There is only ONE Oklahoma

Thursday, December 28, 2006

But its a 'Southern Sport' right?

We hear that comment almost every time there is a discussion about the 'old guard Nascar' and the direction the sport seems to be going. The 'old guard Nascar' wants to keep the sport 'pure' and stick to it's roots, but there are a few problems with that line of thinking and preconceived notions.

In 1990 the Wall Street analysts estimated the net value of Nascar at 1.5 billion dollars. By 2005, that same net value was estimated to be 10 billion dollars. Growth of this magnitude not a coincidence, either it means that it is right in line with the 'Nascar expansion' we have seen over the past two decades or the pure bred 'southern race fan' is moving all over the country.

US Population



20 percent

20 percent


23 percent

24 percent


35 percent

38 percent


21 percent

19 percent

Source: NASCAR

What I see above is that the 'Nascar fan', is in almost every case, directly proportional to the region's demographic where that particular fan lives. And the criticism from the 'old guard' has been that 'Nascar is taking away race dates and venues from the region where the majority of it's fan base is located. While that is partly true, one also has to look at where Nascar is attempting (or wanting) to move to. The Northeast and the West, make up 41% of the U.S. population, and 39% of the Nascar fan base. It only makes good business sense to see empty seats at a venue (one that only holds 55K) and want to move that race to an area of the country where the market share is less saturated. Of course we still see some empty seats at the California Speedway, but that pales in comparison to Rockingham when one sees that California still has twice the fan attendance of the failed track. And to top it all off, the same 'excuses', the old guard gave for the lack of attendance at Rockingham could be used for California. (bad race date, other race dates too close in the same area, and even weather to an extent)

Not only is NASCAR expanding geographically, it is also focused on increased ethnic diversity as well. Just how can a drive to actually add to the over-all fan base be a bad thing?





3.6 percent

8.6 percent

+139 percent


4.9 percent

9.1 percent

+86 percent

Source: NASCAR

Also, more than half of NASCAR fans fall between the ages of 18 and 44 with an annual income of more than $50,000, and women account for 40 percent of the fan base. Just how many 'marketing strategies' do we see that wants to target this very audience? What began in 1948 as an exposition of Southern bravado and a weekly bootlegger contest, today trails only the NFL as the nation’s most popular sport, and the reason for that is pretty clear.

Nascar (mainly the France family) saw the long term potential of their product long before the old guard fan realised what had hit them. That potential was the 'nation wide marketability', both on and off the track. Nascar boasts that they have over 75 million fans, and over half of them are considered 'hardcore'. Talk about a marketer's dream! Nascar was and still is successful in selling the "marketer's dream" with a true customer relationship management, technology innovation and integration, and the 'power of a brand' it's fan base had become to understand.

Fortune 500 companies have been struggling for years about how to increase revenues and lower costs balanced with growing thier customer base, strengthening customer loyalty, offering best in class service, building brand identity and investing in technology to improve the customers’ experience. Nascar can get an A+ in just about everyone of those categories, something that few other companies can say.

I stated above, Nascar has been very successful in 'growing the fan base'. What I'll call the 'big three' Nascar race venues (Daytona, Indy and Dega), last year sold an average of 186,000 tickets per Cup event at an average ticket price of $75. Other well placed race venues include Texas, Phoenix and Chicago. TMS and PIR is one way NASCAR is capitalizing on one of our nation’s fastest growing populations, Hispanics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the Hispanic population will nearly triple from 35 million to 102 million people by 2050. Can you say 'Juan Pablo'?

One of the other visions Nascar has been most successful at is the investing in technology to improve their customers’ experience, or the integrated experience. Attending a Nascar event, gives one a chance to experience the sport like not other sport offers. From scanners, to listen to the behind the scenes workings of teams/networks, to the garage/pit access, Nascar has been in the forefront in the race day experience. To this day, I don't understand why the NFL and a few other sports do not offer the vehicle to allow fans at the stadium to listen to the coach/coordinators chat of their headsets.

But Nascar has not stopped there, they have also tapped into the greatness of the home PC and the Internet, by making it possible to listen to the same scanner chat via 'TrackPass'. PitCommand offers a bird's eye view of all 43 cars via the Internet, as is a great companion to watching the race's network coverage. Let’s see, NASCAR has found a way to integrate fans, drivers, and pit crews through headsets, cell phones, scanners and even PCs.

The old guard to this day criticises Nascar for turning their sport from a 'regional spectacle' to a 'national phenomenon'. A year or so of declining TeVee ratings of this juggernaut doesn't even come close to what the old guard claims to be 'signs of failure', compared to the two plus decades of growth the sport has enjoyed. But I guess if the 'old guard' gets their way in the end, they would rather see their sport in old antiquated venues that refuse to upgrade, have their races televised on some obscure cable network, have their race teams become so underfunded due to limited sponsorship exposure, and have an over perception of limited growth potential.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Take it to the bank

As we close out 2006 and look forward to a new year in 2007, instead of taking a look back lets take a look forward at some key events that will happen in the upcoming year.

* By the May 12th Darlington race
Even though the 'average age' of Cup drivers continues to rise, some one will start up the bandwagon of how 'the young guns who have not paid their dues are being handed Cup rides, and this is the downfall of Nascar'.

* Before the first practice at speedweeks
Some Ricky Rudd fans will be calling for Robert Yates to hire 'Fatback' McSwain as the crew chief of the 88/28. (along with the spotter, pit crew and as many others from the old '28 days') It will be reminiscent of the famous "Blues Brother's" quote, 'We are getting the band back together'.

* After the first practice session at Spring Bristol
The C.O.T. will be called a 'failure' by some because it didn't fix the real problem with BMS. The problem is that BMS is a 'one grooved' track where passing basically can only be achieved with the aid of the chrome horn.

* Before the Daytona 500
Another worthless 'power ranking' will be published (for some reason, I'm thinking Sirius will be the culprit), making the total 'rankings' hit the half a dozen mark. Remember, this is racing, not the BCS.

* Before the July Daytona race
A track will be littered after a late race 'controversy'. Chances are the incident will involve one of the following car numbers, the 8, 24, 29 or 48, and a long shot involves the 42.

* By the April 15th TMS race
Irony alert: Some Nascar beat writer (chances are it will come from ESPN) will write an opinion that 'Nascar is ignoring it's fans' because of the perception of 'higher ticket prices' and such.

* Speaking of ESPN/ABC
By the third broadcast on the network, someone will complain about 'too many commercials', 'missed restarts', and 'only showing a select few cars all day'.

* By the March 11th Las Vegas Race
'19 fans' will make the claim that if 'their driver had the same equipment as the #9 car, then their driver would be winning races too'.

* Moments after the 2nd Twin 150 is finished
Someone will claim that Toyota has already ruined the 'Amercan Sport' because of their willingness to open their pocketbooks.

* By the All-Star Challenge
After not getting his way once again, David Poole will write a opinion stating that more weight should be given to race winners in the points system.

* By the '24 hours at Daytona'
Jayski will have to retract or deny one of his rumors.

* By the June 10th Pocono race
A handful of 'unofficial' message boards centering around the 'Southern Gentleman' will pop up due to the 'controlism' of the Official message Board.

* By Spring Talladega
Mark Martin will announce his retirement, but will remained to be rumored for other seats, and will be seen talking to other car owners.

* By the April Martinsville race
Signs at Trackside Live can been seen saying, 'Only frauds wear plaid!'

* Before the end of speedweeks
Someone will try to stir a debate on the ThatsRacin.com boards claiming 'Nascar drivers are not athletes'.

That's all the darts I have, and remember, only one of them has to 'stick' in order for me to say 'I told you so!' Take it to the bank.

Monday, December 25, 2006

My cats woke us up wanting to open presents.

'Boomer', 'Sooner', 'Mr Kitty'

Set alarm for 0500 hrs so I could ambush the paper "boy" (approx. age, 35) and hand him a Christmas card with some $ in it. Written on card: "Thanks for all your faithful service. Now, please, work on your gunnery skills. Signed, State Your Name." (He misses the mark by at least 20 feet every time.) Waited in bathrobe, cuppa java in hand, for 1 hr. and 15 minutes until he showed up, in 42F and howling winds.
Surly lout showed up, accepted card, mumbled what may have been thanks.

0620...back to the sack.

0715...'Mr Kitty' purring contentedly as he sleeps on the pillow.

0716...'Boomer', apparently miffed at his usurping of his rightful place, attacks. I receive slight laceration to scalp as 'Mr Kitty' seeks traction in an attempt to escape felonious feline fury.

0716:45...in bathroom, dabbing Neosporin(TM) on wound. 'Sooner' chooses the high road and gives condolences with the patented 'circling of the feet'.

0718...After igniting coffee maker, seeking under furniture and in various crannies in hopes of effecting retaliatory strike. (See: Catbeating Contests I Have Won.)

0722...Discover all three cats, looking innocent and adorable, sitting in living room, looking up wistfully at their stockings (hung by the chimney, with care.)

0724...Sipping coffee, a bit misty-eyed, on the couch, watching cats roll in some newly sprinkled catnip and batting new toys between trips to small bowl of cat treats placed nearby.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Big Dilemma


Robert Yates has a replacement for Dale Jarrett. Finally, the team can get back to the business of racing and preparing cars with the knowledge of who will be behind the wheel.

But was the 'right driver', chosen? According to fellow Texan Terry Blount's ESPN blog, that answer is 'no.'

But I think before one can really pass that judgement, one needs to look at the unique situation both Robert Yates and 38 sponsor MasterFoods was really in. With DJ and UPS jumping ship, and with multi years remaining on the 38/M&MS contract, Robert not only had to find a driver for his other team, but also needed to find a sponsor. A sponsor that provided tier one dollars. (or as close to it as he could get) Not for the obvious reason, but because this was one of the reasons presented to MasterFoods in the first place when they signed on with RYR in '03.

Robert never could find that sponsor which risked leaving the 38 as a 'single car' team. One only had to hear Ricky's/RYR/MasterFood's conference call today to hear him say, "In today's market, you have to have a multi-car organization to be competitive and win races...." And that statement could not be more truer than in today's nascar.

The other side of this dilemma was MasterFoods themselves, their 'loyalty' to their partnerships and the carrot that was dangled in front of them by RYR. That carrot was an opportunity to 'combine' sponsorships of two teams into one large sponsorship without significantly hurting the 38 team. Of course that came with a price tag, but the long term upside was much greater than the short term down side. MasterFoods over the past two decades and especially in the past 3 years had invested too much into their Nascar image. Risking losing that because their RYR counterpart team was dangerously close to folding was something that they could not let happen.

So in comes MasterFoods to save the day, not only are they saving in the short term Robert Yates Racing, but also saving their 20 year investment. This 'one year' deal does exactly what it is designed to do, which is to 'Buy' RYR another year to rebound from a dismal '06 season and find that stability in sponsorship the RYR has benefited from over the years.. One that has seen one driver 'mail it in' race after race (actually I feel DJ has been doing this for a couple of years), and another driver 'give up' in mid stream. Call it a 'band-aid', call it what you want, but sometimes something like this is needed to stop the bleeding and rejuvenate a race team. MasterFoods and their sponsorship does just that.

Now I have never been in the Ricky Rudd faithful camp, but for a 'one year deal', and having an 'unproven' driver in the 38, I cannot think of a better driver to help turn this ship around, as long as Ricky has his 'head right with ball'. Judging from the conference call, that seems to be the case, and lets site a couple of examples.

1) The year off has helped Ricky in terms of being 'hungry' again.
2) The three seasons he spent with the Wood Brothers gave him an appreciation for having quality equipment and it's uniqueness in today's Nascar. (remember, in '02, Ricky can be quoted saying that the Wood Brothers had 'just as good equipment is anyone else') Now RYR is not the Wood Brothers of those days, but they are not far off, and Ricky's insight and recent past experience is just an added bonus.
3) Both Robert and Ricky mentioned how events took place in their parting in '02, but it was what Ricky said that stood out. He likened it to arguing or fighting with a family member, and over time, even though you still think you are 'right', it is still family. You realize that mistakes were made, and hope that if the opportunity arises again, those same mistakes will not be made again.
4) Even in '02, Ricky prefered 'year to year' deals. While this is not the best in terms of sponsorship, it fits this situation to a Tee.

Bottom line:
Robert needed time to secure long term sponsorship for one of his teams, Ricky was ready to race again and lastly, MasterFoods needed to protect their existing investment. For this upcoming season, I can't help to think there could be anymore of a 'win/win/win' season, for all involved.

Now add the icing on the cake, realistically, just what are the expectations of either RYR team this upcoming season? A top 18 to a top 14 in points (mix in some a couple top 5s and a few top 10s, maybe a contention for a 'win' now in then). If RYR can do that, sponsors will come banging down the door as the foundation has been laid for a great '08 season. Even if Ricky is not in the plans, he would have his choice of quality rides if he chose that path.

Really, when you think about it, this whole deal is pretty amazing that all parties involved were able to pull it off and i wish all parties the best. As it has renewed for me , my personal interest in Robert Yates Racing.

The irony of it all!

Dizzy Desmond and bad reporting

I received a couple of Emails concerning the 'YouTube' clip posted yesterday of ESPN Analyst, Desmond Howard's comments concerning his 'most intriguing bowl match-up' and from the emails they didn't understand what was wrong with his comments.

So ESPN has a special broadcast covering the upcoming bowl season, and 5 or so of their 'experts' are given approximately 30 second to give their take. Howard decides that his favorite match-up is the Holiday Bowl. (a match-up between Pac 10 University California and Big 12 University Texas A&M) How ever Howard states that the match-up is between 'Cal and Texas'. Now that 'mistake' is understandable on the surface (much like a play by play announcer calling a player by the wrong name, or in Nascar, calling out the wrong car). Those things can happen.

But then Howard goes into detail of individual TEXAS players and how they would match up against the CAL team. He clearly has not just 'mis-spoke', he has simply not done his homework. The other glaring problem with this incident is that ESPN allowed this to happen TWICE! Once before the game, and the other during the halftime show. Not once did any of the ESPN producers or on air Analysts attempt to correct Howard.

Howard, the former Heisman Trophy winner, apologized for the gaffe Wednesday evening on ESPN's SportsCenter. Howard was already scheduled to appear on the Budweiser Hot Seat segment of the show, a network spokesman said. Howard said he "mis-poke." Regardless of which team from Texas that Cal was playing, he added, he was still picking the Bears to win. (like that justifies anything)

And like i mentioned yesterday, this is the network that is going to 'save' the Nascar coverage next year.
The rumor that just wont go away:

Now first off, I pretty much fully expect Ricky Rudd to be piloting one of the RYR cars next season in some capacity. However, the rumors that just won't go away are simply amazing, and frankly, I blame the Nascar Press for their 'bad reporting'.

When I look at coverage of other sports/entertainment/politics, what I see is a more in depth and complete coverage then what we see in Nascar. For example:

from Jayski:
Rudd/Gilliland tested for RYR? been told that David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd tested the COT [Car of Tomorrow] last week at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, SC for Robert Yates Racing. Gilliland is, of course, the driver of RYR's #38 M&M's Ford and Rudd is being heavily rumored to be taking over the #88 Ford [Snickers? renumbered to #28?] in 2007.(12-21-2006)

Just how can two teams test at a track and no Nascar reporter 1) knows about it 2) be there in an attempt for an interview 3) get photographs. 4) at the very least confirm just which teams were actually testing, and who was behind the wheel

Lee Spencer has made an (unconfirmed) email claim that 'Ricky has been seen at RYR getting fitted for fire-suits'. Now I am not doubting this claim, but if I was trying to get the 'scoop', how difficult would it be to 'camp out' and capture of a glimpse of Ricky's comings and goings at the Moorseville shop. It has been a couple of years since I visited RYR's multi team shop, but if I remember correctly, it was in an industial park with a single access to the main road. Not that hard for a reporter to validate some of these 'rumors'.

Lets put all of this into a bit of perspective. The University of Alabama is searching for a head football coach. something that has just about as much impact as a driver for RYR in terms of contributions to their respective sports. There are reporters that are tracking University leased airplanes, and when they are stopped for an amount of time need for an 'interview', those reporters are there trying to find out just who is being interviewed and are there on the spot.

We see this same type of passion in other sports as well, especially when 'free agents' are shopping themselves around to other teams.

Why do they do it? Because it add credibility to their 'rumors', and they truly are aggressive and getting the scoop. Not simply waiting for an announcement. After all, 'good reporting' is getting the news worthy stories before they are stories.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nascar to lose it's Busch

Faster than you can say 'Jayski', the naysayers filled many message boards and air waves spouting of how 'Nascar had once again run off one of their traditional sponsors for the sake of money'. But hearing spokesmen from both Anheuser-Busch and Nascar I think those naysayers could be as far from the truth as possible.

While the Beer Company has been the series sponsor (in one form or another) since 1982, the company's 'Nascar presence' is still one of the most (if not the most) recognised brand name in the sport, and that is not going to change at all. The #8 car will still get 'tier one' sponsorship dollars, the pole award will still be called the 'Bud Pole Award', and the 'Bud Shoot-out' will not change.

So why is Busch really pulling out of the series sponsorship when it's contract comes due after the '07 season? That answer is pretty simple, and has little to do with Dollars. Anheuser-Busch can afford to sponsor just about any (and they practically have their hand in almost every sporting event in terms of sponsorship in one way or another) sporting event it chooses, and the amount of dollars from within that sponsorship. But the main problem I see with the Busch series sponsorship is 'redundancy'. Especially with all the other sponsorship and visibility they have in the Cup series. For the most part, the target market for 'Saturday' racing, and the same as 'Sunday' racing. There is/was/will be no real reason to saturate that market, as the benefits of doing that is limited.

Of course the naysayers are claiming this all revolves around the 'Nascar greed', but think about this. The '08 series sponsorship is being estimated at a worth of around 30 to 35 million dollars a season. Not chump changes by any means. But what struck me and the naysayers will ignore this, is that estimation is around THREE TIMES what Anheuser-Busch is currently paying Nascar for the series sponsorship. For the price of 2nd tier car sponsorship, Anheuser-Busch was getting their name plastered on the TeVee, signage, logos hundreds of times each Satuday. Is it fair to say that Nascar has actually short changed themselves, and undersold their product for the past decade or so and that Anheuser-Busch has been given a 'screamin' deal and now the 'deal' is coming to a close?

The list of potential sponsors seems to be taking a life of it's own and grows by the day. And frankly, it is not the 'Nascar greed' that drives this bus, but the vision to see that in order to keep ticket prices down, prize money up and the best product available, this type of business model must be achieved.

Jerry Jones is building a 'billion dollar' stadium, not in Dallas, but in Arlington and do you honestly think even 50% of this building cost is going to come out of his pockets? (and they are deep pockets too) Of course not, naming rights will not only be sold for the over-all stadium itself, but every concourse, suite level, vending area, mall, bathroom, meeting room, convention hall and scoreboard (and probably more) will be sold in corporate sponsorship to the highest bidder. It is not greed, it is simply being smart.

No matter what the sponsorship truly will be in '08, why don't we just call it what it is......'Cup Lite'.

Are 'suicide watches' needed for Ricky Rudd fans?

Well it hasn't been that bad, but what was a weekend of 'rejoicing' is starting to turn into anxiety for the Rudd faithful. Could 'Nascar's worst kept secret' actually taking a different turn when a certain Craftsman Truck Driver was given his 'walking papers', not due to performance, but due to lack of sponsorship?

Perhaps that 'bottom of the barrel' I spoke of earlier last week, just got filled a bit with a 4thCTS division driver. Someone who is willing to 'commit' to the sponsor and their weekly appearance needs and more importantly, someone who wants to race 'full time'.

Of course not the credentials of a Driver like Ricky Rudd, but David Starr also carries a lot less 'baggage' with him, something that RYR doesn't need in their rebuilding process.

After all, is this 'theory' any less credible than RR going back to RYR and running the #28? (seems only Lee Spencer really knows that answer) If you would have told me that a year or so ago, I would have pointed you to this picture....


and Lastly
And this Network is going to 'save' Nascar?

Last night, before their first bowl broadcast of the season, ESPN and their 'experts' dedicated an hour long pre-bowl special. Now making a 'mistake' on the air is one thing, but have over 3 weeks to prepare for this show and doing this is simply inexcusable.

You decide:

homework! just do it!

Is this the best ESPN can offer? What is worse about all of this, is that Howard did this more than once. (before the game, and during the halftime). I can just hear it now some Sunday morning during one of the ESPN Nascar Broadcasts: "Tony Stewart, driver of the #29, M&Ms Toyota, has a great chance to win this week's Memorial Day race at the Indy 500."

And some think that ESPN will 'save' the Nascar Broadcasts.

'Spit Gate' and 'Lets Wait'


Whether you like T.O. or not, one still has to question the fine handed down by the NFL for his undocumented 'spitting incident' with Atlanta Falcon's defensive back, DeAngelo Hall. We hear the complaints in almost every Nascar fine/penalty that 'Nascar is just too inconsistent with their fines/penalties', and that the rule book in 'written in pencil'.

A quick look into the NFL history books, and one can see that this issue is not something new. The Hall of Fame is full of players (from Butkis to Csonka to Youngblood) who have admitted to such actions and nothing was officially done by the NFL.

More recently:

1) 2005,Sean Taylor was ejected (the officials actually saw the incident) from a game and later fined $17,000 for spitting at Micheal Pittman.
2) 1998, Hardy Nickerson was fined $17,000 for spitting at William Floyd.
3) 1999, Bill Romanowski was fined $7,500 for spitting in the face of J.J. Stokes.

Is this simply a classic case of 'T.O. bias'? As the most common response is that this fine is not 'harsh enough'. But history shows is that this is the most harsh fine for this type of offense. The only other retort is that this is a message being sent down from the new NFL Commissioner and that he has had enough of this type of behavior. Interesting though, is that Nascar has done this very thing before where the message is 'enough is enough'.

Hurry up and wait:

Today is now 'announcement plus one' day in what should be called Nascar's worst kept secret. Ricky Rudd fans have been stalking and lurking on every Internet site that might have the smallest tidbit of 'new information', concerning Rudd's signing with Robert Yates Racing and still are coming up empty. Their 'reaching' has been quite humorous, although one must give them credit for their creativity and ingenuity.

And we wonder why sites like Jayski and such can generate 'big time' sponsorship.

I guess if one was to speculate like many Rudd fans are doing these days and one wanted to play the part of the 'contra', could the reason be for the countless delays for an announcement is that the negotiations between Rudd and Yates are not going as 'smoothly' as one thought they should? Hey, this 'speculation game', is pretty easy and fun.

Friday, December 15, 2006

One Summer Dream

Going to pull back the curtain just a bit and blog about my past. After all, it is the off-season of Nascar, and OU doesn't play in their bowl game for another 3 weeks. For the people who have actually met me and know me, you might appreciate this and get a smile from it, others who rap on my door after closing time and such, probably won't.

So here goes nothin!

There comes a time in every athlete's life (yes, I can say I was once of those once with a clear conscience) when they realize for what ever reason, they have gone as far up the ladder as they will ever go. I, however was given a 'second chance' by a great friend, to have a 'an encore season' after almost 17 years of competitive baseball from 'pee wee' ball to college baseball.
about 2 weeks into the 'cheesy 80's porno mustache

I had not played competitively in over a year when I got the call from an ex High School Teammate, saying he was heading up to Canada to Manitoba (he had played there a couple of summers before)to help regenerate their semi-pro team that had come on financial hard times the year before. Call it timing or what, but who was I to say no.
I had about 3 weeks to 're-train' (which really was not that big a deal since I was still in my mid 20s) and get ready for the unexpected, and just what was the level of ball played 'up there'. To add to the confusion, the other part of the 'deal' was that we were to help develop and coach the youth programs. That was just a bonus as I knew I would never play again in the 'States', but coaching was something that was always a possibility.

After spending 3 days at a border town in North Dakota (we were told to 'fib' and say we were tourists) because we didn't have the proper work visas and such. We were finally gained admittance into the Great White north!

It didn't take long for the 'Cannucks' to put us to work, but it was fun. Whether it was running indoor clinics with 'Fleas' (11 and 12 year olds) or sizing up the 'Midget' team (15 and 16 year olds), the bottom line it was still 'ball'. Something I had given up a year or so before.

That's me! (not the one on the right) great form from about the ankles up and great hand placement. (never send a 'catcher' to teach infield technique)

I would equate the level of play to 'decent Juco ball in the States' in those days, some days we faced some good 'import pitchers' one day, and the next face a 'local legend', but over all it was just 'playing' once again, that was the important part. I'll never forget it.
a giggle: I'm 'catching' at least three inches of 'air' here. just sayin

It wasn't a month or so before we got there that 'politics' came into play, with the 'Oliver North' hearings. The funny part was this was before the day in age of the Internet and 'live world wide TeVee' and being that we were in our mid 20's, it was not a focal point to us, we really didn't have anymore incite then anyone else. To this day, I really don't understand all the nuances of those hearings. I didn't see it unfold 'live', like the rest of the U.S. did. Should I feel cheated? ;)

PERKS!!! Being an 'import' and playing in a town that had a population of less than 30,000, it did have its privileges. In mid summer we got the opportunity to watch the 'Canadian National Team', play the Toronto BlueJays at a 'football' stadium in Winnipeg. Yes there was the very short 'left field porch', but more importantly somehow we got some sort of 'VIP' pregame passes, (lots of free beer and such) and got to meet Wayne Terwilliger in person. I guess that was more an 'Okie' connection than anything. But it was cool non the less. After meeting Coach Terwilliger and having a few Labatts Blue for hours before the game. We set in our seats and yes 'ragged' a bit on the Canadian national team from time to time. (after all, this was not hockey) It was just one of those fun nights, that could never be recreated.
This actually was a text book 'double cut-off' on a deep drive in the gap for an out.

PLAYING: At the time, I really never thought I would be playing competitive Ball again, so every at-bat, every pitch was a joy no matter how much my knees ached or how sore I was the next day. The games consisted of two to three mid-week ''league" games, but on the weekends there were the one day, single elimination tournaments. These were usually held in the smaller towns in the Province in conjunction with their Founder's days celebrations. Most of the time it was 8 or so teams so playing three games in one day was common. (tough on the pitching staff!) Another oddity was even though there were midweek evening games, none of the fields had lights as during the summer, the sun didn't go down till well after 10 o'clock.

"Bitaemo": The Canadian National Ukrainian Festival was really something that can only be appreciated live. The community that we played in had a high influx of Ukraniun decent. These were great people, who was not afraid to work hard each day, but also understood what it meant to 'have fun'. The 'build up' from the time we set foot in this town, to 6 months later and actually witnessing this wonderful event was well worth it. If you have never heard of the phrase "Bitaemo", I'm thinking a Google search will work.

I'll keep most of her to myself, but we did share a special summer. We both found a bond and helped each other if only temporally, and for our selfish and personal reasons but more importantly, we connected. "Though we touched and went our separate ways."
That's enough.

'I love Hockey':
We did get to see the passion of the the NHL play-offs first hand and 'Hockey Night in Canada' is a 7 day a week event. I have not experienced something where the fans crave more '24/7 coverage since. While I really didn't care 'who won', there was something, something that I could relate to about the fever pitch of this emotion. The closest I can equate it to, is SEC or Big 12 College Football fans.

I spent almost 7 months in the 'Great White North' that summer. I got an opportunity to do something that I thought was something of my past. But more importantly, that 'summer dream' opened up my perspective, for once in my life, I was actually a 'minority', 'an import'. I would not trade that summer for anything.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

a great read

An interesting perspective on the Ricky Rudd to RYR deal.

go see for yourself.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Scatter shooting

Getting re-married?

Rumors are abound over the Lee Spencer article making the claim that Ricky Rudd would be re-joining Roberts Yates Racing taking over the 88 ride left vacant by Dale Jarrett. A couple of thoughts:

1) I guess Robert is scraping the bottom of the barrel if true. But then again, the 'driver pool' has been pretty thin this silly season and there is little in that barrell to begin with. If Robert lands Ricky, he is probably getting the best free agent out there.
2) Will Robert give Ricky the 'top ten pay' Ricky felt he deserved during the 'divorce'?
3) Will Mars (rumored sponsor) not be as demanding in terms driver appearances and such, which was another one of the reasons Ricky gave for leaving the sport a little over a year ago.
4) Will Robert be able to provide enough competitive equipment for both teams and keep Ricky 'happy' and avoid another 'Larry Lackey incident'?

Over-all, this should be a win/win for all involved. Ricky gets back behind the wheel, and I'm guessing on his terms. Robert gets a veteran driver for a team that has many question marks at the moment.

BuschWacking 101
Finally the Busch series banquet is over, and we should now be able to put this tainted season behind us. Now I have nothing against the Busch series winner, other than the fact that he has been a full time Cup driver for 6 seasons now. The best way to explain this I guess would be to compare a 'power house' College football team, like the Sooners, deciding to drop down and play in the D1AA play-offs and winning the championship. I'm thinking that would not only be an embarrassment to the Football Program, but all of college football itself.

Can You Hear Me Now?
One of the most recent crutch phrases used by many of the Nascar faithful is to make the claim that 'Nascar is losing touch with their core fans, and doesn't listen to them'. An interesting thought, but I am not sure just how much validity it has. Lets take a look at a few things.

1) After a few closely timed deaths in the sport, Nascar fans were pretty critical of what they called Nascar 'turning a blind eye when it came to safety'. Now we have mandatory Head and Neck restraints, Safer barriers, and next year the C.O.T.
2) Fans wanted an alternative to 'racing back to the line' under caution and leaders 'giving laps back' and Nascar froze the field under cautions and instituted the 'Lucky Dog' or 'Free Pass' rule.
3) Fans wanted races to stop ending 'under cautions' no matter how dangerous that truly was, so Nascar began the 'Green/White/Checkered' rule in Cup.
4) Fans wanted 'total access' and now tracks are re-building pit and garage areas in order to accommodate this demand.
5) Fans criticised the Championship in 2003 because the last 10 or so race, the leader had such a lead that all he was doing in those races was 'riding around'. So Nascar created the 'Chase'.

Those poor, pitiful drivers
You hear it from many drivers, how 'busy' they are and that they don't have allot of free time. While agree the life of the Cup driver is truly a hectic schedule and a year around 'job', what I don't understand are the ones that complain about 'lack of free time'. Welcome to the real world Nascar Drivers! You get paid enormous amounts of money, have perks and spiffs that the 'common man' cannot enjoy. Two weeks of 'vacation' a year is considered a nice perk in the private sector but for some reason, many Cup drivers feel they deserve more?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Recipes for disaster

Give us some kool-aid drinking fans; enabling moderators; an over zealous Webmaster; a clueless PR manager; empty 'promises and claims'; and what do you have?

a recipe for disaster and a mess that just wont go away.

Before I begin, let me preface a little bit by stating that I have been a member of 'said' message board since 1999, and have now seen first hand a total of 4 Webmasters come and go and countless board moderators. The "founder's club" (so to speak) is a very small one and one that you could probably seat all the members at your dining room table and still have an empty chair or two.

Ingredients for this 'recipe':

Start with the latest Webmaster and the very first post on this new forum, in which he comes up with the bright idea to make this separate public forum, solely dedicated to 'suggestions for next year'. One the surface that might seem like a noble idea, however it exposes the laziness of the 'Warden'. Here is the first thread (btw, all threads cannot be responded to).

by SFC Webmaster
"Figured I would get it started.

Forcing all icons to be 10X10. Makes them more of "icons" and would eliminate the problem we have with making people change theirs to a certain size. (10X10 is the only size option for Ezboard to force them to be)"

Icon sizing is a common issue with any message board that allows them, however 'avatars' are a very good way of quickly identifying other posters. The real question that should be asked first is does the 'Goatfish' (aka SFC Webmaster) really have a clue of the size of the 10X10 avatar?

here is a 100X100 pixel avatar of one of the moderators:

Now what could be wrong what that size? I know that when I am searching for the "Mystic's" posts, all I have to do is look for her self identifying avatar. But for some reason, the Goatfish thinks this is going to be a problem. Gee, avatar sizes have been 'policed' for over 4 years now on SFC and have been little problem. (other than it takes a little effort by the mods and the Webmaster)

Now take a look at the same Avatar at 10X10:
Can you see it??????? Other than being 'lazy', because that is the 'only default' size the board software can impose, it just makes one wonder if these guys really think things out before they make a suggestion or announcement. (See the MySpace fiasco)
From one of the current mods:

We need to have a forum for photos , so that when a whole buch of people go to a race and want to share there are not a ton of threads.

So if you have another forum for photos won't you have just as many threads AND a new forum to have to search? Where am I missing the 'logic' here?

then comes this gem:

I have been thinking on this the past 2 weeks long before you even asked for suggestions on how to make the board better. I for one can tell you I am not comfortable postin here. Why? It is not anything Sean that you or Shelley have ever done to me but...

A. I go to other boards and see what we have posted taken and twisted as a joke.
B. You recognize those people doing it and they are still allowed on the SFC.
C. People are allowed to say and do things on the board they know will hurt others or "cause trouble" and yet they still are allowed to be members.
D. These same members are allowed to bash Sean, Shelley,Brett,Elliott, and the Sadler Family on other sites and still are allowed to be members.
So my suggestion I guess would be to clean house or shut it down which ever comes first,and then maybe more people would feel comfortable here cause I know I sure don't.

I am not saying this to be mean or argumentative we had a good thing going and it has gone down hill.

First, one should consider the source of this suggestion. This is coming from a person that started her own message board when SFC went 'pay to post' earlier this year. Now I guess she is back drinking the Kool-aid for what ever reason. One thing I have learned over the past year or so is that 'free speech' or at the very least, having an opinion that is the least bit contrary to the 'inner circle' is prohibited. IP addresses are sent to the powers that be for 'IP Banning' on the site for simply not participating in the mass kool-aid fest. However, in the long run even that is a futile effort. This 'Gestapo' type mentality simply doesn't work in today's Internet. If you want to have rules in your house, that is fine, but if a member wants to express their free speech rights somewhere else, well, that should be a given. Once again, we only have to view the decadence of the "Southern Gentleman's" PRIVATE MySpace account and his 'friends postings and pics'. Many are not pretty. Or better yet, should someone forward "spotterman's" opinions and criticisms of Nascar on the SFC board to Mike Helton or Bill France Jr? That theory works both ways now doesn't it?
Then comes along this suggestion:

How about when a new rule comes along it is posted in both just talking and in the rules area. The rules area isn't something that everyone checks that often and it would help keep everyone informed and less likely of people breaking any rules that they didn't know they were breaking.

My first question is Why be a paying member of a forum that has so many rules and rule changes that you have to ask to be advised when a new one is initiated? Understand that this is a 'members only' forum, and one that cannot even be read by non members. Remember I mentioned 'control issues' before?
The last two suggestions are somewhat related:

Add back the name of the person back with the time who made the last comment on a thread. Now it is just showing the time and before when it also showed who made the last post I knew if I had read the post already. With just the time I have no idea. I am better with the names than with just times.


Is it possible to also show the date when a thread was started?

This was a normal function on this board since it's inception in 1999, but for some reason a couple of weeks ago this feature was discontinued. Since the SFC fan club package and 'rights' to post on this message board price has increased it brings up the question. Why should one have to pay more for less features? And one last little bit of information, it was just a month or so ago that the Goatfish made a 'Webmaster' miscue, and made the site stats 'public' for a short time. From that we know that registered users only numbered 449 total (and really only about 25 active posters). Compare that to an over 3/4 drop from previous years and this is progress?

A couple of weeks ago, 'spotterman/PR dude' posted this 'complaint' concerning the TeVee coverage of races.

Does this really surprise anyone? When you have 43 cars in a race and only cover 7 to 8 of them your ratings are going to drop. I remind you, last year we didn't have the 8 or the 24 in the chase and this year we had both. We crowned a new champ and the ratings were still down throughout the entire chase! I don't have to tell you why because if you're on this board you probably suffered through the broadcast with the rest of us last Sunday. I touched on this a little bit before -- they had lots of chances to reminisce about Mark, Dale and make the broadcast more enjoyable. I think the lead would rather try and make you cry or paint a bad picture... The human interest piece to the sport was certainly not present in the last two races I watched. I'll stop complaining now...

followed by

If you run up front and blow up no one cares (I think we proved that in 3 of the last few races)... or at least TV doesn't... Dale Jr. didn't receive enough coverage last year? You have to be kidding me! He was shown repeatedly going behind the wall during the race to make adjustments to his car. I think that's going a little over board... Yet, with all of the Jr. coverage during the CHASE this season ratings were down and down big... So, obviously fans don't want to see the Dale Jr. network over the actual race.

If you make the race and crash every week it seems to get you on TV but for the wrong reasons... I'll take not being covered over crashing but unbiased reporting is probably something we'll never see as long as companies are forking out big bucks for in car cameras which is a hidden excuse to show any given driver that carries one...

I think you'll see Fox do a great job covering the action and I'm hoping ESPN / ABC will be able to at least size up to Fox's standards... But remember Weber and his folks have 6 races next year, too!

So 'Spotterman' admitted in a previous post that he has only seen TWO races (the last two) on TeVee since 1999 and now he is some sort of 'expert' on the subject? Is it any wonder that his beloved SC Gamecocks were off the national TeVee map for 25 years until the University hired the 'ole Ball Coach'? There wasa very good reason for that and that theory can be applied to today's Nascar coverage as well. Choose ANY sport, and look at National TeVee coverage and you will see the same trend as 'spotterman' claims. The difference is that we as fans have found ways to adapted and get better coverage.

For instance, with the advent of Nascar.com and the different avenues they offer for race coverage, race fans that want 'more complete' coverage will pool their resources, then connect via IM or chat rooms to subsidies the TeVee coverage. I personally have been involved with a group that has one person listening to the MRN/PRN while others listen to different driver's scanner chat on Nascar.com, and all the while watching both the TeVee and 'Pit command'.

Funny, 20 or so years ago, a young entrepreneur named Mark Cuban did something similar when wanting to listen to Indiana Basketball games due to a lack of coverage in his area. "Audionet" was latter parlayed into a billion dollar venture we now know as a part of Yahoo.com.

It is ironic that 'Spotterman' expects others to 'pay' for a service for his driver's fan club, but wants complete TeVee coverage for free.

He also makes the comment of the lack of reminiscing of DJ and Mark Martin on the final rides with their respective teams. He might have a point had these two actually been retiring, but that is far from the case. Just as their was little fanfare for Ricky Rudd the season before at Homestead, the same treatment should be for these two who are simply changing teams, not leaving the sport altogether.
Then there is the 'communication' factor from of all people but the driver himself.

It seems that the 'Southern Gentleman' felt the need to 'spike' the Kool-aid a bit by having a season recap posted on his site. Now this is very common with drivers, but what sets this one apart is that 1) SFC member were 'promised' more active postings by the driver. (something that happened maybe twice all season) and once again the dangling carrot is put out by the "Southern Gentleman" with the claim of 'I will try to post more often." Deja vue? While 'Spotterman' has had a presence on the message board the 2nd half of the season, he rarely actually offers something to the masses. 2) Like most of his pre and post race comments, the 'Southern Gentleman' has little to say other than the 'thanks to my sponsors', blah blah blah, and how great everything is with his current team. We saw this with the Wood Brothers, RYR and now with Evernham, but it is funny to look back and see just how quickly he will bolt when the going gets tough.

But here is the real problem I see, and it validates a theory I have had about the 'Southern Gentleman' for a few years now. That is the issue with 'communication'. There have been a plethora of Crew Chiefs who have come and gone through the Sadler camp, and a few of those have had some great success both before and after. But an underlying theme seems to be the 'communication factor' or lack there of the Southern Gentleman and the results of his thinking. There seems to be much interpretation needed in his communication skills, both on and off the track. An example of the off the track issues lies here:

"Red and Black gone in 2007. The No. 19 Dodge Dealers / UAW Dodge Charger will no longer be red and black in 2007. We have a great, new look coming out for my car and Kasey’s car and hopefully you’ll like them! I think they look sharp and my driver’s suit looks pretty cool, too!"

Wow, did that comment stir up the masses, but what we actually find out is this.
The 2006 paint scheme:

and the 2007 paint scheme:

Wow, now I see BOTH red and black on the 19, do you? It is called communication.
com·mu·ni·ca·tion [kuh-myoo-ni-key-shuhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation –noun
1.the act or process of communicating; fact of being communicated.
2.the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.
3.something imparted, interchanged, or transmitted.
4.a document or message imparting news, views, information, etc.
5.passage, or an opportunity or means of passage, between places.

While this has nothing to do with my like or dislike of the paint scheme (actually I am fond of more 'black/white/red' paint schemes, this new one is appealing and it reminds me of the 2001 21 scheme in some ways.

Its the kind of paint scheme that can grow on you. Now if only the driver could clearly communicate that.

So when looking at this on going train wreck known as the SFC message board it make one wonder if the powers that be are really using those noodles on top of their collective heads. History has shown that has not been the case and all the ingredience for this recipe for disaster are in place. But what do I know? and frankly, I am not saying anything different that is not being said on the 'non-official' message boards. Control issues are never a good thing.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

If Nascar were like.....

As much as it seems to be the in thing to do, I just can't seem to join in the time honored tradition of bashing the governing body of Nascar. I guess its because when it comes to the sport I am a 'glass is half full' person. Sure there are problems, but just take a look around, EVERY major sport has their fair share of problems as well.

*If Nascar were like the NBA:
Drivers who struggle with the new characteristics of the Car of Tomorrow will sue NASCAR and file unfair labor practice charges just as the NBA player's association did recently over the new change of the NBA Basketball (from leather to microfiber)

*If Nascar were like NCAA division 1a football:
The Chase would be decided by a handful of computer programs and a couple of human polls in order to narrow the field down to two race teams.

*If Nascar were like the NHL:
In order to 'make the sport better', Nascar would be forced to lock out the drivers for a full season becuase the driver would not agree to salary caps, rules changes, and such. However, after that year is up, the drivers finally agree to a plan that was less appealing to them, than the original offer.

*Also if Nascar were like the NHL (and NBA for that matter):
Over 20 teams would make the Chase in a deluded attempted to add revenue.

*If Nascar were like the NFL:
Some races would only be shown on a limited availability basis on the 'Nascar Network'. The same network that most cable companies do not offer and you have to be a Satellite subscriber to view.

*If Nascar were like MLB:
Nascar would turn a blind eye and even try to cover up for over a decade on a performance enhancing substance abuse by drivers, because they (Nascar) felt it was helping sagging ratings and attendance.

*If Nascar were like the College Football Bowl games:
Over 80% of the tickets sold at race venues would be sold to corporate sponsors and local businesses. Thus forcing the average fan to pay well over face value for these tickets.

Remember, that glass is still half full.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

NUMBER 40 !!!

A few pictures from last night's game, and a few quotes from this season.

"The bottomline is, I don't think Oklahoma can win the Big 12 South, the Big 12 Championship, or go to a BCS game this year, because of the QB position."

-Mark May, 9/2/06

"With Paul Thompson at QB, Oklahoma will not win the Big 12."
-Lee Corso 9/2/06

"The fact that the errors on the onside kick altered the outcome of the game is most unfortunate and unsettling"
Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen in reference to the 34-33 Oregon 'victory'

Here is to Conference Championship 'number 40'. BOOMER SOONER!!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Switzer - Osborne: Now that was a rivalry

The big 12 Conference is finally getting their wish that they had originally thought should happen many times over, an OU/NU conference championship game. A game that will determine a clear cut conference champion, and one that many big 12 fans have been waiting to see.

While the weather in Kansas City Saturday night will be cold (in the low 20s), windy and snowy, Arrowhead Stadium is expected to be sold out. It reminds me of games from the past in this series and a couple of great coaches and the mutual respect they had for each other.

Neither Barry Switzer nor Tom Osborne built the programs at Oklahoma and Nebraska that they took to national championships.

The two coaches merely defined their two schools for a generation, with their personalities as much as their systems.

Two coaches who maybe coached in the most competitive era of this Rivalry.

But unlike many intense rivalries, both these coaches had a mutual respect for each other, their programs and what they stood for, and that continued even after they left their respective Universities.

Switzer became one of Osborne's biggest backers earlier this year, when Osborne unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor.

"Probably the best fundraiser I had was when Barry came up here," said Osborne.

On the field one of my favorite memories of this series was actually setup by an OU loss in Lincoln.

1978 remains a year that both Switzer and Osborne remember as well.

No. 1 OU, with Billy Sims, was 9-0 and running past opponents. Nebraska had dropped its opener to Alabama and won eight straight. Although Osborne had won 54 games in five-plus seasons, he was under fire for his 0-5 record against Switzer and OU.

That changed after a 17-14 victory keyed by the defense and one of the classic games of all time in the series.

Switzer even today, remembers those stats like the game was played yesterday. Nine OU fumbles, six lost – including one by Sims inside the Nebraska 5 late in the game.

But this great game would set-up another classic moment with the phone call from the Orange Bowl selection committee'shone call to Osborne letting him know that they had chosen the Sooners as the at-large opponent setting up a rematch. Even today, Sooner fans call this clip, 'the face'.

BTW, Oklahoma responded with a 31-24 win in that rematch.

A glance at the college coaching careers of OU's Barry Switzer and Nebraska's Tom Osborne:
Switzer Category Osborne
69 Age 69
16 Seasons 25
3 AP national titles 2
157 Wins 255
29 Losses 49
4 Ties 3
.837 Percentage .836
Dallas Cowboys Other job of note U.S. Congress
Jimmy Johnson Nemesis Barry Switzer
NCAA probe Major crisis Lawrence Phillips
Wishbone Offense I-formation