Want NASCAR information? You don’t have to wait long to see all you wanted to know and then some. NASCAR is everywhere these days thanks to the Internet and social media. In the Information Age, people can instantly satisfy their curiosity on just about anything, including racing, with just a few clicks. It’s instant gratification at its finest, and it’s a great thing for race fans.
Or is it?
In today’s world, nobody has to wait for anything in terms of information. But with all that at our fingertips, is it possible that it takes something away from the sport? There’s little anticipation any more, little reason to savor a moment, because everything is leaked online as everyone races to be the first to break a story to the masses and every move is captured for posterity on You Tube five minutes after it happens.
By all counts, we should be thrilled with this. But maybe, just maybe, less really is more when it comes to something people are passionate about.
Think about this: how many fans out there used to wait each night for “RPM 2Nite” to come on so you could get your daily racing fix? Sure, the ‘Net was around by the 1990’s, and you could find plenty of fodder by checking out Jayski, but we weren’t connected 24/7 then, didn’t have access to the whole world via cell phones, iPads, and laptops all the time.
There was a day when the annual media tour was something fans relished because it was like awakening from a winter slumber and her it was, time to go racing! Preseason testing was the first taste of action anyone had had in weeks, and it felt so good to finally see cars on track and see racing on the sportscast again. You couldn’t wait for all that, because that was what there was. Announcements were made at the track, and everyone looked forward to certain races, like Charlotte, because they were most likely to hear a juicy piece of news about silly season, sponsorship, or a schedule change.
We were hungry for racing news, because it was news. Sure, there was speculation—in those days, lots of what you saw on sites like Jayski was speculation. Now, it’s hard to have a press conference where everyone doesn’t already know what’s being announced. There are very few surprises. It’s a little like knowing what every Christmas present was in advance. That seemed like a great thing as a kid, until it actually happened. Then it made the actual unwrapping anticlimactic, a little disappointing.
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Social media has also given race fans some great things. They have a chance to interact with the sport’s stars like never before, to see glimpses of the lives of anyone in the sport. Fans can feel like they have a special connection with their favorites. That’s never a bad thing.
Except…you used to be able to go to the track and meet some drivers, usually at their souvenir haulers on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. Fans waited in line with an item to have autographed, and while they waited, they connected with each other. Complete strangers had something in common during those waits. Now, you can get a retweet from your racing hero, but the days of standing in those autograph lines, and talking to the other fans, and enjoying a common bond, are all but extinct.
And as ratings drop and apathy reigns, it’s hard not to wonder…is too much racing to blame? Would it make the sport more exciting if fans had to wait in line at an autograph session or plan dinner around the news of the day? Would people care more if they didn’t have everything NASCAR immediately available? Would the season be more special if the industry was dormant for several weeks like it once seemed to be?
It’s hard to say. On one hand, there was something almost magic about the anticipation for racing. But on the other, in the ADD Generation, would people wait out the offseason with bated breath or stand in line to ask a driver a question? Can they even be expected to sit through a 500-mile race and still be excited at the end, let alone endure a long, cold winter where racing only shows up on ESPN once a week? As much as anyone over 25 wants to roll their eyes, this is the future of the sport’s fan base. Should the need for a world in 30-second sound bites be catered to in order to draw new fans to the sport? Or is there any way to teach people who have never had to wait for anything the value of anticipation or that the wait is what makes something special?
If the best part of Christmas as a kid was the second before you ripped off the wrapping paper and discovered what was inside or the best part of a race was that moment that the pace car dove to pir road before the green flag waived, it was because of the unlimited possibilities that moment held. That giftwrapped box could hold anything; anyone could win that race. It was, somehow, almost better than the reality, no matter what that gift contained or who won that race.
But that moment is all but gone, because there is little to wait for anymore. People don’t care anymore about possibility; some many now care more about results, about having it all and having it right now.
We live in an age of instant gratification, and racing is no exception. Every moment of every day, through the Internet and smartphones and the Information Age, we’re inundated with everything we could possibly want about racing. You can read about the latest sponsor deal, see your favorite driver’s most recent photo of his cat, and know what half the sport had for breakfast…all before you’ve had your own breakfast. There’s nothing to really look forward to, no need to savor anything special.
If only we’d known that less was more, we might have saved the sport.