Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: Dale Jr.’s Shades of Grey or How to Grab a NASCAR Fan’s Attention

Ha! Made you look. Yes, the title to this column is a completely gratuitous effort to add to the NASCAR web crawlers’ pile of Google results for two of the most popular catch phrases in today’s pop culture. I could have popped Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch or Jeff Gordon into the title, but if I’m really going to go for the big hit, I might as well utilize the most easily recognized name in NASCAR.

The fact is every week when I tune into the endless hours of pre-race programming, the vast majority of the shows are crammed with segments that focus on familiar names that are sure to stop us in our daily chores and actually force us to pay attention to the bright box in the entertainment center. But you know what? I’m beginning to think screaming, “Kurt yelled at a reporter again!” or “Danica failed to finish in the top 10” is a rather shabby way to cover a sport.

I realize in this day and age of “reality TV” we – the television audience – have been programmed to react to manufactured drama as a matter of course. Without the proper music cue and melodramatic waving of arms and distraught announcers, it seems network personnel believe the average American is unable to discern whether a 142-race winless streak is a bad thing or not. Well, it’s not good, but after almost four years since Mr. Earnhardt’s presence in victory lane, is it even a storyline that deserves any kind of attention at all?

So often we are caught in between the fine line of watching a live sporting event and what has been determined to be entertainment. I often wonder exactly how those production meetings work prior to going live… make sure to mention these five drivers. It doesn’t matter if they’ve brought a competitive machine today – nor even ever! Ratings are key.

Ratings for TV, hits for online media and circulation for print. Numbers – not people. In the grand world of advertising, that which also fuels the teams of NASCAR, the ultimate payoff is garnered from a great commercial. Catch phrases, words that incite and titillating topics such as Kurt Busch’s latest pit-road tirade have actually nothing to do with the race we watch. The coverage is self-serving, transparent, devoid of depth and honesty.

Of course we could actually lay all the blame on the networks’ doorstep for the packaged product served up to us week in-week out… but that would be ignoring the real reason FOX and its relatives generate eye candy full of hot topics.

It draws a response. When Jimmie Johnson‘s No. 48 wins for the millionth time this decade, we may bemoan the camera’s apparent love affair with his face, but the fact we make any noise at all guarantees that the suits will repeat the interview ad nauseum.

It all comes down to we are predictable creatures and the people paid to study our viewing and spending habits are well aware of our foibles, because we tell them. I am sorry to say the only real way to change the depressingly crisp television coverage of our rough and ready sport is to STOP WATCHING. As long as the devoted fans continue to click on every mention of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick and even Jimmie Johnson such that we can voice our adoration or derision, we will continue to be fed their manufactured presence.

It’s up to you and me, folks. Our cable boxes, visits to internet chat sites and purchase of printed media are the flags NASCAR uses to create the product we watch. Take a moment and make sure the message you are sending is the right one.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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