Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, May 4, 2017, 6:25 p.m.
It occurred to me yesterday morning. What NASCAR needs is a ground game.
Just hand the ball to Jimmy Brown, or pitch it to Gale Sayers. (It’s not that I’m old enough to use the names of heroes many today know nothing about. I take relish in it. There was really no need to use this comparison at all. By ground game, I meant the kind politicians talk about, the one that used to be called “getting out the vote.”)
NASCAR needs to put fannies in seats. Empty seats don’t buy hot dogs. They don’t even stand up to hear Restless Heart perform the national anthem.
Oh, the excuses.
It was a tad warm. It was a little cool. The race takes too long. I might miss The Walking Dead. The wi-fi’s slow. Some tickets are cheaper than they were five years ago. All sports are experiencing a slump (which explains the 5,000 who watched Alabama play Auburn … in volleyball.)
TV is all that matters. Never mind that TV ratings are swooning, too.
NASCAR has managed to run off its once-loyal fans, and the ones who straggled in when it became fashionable are now really into mixed martial arts. Or, hell, they might spend all their free time watching President Trump.
For the umpteenth year in a row, the Emperor spent the offseason buying new clothes, and once again, more and more people notice he’s really naked.
If tracks disassembled, detonated, and melted more grandstands into scrap metal, they’d be phone booths. The goal, openly divulged, is to increase the market value of the remaining seats. In other words, it will be easier to charge $100 apiece for them if there are fewer.
What would I have done? I’d have left those desolate grandstands on the back stretch, recruited scout leaders, baseball coaches, bandleaders, Campfire Girls, Future Farmers of America, Beta Clubs and the Royal Ambassadors of the Baptist church to sell the tickets for 10 bucks a pop, let the kids keep $5 of each ticket for themselves or their organization, park the buses and expose them to racing, no matter if the whole program did no better than break even.Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
The first step in rebuilding this fan base is getting them while they’re young. If the only way kids watch is on TV, it’s the most they’re ever going to do. No one has to make them think that being there is important. Being there really is important. They’ve got to feel the vibrations, smell the fumes, hear the fury of powerful engines, and experience the pulse quickening that unfurls with the wave of a green flag.
It’s breathtaking. Take some breaths.
That’s what I mean by a ground game. Turn out the fans. Don’t just open the gates.
Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.
Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.
Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.
If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.
Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.
Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
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