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Pre-race? We Don’t Need no Stinking Pre-RaceAn Opinion
April 17, 2008
By Brian Watkins
In FOX’s defense, they were under contract to broadcast the race in its entirety, so cutting from the ball game was not something they had a choice in. Trying to get the last bit of a baseball game also made sense. What didn’t make sense was what happened around 8:30pm EST last Sunday. That was when FOX made the call to the folks at NASCAR and asked them to delay the race from 8:45 to 8:53 to accommodate the end of the ball game. NASCAR said yes.
Now on the surface, a 10 minute delay isn’t such a big deal, especially if it’s to make sure the fans at home get to see the race in its entirety. But honestly, it’s not the folks at home that should be NASCAR’s priority. It’s the folks in the stands and in the infield. I watch most of the races from home, and I enjoy it. But what do I pay for the privilege? A bag of chips and a few beers? My satellite bill? Not exactly a huge investment or commitment to the sport.
The folks in the stands on the other hand, especially the one’s that drove a long distance for the race, made a substantial commitment to the sport. Tickets, food, gas, travel time, souvenirs, hotel rooms, camping fees… I could give you an estimate, but any of you that have been to a race know the cost, and with fuel and food prices on the rise you know well and good that it ain’t cheap to be a fan at the track. To them NASCAR said, sorry all you folks in the hot bleachers drinking $5 beers; the folks with their A/C and couches at home are more important.
I know what you’re thinking, “is he REALLY complaining about 10 minutes”?... Well, yes, yes I am. But it’s not really the amount of time but rather the principal of the time and what it represents: broadcast TV’s influence over the sport, and it was a bad precedent to set.
I’m the first to say that overall, the broadcast coverage of NASCAR events is great, and it’s certainly a far cry better than the 5 minute highlights we used to get on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. However just because we have better coverage now doesn’t mean the coverage should dictate the starting times. I say this mainly because now that the delayed start has been done at least once, how long is it until we have a few extra laps under yellow will be thrown into a mid-race caution so the network can get a few more commercials in? Once that starts, how long until we go from the occasional competition caution to the “commercial caution”?
Most professional sports have “TV Timeouts”, they’ve become commonplace. While I don’t necessarily agree with them, at least other sports for the most part are better suited for commercial breaks. If a driver has a 20 car lead and suddenly out comes the yellow flag so we can hear some guy tell us how much better his life is now that he’s “regular”, the whole tempo of the race is gone and the outcome has been directly influenced in the name of broadcast commercials.
I hope that day will never come, but after last Sunday's race, I’m beginning to think that it’s closer than we’d like it to be.
You can contact Brian Watkins at .. Insider Racing News
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