Opinion: Change Not for the Better?
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on January 19, 2014 | 11:30 A.M. EST
Whatever NASCAR finally lands on most likely won’t be known for several days. There’s no doubt the news will send seismic shockwaves through the fan base based on the feedback over just the last several days. (Photo: Getty Images)
I finally figured out what the NASCAR of today reminds me of.
We’ve been married 13 years this summer and have been together even longer. And while she possesses a long list of wonderful traits and characteristics, continually changing her mind is not one of them.
Which brings us to NASCAR.
In reality the proposed modifications to the Chase format as outlined in the Charlotte Observer report from the weekend aren’t all that terrible. The fatal flaw of the Chase system since its debut has been the lack of true meaning for wins.
Fans don’t buy a ticket, watch on television or listen to the radio to follow a points championship until it really matters. The Chase has put the title talk front and center from the start of preseason testing. The individuality and uniqueness of races has been sucked out of the Sprint Cup Series and even the sport’s touchstone events like Daytona, Darlington, Charlotte, Indianapolis and Bristol were neutered in the process.
Every event “pays the same amount of points” became the mantra rather than a win the race at all cost mentality.
The only way to get into the championship picture under the proposed new idea is to take a checkered flag. Hooray.
But the rest of the “American Idol” like bottom four elimination at certain points inside the 10-race Chase and a winner take all season finale are leaning too far toward gimmicky for my immediate taste.
Whatever NASCAR finally lands on most likely won’t be known for several days. There’s no doubt the news will send seismic shockwaves through the fan base based on the feedback over just the last several days.
However the bigger question for me is not so much about how the Chase overhaul will be received, but fans’ overall exhaustion with change of any kind.
Since last season ended, the winter months have been filled with discussion on changes big and small. The list includes new Sprint Cup Series rules, schedule adjustments, qualifying procedures, halftime breaks and other race presentation changes as part of the “format of the future” and now yet another change to crowning a champion.
No sport or business for that matter can sit idle. NASCAR needs to look down the road over the next decade to build a new audience for its aging fan base. So change is inevitable.
But how much is too much? Will the cost of finding new followers be running off those long-time fans that have stuck around over the last 10-plus years when shaping the sport felt to many like they were caught in a taffy pull? And who's to say the sought-after new generation of fan is going to embrace these latest incarnations?
Too many maneuvers to ensure a tight title story or the elusive “Game 7 moment” walk dangerously close to the line of manipulation. The integrity and credibility of a sport’s championship can’t help but be damaged when it changes on nearly an annual basis.
I’ll hold my full judgment until the final announcement is made.
But like NASCAR – and my wife – I do reserve the right to then change my mind.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.
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