a fan event at all, it is a celebration for the team,sponsors,and NASCAR.From casual Twitter reads, most involved enjoy the visit to Vegas as the reward. I seriously doubt anyone books a convention in Vegas and thinks they will be the sole focus,it is the nature of Vegas as a convention town. Vegas is Vegas, fun n frivolity.a place to reward yourself. As for Charlotte,i feel for them, but the area gets 3 NASCAR weekends a year, they added a weekend for the Hall of Fame induction along with NASCAR preview,at what point does it fall on others to pull some weight in the Charlotte area too.

Vicky D said...

I always questioned Nascar putting the HOF in Charlotte, I have been to the R&R HOF in Cleveland so many times and it's very popular, Cleveland not being your typical R&R history location. They could have put the Nascar HOF anywhere else too. These rubber chicken banquets are way too boring to watch on tv. I'll be skipping it again this year.

Anonymous said...

The banquet will be held at the Wynn for two more years I believe. The final race of the year should be at Vegas and the banquet should be held somewhere else in Vegas so fans can attend. Otherwise, what's the point?

Ancient Racer said...

The concept of holding the annual awards ceremonies/banquet in NYC at least made sense as the underlying object was to gain media exposure. New York is the media center of the country if not the world and when the event moved there, though in absolute terms it was not that long ago, the communications environment we have today was non existent and it has been my long held belief based upon experience that reporters are a lazy lot, generally, and are much more likely to notice you and report on you if what you do is, shall we say, "handy". Taken from this perspective the tenure of the event in NYC was successful in my judgement.

Of course were you ever in The City during the time NASCAR was holding its events they were practically speaking as invisible to Joe Average on the street as are most goings on. It is a big crowded place and while racecars were parading down Broadway one block over a totally nude boy band painted like Leopards would be playing Dixieland Jazz. It is the way of the place.

Las Vegas does not make sense in the way NYC did though as I said above the communications environment is vastly different so exposure, at least theoretically, could be equal. At the same time Las Vegas is cheaper, much cheaper, than NYC during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas when accommodations and venues are typically at a premium. Too, Las Vegas has for those who are interested other draws in addition to cost and for the life of me I cannot help but conclude those draws had some impact on the decision the deciders made to hold the event there. No other analysis really fits. If one is to abandon NYC why else go to Vegas? Why take the events recognizing a new National Champion of a sport still mainly anchored in the Southeast there? The mind boggles looking for an alternative explanation. Why not, if Charlotte isn't to be the choice, then, say, Nashville? But Vegas? C'mon. If I am there and have the choice between NASCAR and Penn & Teller....

As for the show itself I imagine I will dip in if only to cringe a bit. What is burned into my pea brain is an image of Mike Joy and Krista Voda in evening wear doing stand-ups in a near empty hallway while a trickle of drivers, owners, etc. (many looking distinctly uncomfortable in formal clothes) make their way in. Joan Rivers at the OSCARS it ain't.

Then there is the show itself and it has been consistent in its roaring lameness. This year promises to be no different. My memories of Howie Mandel stretch back to the days when he had hair and his comedy routine featured an inflated rubber surgical glove. I think of him and I wonder, "Reckon Howie even knows which way the cars turn?"

I say move the whole thing home. Bring it back to its geographic base. NASCAR is not and NASCAR never will be a truly "national" sport. Though many from other portions of the country and the world are fans and participants NASCAR is and NASCAR forever shall be a Southern thang.

Oh, and if Charlotte can successfully host a national political convention featuring a sitting President of the United States it can handle NASCAR without breaking a sweat.

That is all. :)

Sally said...

Since the 'chase' put so much emphasis on the title starting about mid season, the climax of the banquet has become anti-climatic. After being drubbed about the head with 'updates' of the standings every 14 minutes for so long, it's difficult to garner much enthusiasm for the banquet. Charlotte makes a lot more sense for guys who have spent months on the road to not have to travel away yet again. I have to wonder if a race fan would rather travel to Vegas, or to Charlotte which is the center of the sport. I wouldn't look to Nascar to help boost the Hall of Fame or the conventions center, since their 'generous' contribution to the Staten Island relief was a measley $5000. Either open up more of the events to the fans, or stop pretending there's any reason for fans to attend. If they choose to make it just for the teams and sponsors, that's fine. Maybe putting more of the events on line or televfising some of them (Most Popular, for instance, since fans determine that award), would be more practical...and honest. And, if they really need a 'celebrity host', why not someone like Jay Leno who is at least a 'car guy'?

Anonymous said...

Charlotte is the center of NASCAR's attention for about 25% of the year(All-Star Week/HOF Class Announcement, Coke 600 week, Bank of America 500 week, Hall of Fame Induction/Preview week, and 10 weeks during the Off-Season. Do we need to saturate this area furher when attendance has been falling at the HOF and all Charlotte races?

The post-season week in Vegas has been met with open arms from the people in Las Vegas as well as fans who travel to the area. Many of the people with the media mention on how there is a buzz there.

If you want to criticize the format of the banquet, that is one thing. The location ain't broke. Only thing that makes it hard is the Pacific Time Zone with coverage

Martinsville, VA

Ziggy said...

Now come on John, you're making to much common sense.

But remember, this is part of Bruton's plan to have the last race eventually moved to 'Vegas.

Bob in VT said...

i think the sillier choice is not having the Busch/Truck series banquets in Charlotte and centering fan events around those. Those are fan-friendlier series with easier to reach out to drivers and you could give them a real celebration of their own as opposed to the afterthought their banquet is under the shadow of the Cup champion being crowned. I would think gathering the top 10 in Charlotte for a banquet is easier than keeping the Top 5 around in Miami a little longer.

Dennis said...

I think it's more interesting in Vegas than Charlotte but what little I've seen of it in the past is so cringe inducing it's pretty much unwatchable. I may try again this year while watching Twitter for some funny Tweets. Maybe that will make it bearable.

BTW, it felt so weird this past weekend not to have any racing to watch except F1. Suffering from withdrawl already.

The Loose Wheel said...

It'd make more sense if Bruton ever gets his wish and the closer to the Chase is Vegas. I also agree if you're going to do it, do it Indycar-style. Like after the 500, have a banquet and dinner that night. Same could be true for NASCAR. Charlotte makes sense but I can see why they wanted to do something different. It made more sense before the banquet became so darn structured.

Bruce Simmons (NB&P) said...

Seriously??? "a national Chiropractors convention, a meeting of certified public accountants and ambulance company owners" will also be in Las Vegas.

Wow, those could all be potential business partners of our sport!

All joking aside, you make a great point and yet again, show your keen observational skills John.

If anything the smaller divisions should stay "in town" in Charlotte and maybe even the Cup series too.

Why don't they all return to Daytona for this year's end event? Or is there not much going on and too much of a weather threat this time of year. Oh... weather. Is that a factor, seeing as how anything West of Vegas barely gets anything in the form of threatening weather. (too often)

Alex Jordan said...

Having the awards banquet in New York made sense because New York is a major media market and NASCAR was hoping to gain exposure. NASCAR should move the banquet to Charlotte. Charlotte is NAscar's racehub. Fans should also be able to attend the banquet. HAving the banquet in Charlotte will give fans alot of NAscar-related activities to do during champions week.

Charlie Spencer said...

While I agree that holding it in Charlotte would be good for that city and the teams' bank balances, I wouldn't watch it regardless of who hosted or where it held and broadcast from. It's not racing, it's an awards show. Awards shows are boring.

Vicky D said...

But Alex, that's not what BF wants is the fans attending and ruining the event. He wants to run it like he wants whether anyone watches on tv or not, Las Vegas or NYC.

Fed UP said...

I'll catch the winner's speech on youtube!

Go Brad!

Having the awards in Charlotte should be a no brainer. Have pay per view, while you're at it. I'd rather listen to a bunch of f-bombs, then the obvious stilted scripted show that is going to be aired.

Why not get Jeff Foxworthy? At least he has a sense of comedic timing...or Ron White.

Theodore said...

The banquet isn't for the fans. It's for the sponsors, partners, teams, officials, etc. They don't want to go to Charlotte. They're always in Charlotte, either based there or visiting partners who are based there. They want to get away. They want to go to Vegas.

Alex Jordan said...

Vicky D,

Thats why the banquet will stay in Las Vegas and wont be in CHarlotte. I agree with Theodroe. THe banquet will never be in CHarlotte despite the fact that CHartlotte is Nascar's home.

Jimm57 said...

YES! PLEASE bring the banquet to Charlotte and please bring the Nascar Preview (A weekend in January where the new paint schemes for the upcoming season were revealed in Winston Salem, fans got their drivers autographs and the souvenier haulers sold discounted merchandise) back to North Carolina as well! I miss that the most.

Jackson said...

I remember way back when this blog was about TV.

Tim said...

Jackson said...

"I remember way back when this blog was about TV."

Try to keep up.

Jackson said...

OK. Well, since we're talking about the banquet, I thought Mandel was hilarious.

OSBORNK said...

I wonder how much it really matters. According to a recent survey below:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of sports fans finds that 53% say football is their favorite sport to follow. Baseball comes in a distant second with 16% support, while basketball is the favorite of 11%. Six percent (6%) of Americans prefer hockey, with no other sport including soccer, auto racing, golf and tennis reaching five percent (5%). (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Football is the top sport across the demographic board, with even more women (57%) than men (50%) saying it’s their favorite to follow.

Zieke said...

Sorry, did not watch any of it and could care less.It's a good thing for fantasy leagues just to keep any interest I have left. Actually F-1 racing is getting more interesting the more of it I watch.

Tim said...

Did anyone ever ask Howie who Kowalski is?

GinaV24 said...

I did watch the first part of the banquet and at least the entertainment seemed better than usual. I'm not a fan of Mandel but I thought the thing he did in disguise with the drivers was funny and irritating all at the same time.

I could totally skip the silly red carpet thing - just get to the speeches and the awards.

I didn't watch the whole thing, I really don't care much for award shows of any type and the NASCAR banquet is no different.

Mike in Texas said...

I was in Las Vegas last year during the Banquet for an unrelated trip. I have to say the city rolls out the Red Carpet for the event. While it may not make sense from a fan's POV to have it in Las Vegas, I can see why crew and family would enjoy going there.

The banquet it's self is painful to watch on TV. But, with the death of SPEED we probably won't have to worry about that next year.

BobfromOC said...

JD - Isn't it about time you 'changed the oil' on this topic and posted something else?

Eric said...

(Sport's Business Journal is reporting this...suprised you're not on top of it.)

NASCAR signs a deal with NBC; leaves ESPN and Turner.

NBC will outbid ESPN for NASCAR’s end-of-season packages that currently are on ESPN and Turner. The move complements NBC’s recent purchase of Formula One rights. It also provides highly rated live programming (through several NASCAR Sprint Cup races and the Nationwide Series) for NBC Sports Network, which has struggled to find viewers. With the move, NASCAR runs the risk of having fewer highlights on “SportsCenter.” Ultimately, it decides to move to the highest bidder and NBC.

GinaV24 said...

happend to see an article this morning that Showtime isn't renewing Inside NASCAR for the coming year. Apparently they are going to "shop" the show around. Good luck with that, since it seems that finding good NASCAR programming is like finding hen's teeth and there doesn't seem to be much interest from many parties.