Clinton, S.C., Sunday, February 2, 2014, 9:42 a.m.
NASCAR is making changes in the way it determines the Sprint Cup champion. I could go into the details, but the changes were announced on Thursday, and they interrupted their normally scheduled Super Bowl coverage on ESPN and Fox Sports 1, and those details are now readily available at innumerable Internet locales, and as you are presently reading this, it seems impossible that you would not have access to this voluminous body of work.
Besides, it’s no secret what I think. I think it takes a nerve to base everything on excitement and nothing on justice and legitimacy. What I find most damnable is simply this: if the 2014 Sprint Cup champion represents the best team, it is going to be mostly a coincidence. I think Jeopardy is exciting, too, but I don’t think Tuesday night’s winner is the smartest person on earth on Tuesday night.
In my mind, I just can’t get around that.
NASCAR officials claim that this is what the fans want. It has shown some of its marketing research to a few people. According to what I have read, seen and heard, this research is cited as being based on fan advisory councils and the like. The problem is that it is based on people who are already the sport’s most supportive fans. It seems a more pertinent object of research would include those who have cooled their ardor or even slipped away. Someone even told me about a question on a survey that had no negative option.
If NASCAR settled its championship on one race, would this be: (a.) exciting, (b.) thrilling, (c.) exactly what I’d love, and (d.) almost exactly what I’d love.
OK. That’s exaggerated, but the point is, like all polls, it’s affected by the pool of respondents. Some polls, such as “Fox News poll says Romney will win in a landslide!” are obviously meant to mold, not reflect, public opinion.
So NASCAR’s polling is skewed. At least, though, it’s probably done scientifically, even if the science is used to create what NASCAR wants us to hear.
Lots of people, including me, have asked Twitter followers and Facebook friends to chime in. The validity is affected by the pool of respondents. I have almost 5,000 Facebook friends and almost 6,000 Twitter followers. They are probably inclined to follow me because they like what I write. Some NASCAR media members have many times as many Twitter followers as I. Their polling is more broad-based than mine, but even that is skewed by the perception of the Twitter member who conducts the poll.
Here’s my perception, based, yes, on what I see in the feeds. Twitter is more inclined to be populated with enthusiasts. Facebook is more social in nature but also more broad-based. Here in the small town where I live, a much larger portion of the population is on Facebook than Twitter. The majority of my Twitter followers are intense NASCAR fans. My Facebook friends have a large contingent of NASCAR fans but are also formed, in significance, from my hometown, my college, my musical tastes, my favorite sports teams, etc.
Most of my former colleagues on the NASCAR trail seem to believe that only Twitter matters, so that’s why, when I asked “what do you think about the NASCAR changes?” I posted it on both Twitter and Facebook. Many more responded on Facebook. The landslide support reported by NASCAR officials conflicts with the expressed views of those who pay attention to yours truly.
At this point, I feel compelled to imagine the old script of Dragnet: “In a moment, the results of that trial. …”
One-thousand-one. That’s a moment.
On Twitter, the results on the NASCAR format change were: in favor (“up” by my question), 10; opposed (“down”), 22; undecided, 2. On Facebook: in favor, 8; opposed, 46; undecided, 14. These were numbers based on both direct responses to the question, and opinions volunteered without solicitation. I took some pains to make sure that no one voted twice, but I’m not completely sure because the same person could have been on Facebook and Twitter by different names, or he/she could have had an actual-name account and also an anonymous one. The difference between the two sources – by the perspective of responses and volunteered posts — was almost nonexistent in terms of percentages of support and disapproval.
Oh, my gosh. I just added up the numbers and there were exactly 100 responses. That’s convenient. Overall, 66 percent opposed the changes, 18 percent approved and 16 percent were undecided. Surprisingly, fans on Facebook – one would think those who don’t care about NASCAR wouldn’t respond – opposed the changes in the same percentage as Twitter. Support (12.1 percent) on Facebook was considerably lower than Twitter (29.4). The chief difference in the forms of social media was that my Facebook friends were more inclined to be undecided by a margin of 21.2 to 5.9 percent.
There’s nothing scientific about this. It’s an incredibly small sample. The only reason I did it was that all I heard was word of how supportive the fans were to the changes, and I wondered what the fans who followed me thought. Maybe there was a little science. The results were slanted to people who read what I write.
Apparently, you are apart from the norm, but that’s a good thing. Me, too.
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