By admin | February 27, 2011
By Richard Allen
We live in a world of uncertain economies and high gas prices which lead to people trying to get the most for than money more so than ever before. Also, we live in a world of HDTV, video games and short attention spans which lead to people wanting to be entertained in different ways than before.
With those things above being said, if NASCAR and all other sports are going to thrive in the future, or even survive for that matter, they have to look for ways to entertain their fans on a new level and do so without making that entertainment cost prohibitive. After attending my first AMA Supercross motorcycle event in Atlanta on Saturday night I witnessed first hand the model other sports will have to employee to give fans value for their money and entice them away from the sort of things now vying for their attention.
I had watched Supercross on television a number of times before attending the Georgia Dome race and had decided it would be worth the trip for our family from Knoxville to Atlanta to check it out. I came to find out there is much more involved in these races than just the races. The pre-race activities are unrivaled, at least in my previous experience with sporting events. And I have attended a myriad of professional and major college games as well as scores of NASCAR races over the course of my lifetime.
Pyrotechnics, music, laser lights, merchandise giveaways and appearances by the riders themselves had the crowd of almost 70,000 people whipped into a frenzy before the first heat race ever took place. And all of this occurred before the 7:30 broadcast on the Speed network signed on. The fans felt as if they had received something for the money they had spent aside from the main happening.
If fans are going to have to pay ever increasing ticket prices only to get the event itself at the venue then why find a hotel, fight traffic, pay exorbitant concession prices, squeeze into a small uncomfortable seat, wait in line at the restroom and get back home at a late hour when that same event is covered in HDTV with replays in the comfort of the fan’s own living room.
Simply parading one sponsor representative after another up to a microphone to plug their company is not a pre-race ceremony. For that matter, neither is a marching band playing the same music they have played for the past 50 years a pre-game show that will cause people leave home in today‘s world.
And once the race itself did start, the on-track product was outstanding. According to the comments I read afterward, many considered it one of the greatest nights of racing the sport has seen in many years. Riders Chad Reed and James Stewart swapped the lead multiple times over the course of the 20 lap feature race before finally tangling and going down on the final lap in a 1979 Daytona 500-esque moment that allowed 3rd place Ryan Villopoto to sail past for the win.
But the key fact remains, even had the race not turned out to be so dramatic I would have still felt as though me, my wife and our two sons had spent our time and money well. If all a sport has to offer is the event itself, the event had better be good. And many NASCAR races in recent years have not lived up to their three-digit ticket prices.
As much of a traditionalist as I tend to be, I realize some things in this modern world change. And it is up to those who have thrived in the past to change with the times or eventually be left in the dust of history. Today’s attention spans are shorter. Whether that is what previous generations want or not doesn’t matter, it’s just fact. There were scores of young people at the Atlanta Supercross race thoroughly enjoying themselves, aside from the intense competition on the track. That’s what it is going to take for NASCAR, the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NCAA to survive and thrive in the future.
If those sports want to see what it takes to make their most coveted age demographic happy, they better buy a ticket to a Supercross race sometime soon.
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