Another View, Mine: August 2017

John Nieman

Whither NASCAR?

Previous visitors to this space have read my conflicted views on the state of this great sport. First I railed against the stage racing and now I’ve embraced it. My feelings about the France family have been well-documented. And I’ve expressed mixed feelings about the decline in attendance and viewership because an important byproduct to me is the ease of obtaining tickets and the room I’ve had to sit at events.

But I am now concerned about the obvious decline in popularity. First and foremost, the France family tends to tinker with the rules and format of the sport whenever they see empty seats. If it results in a good change, that’s fine. But more often than not, the changes are not good.

One change that has probably also contributed to the decrease in fans is the setup package now in place. Quite simply, the cars can’t pass each other at many of the tracks. I have it on pretty good authority that the new car’s setup contributed greatly to the retirement of Jeff Gordon. I believe it also has been a factor in some great drivers this season not having wins, while some lesser lights have been to Victory Lane.

Another change that has hurt the sport is the elimination of testing throughout the year. The policy was put in place to help the lesser-funded teams, but it seems unnecessary now that there are so few teams competing.

A good change is the apparent recent shift to qualifying on race day. Giving the fans who attend more for their buck is a real step in a good direction.

But it does not need a lot of tinkering as a sport, we just have to realize that our culture—world-wide—is moving toward constant stimuli in our entertainment. There are only so many people who can sit and watch cars going around in circles waiting and greatly appreciating the art of the pass, the strategy of pit stops, the racing in the back of the leaders that sets up the positioning later in the race.

There is constant action, it just requires knowledge of the sport to appreciate the constant action.

It’s the same thing that infuriates when friends and others opine how there is no action in soccer and baseball. Knowl­edgeable fans of both shake their heads in wonder at those statements.

So I implore NASCAR to leave the sport mostly as it is. Have some truck races at some of the smaller tracks where NASCAR was born. Rockingham, Hickory, South Boston and others deserve a national series race as much as Eldora! Don’t expect the crowds of the nineties and turn of the century. A lot of those fans have moved on to Facebook and drone racing. It’s okay, they really just caused long lines at the bathrooms and souvenir trailers. And the constant getting up and down from their seats was infuriating.

English Premier League soccer starts next week! The Championship league began this past weekend. If you get BE IN Sports cable channel, get into Championship soccer. Wide open. As opposed to the Premier League where you have the clear haves and have-nots. the Championship can be won and lost by every team.

Also on BE IN, the Spanish and French leagues are shown. Like the EPL, both leagues are top- and bottom-heavy, but there is no game on the planet like a Clasico between Bar­celona and Real Madrid, and the addition of Neymar to PSG makes them the “other” team to watch in Champions League this next year.

My take on the Neymar record transfer is positive. As opposed to Lebron James, who famously took his talents to South Beach in a move where he left a team where he was the show to join two other superstars, Neymar left two superstars to go somewhere to be the show. I think that’s got something to admire. Of course, the yacht-loads of money is also a consideration.

With all that’s going on in the world, soccer season can’t return quick enough for me. Were it not for Dynamo summer indoor soccer at Futbolfit, I would be lost.

And also thanks to Buddy, Scottsman and Marc for their Facebook posts that remind me of the pleasant life that is native to Chapel Hill. I miss it so often.

Martha and I were in Savannah this past weekend for our anniversary. Going through the cemetery and reading the epitaphs of the brave patriots who fought for and built this great country brought me tears and made me realize that we can get through this.

Got stung by some wasps out on the farm. Ice cream was warranted. Fat Boy Index: 279.