Does NASCAR know when to hold ‘em?
On Friday, I got out of the shower. I do that most days, typically after getting in it. Most of the time, I wind up getting dressed in the bedroom and turn on the TV while I’m rubbing lotion into my ailing feet, then putting on my socks, pants, shoes, etc.
“Let’s Make a Deal” was on. I didn’t realize there was such a show anymore. Monty Hall recently turned 89 years old. Wayne Brady hosts it now.
So I’m watching this reworked version of a game show I grew up watching. Suddenly it occurred to me: NASCAR, over the past decade, has been a metaphor. For “Let’s Make a Deal.” NASCAR constantly turns down the money and opts for Door No. 2. Or the box.
Wayne Brady: “All right, you’ve got millions and millions of dollars. You can take that right now. Or you can give me the money and take what’s behind … that door.”
Brian Z. France: “I’m going for the door, Wayne.”
WB: “You’re already running a mainstream sport. You’re sure about this?”
BZF (dressed as a huge wedge of cheese): “I’m sure, Wayne. Who wants to be in the mainstream? I want to run the NFL out of business!”
Wayne takes the money. “What’s behind Door No. 2?”
Announcer’s voice (with buxom lass displaying merchandise): “Congratulations, Brian France, you’ll enjoy the breathtaking excitement of the Chase for the Nextel Cup! You’ll be there as the 10 best drivers in the world battle it out over 10 weeks to decide the championship of America’s Fastest Growing Sport!”
A few years later, BZF wangles another invitation to the show.
WB: “OK, Brian, you’ve earned untold millions more. You’ve implemented a new race car. You’ve moved races around. You can keep all this money, all these ticket sales, all these TV ratings, or you can risk it all on what’s in that box?”
The audience screams, “Go for it! Go For it!” Audiences always want the contestants to gamble. It’s not their money.
BZF: “Let’s see, Wayne, I could keep what I’ve got and be comfortable forever. But that’s just not good enough. I don’t want to be comfortable. No, I want to be even bigger than the NFL. I want to run the World Cup out of business. I’m going for the box!”
WB: “OK, it’s up to you. Show us what’s behind … the box!”
Announcer: “The Chase for the Sprint Cup is going to undergo changes, Mr. France! Instead of the 10 best drivers, now it’ll be the 12 best drivers!”
(Audience squeals as if Beatles just walked onto stage of “Ed Sullivan Show.”)
“But that’s not all. Oh, no, it won’t just be 10 races. It’ll be 10 races loaded with dazzling, wreck-spackled finishes … in overtime. Dozens of cars will not be allowed to remain anywhere but on the lead lap. And when the Chase begins, Mr. France, the regular-season point standings won’t have anything to do with it! The order will be determined by … that’s right … bonus points for winning!”
“How will this affect the outcome?” BZF asks in a tone of wonder, punching at the air with both fists?”
“Jimmie Johnson will still win!”
Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh. A bit of a downer from the audience.
BZF just can’t give up these occasional appearances on “Let’s Make a Deal.” He is an inveterate gambler, always willing to let everything ride. He just knows that next door will be loaded down with riches that will reverse the declining attendance and ratings.
Fortunately, BZF isn’t on the show every week or even every year. Otherwise, the utter predictability of his actions would be more obvious.
NASCAR spin doctors say the slump is all economy. The fans still love everything about NASCAR – generic cars, lucky dogs, Giggywucks, wave-arounds, etc., etc., etc. – but some of them are hurting, and they just can’t afford it. If they could afford it, they’d be there every week. This is what NASCAR says it gets from its fan councils and focus groups and marketing surveys.
If that’s true, why keep changing everything willy-nilly?
Even though everything is might-nigh perfect, says BZF, it can still be better. So he’s going to stand on that imaginary stage alongside imaginary Wayne Grady again and let everything ride, hoping Door No. 3 doesn’t have a mule and a scarecrow behind it.