The Complain Game

The passion of racing fans is a powerful force. It’s made NASCAR the number two sport in the U.S., kept CART alive through some very difficult times, and has spawned the success of numerous other forms of racing from go-karts to motorcycles to Saturday night short tracks.

But this intense passion has also led to a troublesome trend: incessant complaining. You know, whining, moaning, griping, etc.

So, with the full acknowledgement that a column complaining about complaining is inherently hypocritical, here goes.

Most importantly: Stop the whining!

If there’s one thing that a growing segment of disenchanted race fans usually agrees upon, it’s that (insert sanctioning body name here) is greedy and incompetent, (insert TV network here) shows far too many commercials and only cares about money, it was much better in the old days when (insert sanctioning body name here again) had real racing, and it’s far too expensive to attend races.

Instead of all the complaining, let’s take a minute to smell the roses. It wasn’t too long ago that much of the racing wasn’t on TV at all, or if it was, it was tape-delayed and/or edited. In the not-too-distant past, many of us didn’t know the Winston Cup qualifying results from Friday until “Raceday” came on TNN on Sunday morning. Most local papers outside of the Southeast never had those results in the paper, so fans in 43 states were left in the dark about where their favorite driver qualified.

Fast forward to today. NASCAR fans in every state can tune in to “SportsCenter”, their local news, SpeedChannel, Fox Sports Net, and many other outlets to get their NASCAR news, results, and features. On SPEED, if you miss a program, there’s a good chance you can catch the re-airing at least one or two times.

You want NASCAR? Tune in to Inside Winston Cup, NASCAR Victory Lane, Trackside, three separate editions of SpeedNews, qualifying, happy hour, and Totally NASCAR.

Simply, NASCAR fans, we’ve got “it” bad, and we’ve got it good. As in “all good.”

Formula One fans might be the group of people that perplex me the most. One perusal through the F1 message boards at Speed Channel will make your head spin. By no means am I an F1 basher; I watch the races, have been to the U.S. Grand Prix, and even planned a trip to England around the Grand Prix at Silverstone.

If it’s possible, however, F1 fans as a whole can be a bigger bunch of whiners than the NASCAR faithful, something I never thought attainable.

Fans complain about everything, and I mean everything. They don’t like (insert SPEED F1 broadcaster name here), they’d rather have the Canadian coverage, SPEED Channel should carry another practice session, and they’re already proposing replacements for current broadcast talent. This list of complaints is about the TV coverage only. When it comes to F1 management and the racing, F1 fans think Bill France Jr. looks like a benevolent dictator next to Mr. Ecclestone.

Many people even complain that SPEED does qualifying on a slight time-delay basis to work in commercials and show more on-track action. What’s their beef? They also want to use their computer to keep tabs on live timing and scoring on the Internet, and the slight time delay trashes their satisfying multimedia viewing experience. Good grief.

Don’t these fans realize that SPEED Channel management is so committed to Formula One that it engaged in a bidding war with itself? In other words, SPEED was the only network that even showed an interest in carrying the sport. These fans should be doing back flips that they not only get live racing, but they also get historical races, practice, and qualifying. There’s a good chance that if it wasn’t for SPEED, the only TV outlet would be three or four F1 races a year on ABC, with at least two of them tape-delayed.

Finally, the other group that cracks me up is the NASCAR-haters who watch SPEED. The SPEED Channel message boards are filled with people trashing NASCAR and complaining that SPEED doesn’t show enough aviation, motorcycles, World Rally, go-karts, boats, lawn mowers, and the soap box derby.

Hello, McFly? If it wasn’t for NASCAR being so profitable for SPEED, and NASCAR, on its own, causing SPEED Channel to reach into 60 million homes, there would be no SPEED Channel on your cable system or satellite dish. If it wasn’t for SPEED, your favorite series wouldn’t be on TV at all. So just be grateful for what you have.

OK, that’s the end of my rant about ranting. Race fans are incredibly fortunate to have the media outlets covering the many forms of motorsports the way they do. Let’s show some appreciation of that for once.

THIS WEEK’S NOTES: The overnight numbers for Winston Cup racing from Martinsville on FOX were a somewhat disappointing 4.6 rating and 10 share . . . The final numbers for Talladega were fairly strong, especially in light of the war coverage. The Aaron’s 499 turned in a 6.2 rating and 15 share. This was the best performance ever head-to-head against the NCAA basketball tournament . . . The Busch race from Talladega garnered a 2.4 rating and 6 share . . . Let’s give some kudos to SPEED Channel for the way they handled coverage of DW in the Truck race. I was afraid it might be all-DW all the time, but it wasn’t. They maximized the opportunity to have him drive without detracting from the race coverage or other competitors . . . The IRL race turned in a 1.0 rating and 2 share for Sunday’s contest from Japan on ABC . . . Don’t look for Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of DirecTV to mean much for race fans. His control of the satellite provider may have big implications for other TV sports, but it should make no difference for race fans . . . Dale Earnhardt Jr. will appear on “Jimmy Kimmel” on ABC on Thursday, April 24th.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2003

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