MONTE DUTTON – THE BENEFITS OF BEING THERE
One characteristic NASCAR fans seem to lack these days is attention span.
Any race that lasts for three hours or more is bound to have its dull parts. One of my favorite slogans is, “If every race were a classic, there would be no such thing as a classic.”
What’s true of races is true of other sports. No one who roots for Alabama minds if the Crimson Tide wins by three or more touchdowns. No one who roots for Kyle Busch minds if he leads most of the laps. One problem is that a ballgame offers a choice of two, and a race offers a choice of 40, or perhaps 10 who are prime contenders.
On Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, lightning delays stretched the show on TV to almost eight hours, counting the pre-race show. Those who hung around learned a lot about recent history. I was happy Fox showed documentaries instead of replays of old races. Then again, I was also happy TCM was showing films noir.
The racing – and this includes the Xfinity Series race that was run at noon without the interruption of Mother Nature – was excellent.
Some fans, particularly those active on Twitter, seemed nonplussed. Then again, I don’t really know what those who weren’t on Twitter thought. I suspect there are many more fans who are not on Twitter than those who are realize. I read a lot of tweets that left me asking, “Hell, man, what’s it gonna take? Five lead changes a lap?”
Television is the next best thing to being there, but it’s still a poor substitute. At present, almost no one is there, and it’s part of the problem. At this point in my career, I am almost never there, but I try to watch the race in the manner I did when I was. Most of the TV announcers aren’t there, either, and they try mightily to do the same thing. They can’t pull it off, either, but they have enough technology at their disposal to make a go of it.
Perceptions of racing now tilt more than ever before toward those who aren’t there, either. Racing isn’t better on TV, but it’s almost infinitely less expensive and convenient.
Road courses are great on TV, but a fan at the track, unless it’s the “roval” at Charlotte, can’t see much. I enjoyed Watkins Glen and Sonoma more for the trips than the races. It always struck me as a bit ridiculous that I traveled all the way to upstate New York and California wine country to sit in the press box and watch TV. By the time my 20-year stint of life on the road ended, the majority of the my colleagues followed races from the infield, and sometimes my private review of their stories was that they really didn’t see half of what was going on.
This trend began when NASCAR started bringing the top finishers to the infield media center instead of the press box. Those of us in the press box would have to watch a closed-circuit feed and ask questions into a microphone. Sometimes drivers acted as if they were mission control and the press-box writers were in spaceships.
Sometimes there were glitches.
“Jeff, do you think you could have caught Kyle if there hadn’t been a caution flag?”
A NASCAR operative would say, “Hey, look, if you’ve got a question, ask it. We haven’t got time to wait for you to come up with something.”
I got memorably angry several times at the condescending attitudes. I guess my attitude is a bit condescending now.