Which Caesar Does One Render Unto?

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

"So what are you gonna say?" "Umm, very little."
“So what are you gonna say?”
“Umm, very little.” (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 7:37 p.m.

I don’t think I can muster a blog on one subject tonight. My opinions aren’t strong enough, or at least I haven’t reached the stage where I can make detailed cases.

 

Atmosphere's a little different this year.
Atmosphere’s a little different this year.

The collapse of the Boston Red Sox is making me more literate. I wind up stanching the bleeding by reading books while the games are on TV. How bad are the Red Sox? I’m more than five hundred pages into William Manchester’s American Caesar. It’s not a light read.

Actually, I probably should write a blog about the Red Sox because I’ve certainly put lots of thought into why the fortunes of the World Champions have gone so bad so quickly. Maybe tomorrow.

 

The World Cup semifinals certainly dissented with the notion that all soccer matches are just alike. Germany embarrassed Brazil with a cavalry charge. Argentina and Holland dug trenches.

I’ve enjoyed it. What always impresses me about the World Cup – this is only the second I’ve really followed closely – is how all the teams are like I expect them to be. There’s a novelty song by a novelty group, the Austin Lounge Lizards, called “Another Stupid Song About Texas,” and following the premise of that tune and adapting it to international futbol:

Their Germans are the germiest / The Frenchmen are the wormiest / Their floppers are the laziest / Colombians cocainiest / The Belgians tend to waffle best / Brazil’s the humiliatedest / Argentina’s stripedest / While Holland’s the sunspottiest / Uruguay smokespottiest.

 

"What? Me worry?" (Getty Images for NASCAR)
“What? Me worry?”
(Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR’s owners are organizing, and it is altogether fitting that this sport would unionize at the level of ownership instead of labor. If there’s a Curt Flood, he’s a billionaire in this sport … and … guess what? … every other one.

I’m perplexed because all I know is what I read and see, and that’s just no good here. The “remain calm, all is well” chorus is so strong, it’s obviously a lie. This is one of those tense times when there is a vast gulf between on the record and off, and in the lines and between them. The same guy saying “no big deal” into the mic is saying “all hell’s breaking loose” when it’s off. A couple guys have called me as soon as theirs went off, probably because I’m not in a position to do much with it, and they have a misplaced desire to know what I think, but not with a live mic.

Part of it is a consequence of the very spin that is being generated now. The past couple years the spin on sagging attendance has been, “Hey, psst, between me and you, attendance doesn’t mean anything. We make so much money from TV that ticket revenue is getting to be a negligible part of the business. Sure, we’d like to draw a big crowd, but it’s really not a big deal.”

At some point, this led to an equal and opposite reaction, in which the tycoon car owners started saying of the tycoon track owners, “Hey, these tracks are getting rich, and I’m still trying to find $5 million from sponsors to make ends meet. How fair is that?”

To which others answered, “Not very,” followed by, “Hey, I really need someone to talk to, and do you think you could get dates for all my friends?”

Nothing raises temperatures in NASCAR like the suspicion that someone else might be making money.

When I was on the beat, my nickname for Fridays was Liars Day. That’s because the same people who say, “What I love about this track is how great the racing is,” on Friday turn into, “It’s ridiculous how hard it is to pass at this piece of crap” on Sunday evening.

Some of the pointed talkers are going to be at least frightened and at most catatonic Friday, pinned between the ruling body that owns them and the owners who own them.

An old album title comes to mind: Twin Sons of Different Mothers (Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg).

 

This kind of stuff happens in fiction all the time. Check out my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope, at www.neverlandpublishing.com. Have Kindle, www.amazon.com will travel. If you’re here in town, The Intangibles is available at L&L Office Supply. Signed copies of both are at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., too. Or send me a check (see “Merchandise”) and I’ll ship one or both.

7 thoughts on “Which Caesar Does One Render Unto?”

  1. re: owner organizations

    Hey, it worked for Indycar; they’ve got some of the best racing ever ! Mind you, it took more than thirty years and the collapse of two sanctioning bodies to get here, but they shook things up enough that everything is swell.

    If the owners get a group then the drivers are going to want one as well, so that they can lobby for safety and pension plans. I’m sure that all of these folk will work well together. It’s for the good of the sport you know. Who would be greedy enough to kill off the golden goose just for an egg or two?

  2. Here is what I think is lying underneath the veneer of the bland “official” talk about the owners’ alliance.

    The owners (sponsors) wasted millions changing over to the COT, which NASCAR had to abandon due to lack of brand recognition and poor racing. Then the owners were forced to spend millions more converting over to the “Gen 6″ car, but many of the COTs ended up being scrapped when even ARCA teams weren’t interested in buying them. And this was supposedly an initiative by NASCAR to “help control costs”?

    Now NASCAR’s brain trust wants to cut horsepower in the engines to “improve the show”? This will cost owners (sponsors) more big money and will be nearly impossible to regulate. Is NASCAR going to put each car on a chassis dyno before each qualifying session and race to verify horsepower doesn’t exceed an arbitrary limit?

    And as you already mentioned, the owners probably want a bigger percentage of those fat TV contracts coming up next year. The track owners/promoters are making out like bandits because the TV money more than offsets their losses due to poor attendance at the tracks. Meanwhile some big teams (even the mighty, HMS) have had to fund some of their teams’ races out-of-pocket as team sponsorships have become a more difficult sell due to declining track attendance and TV ratings.

    Maybe the rich guys getting together has some merit?

  3. I wonder what the dollar value of the pile of junk in the Daytona garages might be. For that alone I sympathize with the owners. My pet peeve though is the mysterious debris cautions while Larry Mac yells out “CAHHSHUN CAHHSHUN!!!!!” Sorry, I’m a little cranky today…. but when no debris is shown I go psycho.

  4. All of the above, plus the fact the 2 major track owners where a huge chunk of the TV revenue is dispersed to are in fact publicly traded companies controlled by the Frances and the Smiths. “Publicly traded” means something if there is active buying and selling. When blockholders of stock refuse to sell and snap up any outstanding offers, you have a defacto private corporation. And back towards private is where both of these are headed. Don’t be surprised when they are re-privatized and delisted. The regulatory requirements to stay public are invasive and expensive. They went public to finance their growth on other peoples money (don’t feel sorry for the other people though- they made out just fine as well…). Now that the growth is done, the tracks are built and NASCAR schedules are set to include basically only the France/Smith tracks thereby guaranteeing income, the oligarchy that is NASCAR will once again close ranks. However, the RTA is more than a small annoyance, as they control the majority of teams and all of the drivers – and make no mistake that NASCAR fandom is basically a personality cult (example A – Junior, example B – Danica…should I keep going?). The $8B TV deal only works if fans tune in to see their faves. It will be polite and quiet for a while, but unless NASCAR come up to the table and forks over a significant chunk and gives up a portion their complete control, there will be fireworks. For too long NASCAR has been scooping team sponsorships, keeping TV revenue to themselves, limiting the companies that teams can partner with due to “market segment exclusivity” and basically…being NASCAR. The France’s are going to quickly find out that the TV deal may not work out as well for them as expected. Owners smell blood. This is going to be interesting!

  5. This is hands-down the most intelligent motorsports related comment section on the Internet. Good insight from all you folks.
    So now that it’s becoming clear what the owners are after, the focus has to turn to the drivers. As Monte has pointed out many times over the years, the words “rich” and “powerful” are not synonymous, and drivers have been content settling for lots of money with very little power over the years. I have to wonder if that changes now. If I were standing in front of an $8.2 billion pie and I happened to be the only one without a knife, I’d be nervous. Deals are getting ready to be made. It seems the new parameters of NASCAR’s business model are going to be hashed out, and the drivers will have no voice in any of it. NASCAR will likely look like the NFL or the NBA 10 years from now in terms of the way the league office and the owners do business with each other. Now imagine what those leagues would look like without the player’s union.

  6. Based on the timing of the RTA announcement it sure looks like the owners are saying enough is enough. It appears like they have little confidence that the sanctioning body can turn this around with their “organic” approach.

    This may be about saving money, having a voice and whatever other spin they put out, but for this group to take this step at this time looks more like survival of the industry rather than what they are spouting and or even what the coverage folks are speculating.

    Look at their “mission statement”-the first thing, their primary goal is “preserve” the sport.

    As one guy used to say, “I hate to say the sky is falling, but when you look around and all you see are chunks of blue it’s hard to think otherwise.”

  7. Great article and great comments. There are rumors of tremors in Daytona Beach. The sport was spiraling downward under Brian’s leadership with no signs of it ending in sight. Thank god the owner’s are finally stepping forward and doing something. The sport needs stability in its rules and consistency in the decision making. Maybe this will now come to pass.

    I’m actually surprised it has taken this long for the team owners to do this. I would have thought the COT would have sparked a protest. I figure about 400 race cars got scrapped on that deal. But then again everybody was enjoying the cash flow back then. The flow has slowed and now it’s Time to cry the blues.

    I hope the two sides can get together and get things turned around without the need for boycotts and such. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bruton may play a big part in this in the end. History tells of Big Bill running him out of the racing organization business back in the beginning. Do you really need a sanctioning body to have big paying races? What if Smith decided to have a race paying $5,000,000.00 to win on an off NASCAR week end at Las Vegas?

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