Out Of Bounds

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I'm still amazed at the hesitance by some media members to recognize NASCAR as a major sport. Despite the attendance, television ratings, corporate sponsorship and widespread exposure the sport now receives, there are still those in the press who think this is all just another fad which will fade away like the Arena Football League or disco.

What these so-called "experts" don't realize is the heritage and history of NASCAR. Now I realize the last few months have included several moves by the sanctioning body that would seem to forget its past, but the point is NASCAR racing has been around for more than 50 years. Sure, its popularity within mainstream America is recent but there are pundits who think this whole deal was concocted in a FOX studio last week.

When the series came to Chicago last weekend for the third running of the Tropicana 400, the city's media did a decent job of covering the race. Most of the six major television outlets were on hand over the weekend, all four area daily newspapers covered it and a handful of radio stations showed up. As I said, decent coverage.

But it wasn't anywhere near what was delivered twice earlier this summer when two golf events came to town - the U.S. Open and the Western Open. Those events generated 10 pages of coverage in the newspapers, lead stories on television sportscasts, TV special and live radio reports.

By all comparisons, the NASCAR race in Joliet was a bigger event than either golf tournament. Attendance race weekend was in excess of 170,000 over the course of three days including Chicago sports' two biggest spectator turnouts of the year with crowds in excess of 75,000 for both the Busch race and the Tropicana 400. Television ratings peaked nationally at a 4.8, easily outdistancing either tournament's TV audience.

But yet there was NASCAR being treated like a secondary event. A golf tournament will always get more media attention in a city like Chicago for one very simple reason - the sports editors and sports directors who make the decision on what will be covered and how all golf. They're golfers so when the PGA or even the LPGA comes to town, it's their chance to cover the sport and athletes they can relate to.

If more of these folks raced a stock car at a weekly track on a Saturday night rather than had a permanent tee time every Sunday morning, I guarantee NASCAR would get the coverage it deserved.

So even as the television ratings continue to climb while every other major sport sees its numbers decline, NASCAR must still prove itself to the general sports media.

That truly deserves a two stroke penalty.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2003

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