Archive for December, 2014

NASCAR and Rock & Roll

Posted: December 19, 2014 in Music, Racing

With Speedway Motorsports, Inc. removing nearly 60,000 seats between two tracks, you can’t help but wonder what led to once normally sold out tracks being resorted to such demolitions.  Charlotte Motor Speedway will be losing 41,000 seats while Atlanta Motor Speedway will get a reduction of 17,000.  Fans have obviously stopped going to not just these, but a large number of tracks around the NASCAR series as is very evident with even just a quick glance at the television coverage.  Why this big of a drop in attendance figures?

Is the television product becoming so advanced and well accepted that folks feel it is a better experience to stay home?  Why not?  It beats the hours of travel, hundreds or even thousands of dollars of expenses, the horrible traffic most tracks are guilty of, and being crammed next to sweaty, smelly strangers in 100 degree heat for roughly four or five hours.  Yet, no TV presentation can substitute the sounds, smells of the cars, and first person sights of actually being there.

Or, let’s be honest and face the possible truth – has the interest begun to dwindle?  Think back to when Brian France took over control of the organization in October of 2003.  That’s when I and a lot of other traditional lovers of the sport began to take a step back.  I will stand by the thought that Brian ruined the sport by essentially selling out and grossly exploiting the exposure that came from the still mind-rattling death of Dale Earnhardt nearly three years prior.  Yes, more sponsors coming in was great, but at what cost?  The sport began being marketed toward a younger crowd; a non-traditional crowd in hopes of growing the fan base.

More celebrities began showing up.  Figures from other sports started to appear.  It made one wonder if the footage from the garage area was a race track, or the red carpet at the Oscars or ESPYs.  Then the gimmicks came.  There were big changes to the cars (for better or for worse) as well as the move that officially ended my tenure as a NASCAR fan – the introduction of the new post-season playoff format for the championship.  Well, what if all of those things have run their courses?

Yes, NASCAR is still extremely popular throughout all three of its elite series, but to what extent?  The big NASCAR fans will spend as much time (if not more) in front of their TV on Saturdays on Sundays during the spring and summer as what football fans do during the fall and winter.  Those are the big NASCAR fans, however.  You will hear or see smatterings of casual followers tuning in for the big Cup races on Sundays, but overall TV ratings are declining as a whole.  So, did that younger, non-traditional new crowd realize there was a reason they hadn’t been a fan of the sport before?  Did the star athletes and the celebrities enjoy their invite for a free trip to a new experience and just chalk it up as a one-off perk of their career choice?

A lot of people have been quick to back-up SMI’s claim that the seat removal is to erase seats that weren’t being used anyway and increase space for higher quality hospitality options.  Which basically means, “we will have better experiences with which to treat the guests of sponsors (a lot of whom are there for free), and we can give up on trying to entice new, paying fans”.  But, what does SMI care?  Fewer seats means they can jack-up the prices for all of their other seats because of that whole “supply-and-demand” thing.  Well, they can at least try because there obviously isn’t the same demand.

Better TV?  The newer fans are beginning to walk away?  Those celebrities couldn’t be converted into ambassadors?  However you look at it, you have to question the popularity of NASCAR 11-years into Brian France’s involvement.

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2015 induction class and they induce some serious head scratching.  This seems to be rather normal from the 700-plus member voting panel.  The most glaring inclusion is Green Day getting in on their very first ballot.  Yes, they have been around for 25 years, but when you factor in bands still outside-looking-in like Deep Purple, Bon Jovi, Yes, Def Leppard, and many others it seems a bit atrocious that Green Day can just waltz on in with only one turn on the ballot.

On the other hand, a couple of positives are that talent such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, as well as, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts have been voted in.  Both are extremely deserving as Joan Jett is in the Top-5 for a large number of the population when you ask them for their favorite female artists, or just ask them to name off female singers.  Factor in what the Blackhearts can and continue to do.  Factor in that they’re still out touring (albeit it casinos and state fairs).  That’s an act that deserves to be in.

SRV goes without saying that he and his band are no-doubt hall of famers.  The only troublesome thought is that it took this long for it to happen, and that it came as result of a “popular vote” from the public.  Yes, the public had to demand it.  Not sure where the members of the voting panel have been for the past four decades.  His talent and success cannot be questioned, and even if that wasn’t enough to get him in, his legacy and continued popularity since that night in August of 1990 should have been more than sufficient grounds for this honor years ago.

Overall, congrats to everyone who is going into the hall this upcoming spring.  It makes us eager to see what next winter’s selections will bring.  Also, probably a bit hesitant.

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