Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Great American Disgrace

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

As I walked to the Media Shuttle after the Pro Bowl Game on February 1, 2010, I asked NFL Senior Vice President of Public Relations Greg Aiello why a sport would hold its Super Bowl at the beginning of the season as NASCAR does.

Aiello couldn't give me an answer but his facial expressions and body language indicated that he's pleased with the fact that his sport doesn't have to deal with that question.

There are two major things in the Sports World that boggle my mind.

First, unless Congress backs the NCAA into a corner, I doubt we'll ever see a legitimate playoff system in NCAA Division I College Football where the underdog has a chance to win the championship on the field as we do with March Madness.

Second, I don't have a problem with NASCAR holding an opening race at it's headquarters in Daytona Beach, FL, but not it's premier event. The opening race should be the Pepsi 400.

There are many reasons why I feel this way.

In February, the Sports Fan is hungover from football season with the climactic conclusion of the Super Bowl.

There are plenty of College Basketball games to choose from leading to March Madness. For Hockey fans, there is the NHL Game of the Week and around this time they have their All-Star Game with the exception of Olympic years. This year a crowd that exceeded 108,000 watched the NBA All-Star Game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium, the same day as this year's Daytona 500.

Football fans still have the NFL Scouting Combine leading up to the NFL Draft. Furthermore, while the transition from the Super Bowl to March Madness takes place, Spring Training is right around the corner.

No matter how many Auto Racing fans there are, it's hard to compete for viewership with everything that's going on.

The Indy Car Open Wheel Circuit doesn't do much right, but I do give them credit for showcasing their big race over Memorial Day Weekend.

If NASCAR was smart, the Daytona 500 "The Great American Race" should be held on July 4. What better way to celebrate our country's birthday than this way.

By setting up a scenario where you have the "Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing" at the beginning of the month, and the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis at the end of July, that's a great bookend of "Pressure Packed Racing."

How neat would it be for a driver to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 within four weeks? There have been 16 Brickyard 400's and the winner of this race has won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship eight times.

If the 51-year old Daytona 500 were held during the summer, it would allow families to take their youngsters on a trip to see the "Great American Race" and even slip in a trip to nearby Walt Disney World in Orlando. I'm sure the folks at Disney would be thrilled that with Daytona International Speedway's 167,785 capacity, and Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, etc. would love to show their hospitality.

More importantly, a summer Daytona 500 would have the Television Stage all to itself with less competition. While the Daytona 500 is always exciting, by mid-summer, we'll know which drivers are going to be in contention in the championship chase.

Even though what I'm saying here will never happen, I still believe it's worth mentioning.

But as I think about things, I've been told to never say never.

So I'll say that I never thought I'd see the day when Major League Baseball would ever have inter-league play when it began in 1997. But in an effort to renew the public's interest in MLB following the 1994 player's strike, Commissioner Bud Selig had to do something to increase attendance and raise television ratings thus this was the obvious thing to do.

Baseball didn't want to mess with tradition and take away from the significance of the World Series. But MLB was smart enough that during its long season that by using the third week in May and all of June, this would keep fans attention by creating inter-city/regional rivalries, past World Series match-ups and getting a preview of what fans could see the following October.

Normally, I do watch the Daytona 500 but this year, I had no desire to watch two Super Bowls, albeit in two different sports, in back-to-back weeks.

I have a feeling that I'm not the only person that feels this way. I may have missed a race that featured a pot hole on the track that lasted over six hours and resulted in 1:44 in delays, but I do feel that the NASCAR's opening week's Super Bowl system is a pot-hole in itself. Like the track, the system needs to be repaved.

I know that NASCAR's ratings are down, so the sport should follow the lead of MLB and shake things up! I hope I've made my case now I welcome any debate from all of you readers.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

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