Be Careful What You Wish For…
The taste of crow is very unappealing, but as we approach the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale this Saturday night – I’m afraid it may be a big part of my Labor Day diet. For years, I’ve been beating the drum in favor of ending the season on Labor Day weekend. The thought was that it was a losing battle to try and go up against the NFL regular season, which starts the Thursday after Labor Day. It’s quite possible that a race going up against the NFL on their opening day, may actually register a 0.0 rating – and yes, that’s possible.
Of course, when I was advocating ending the season earlier, my thought was they may move the start of the season up to late February. I never really thought that the powers-that-be would think it was a good idea to continue starting the season on the last weekend in March and cram the schedule into five months.
But you know the old saying – Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. Without a lot of rhetoric and dancing around the issue, while trying to justify some statements – I’ll just come out and say it. I was wrong!
Last season, the season finale took place on October 19th. The problem with last season was that after Labor Day, the series went into hibernation for five weeks before resurfacing for the double-header at Houston in the first week in October. By the time the series got back to racing, the NFL season was already a quarter of the way done. Two weeks after Houston, came the finale at Fontana. So after Labor Day, the series visited two venues in a seven week period, while most of the sporting world was focused on college and pro football – and the racing world was following NASCAR’s Chase and Formula One winding down. That’s not a recipe for maximizing exposure.
Before this season, the earliest the Verizon IndyCar Series had ended its season was when the 2007 season wrapped up its seventeen-race season at Chicagoland on September 9th. For the record, the season has never ended as early as it will this season – unless you count that ridiculous 1996 season that only had three races and ended with the Indianapolis 500. Fortunately, that experiment was never tried again.
Conversely, CART ran at Fontana five different times in the month of November between 1998 and 2003. In 2002, CART finished their season in Mexico City as late as November 17th. That may have been a little late, considering that Thanksgiving Day was just a week and a half later. When the stores are already decked out in Christmas decorations, I’m not sure that many people other than us die-hards are following a sport that started way before Easter. There has to be a decent compromise.
In 2011 and 2013, the season ended in mid-October. In 2012, it was mid-September. My thought is to end it around either the last weekend of September or the first weekend of October. But if the season stretched to the first weekend of October, they need to be having at least a couple of races in September in order to keep interest up among casual fans.
I’ve read where some say “Forget the casual fans or the stick-and-ball fans. They’re not real race fans anyway.” That attitude is a little short-sighted. Those are the ones we need. For years, market research has shown that IndyCar and the NFL share a lot of the same demographics. There is a lot more overlap between the NFL and IndyCar than there is between the NFL and NASCAR. Why that is, I’m not sure – but it is foolish to think that IndyCar does not need the NFL fans.
I consider myself a die-hard IndyCar fan I’ve passionately followed this sport for most of my life. But I am also a very passionate football fan. Unlike many, I am as much a fan of college football as I am the NFL. I don’t favor one over the other. Susan doesn’t like to see the fall come, because she knows it’s hard to move me from the television most weekends – unless we’re going to a game.
That’s why I was so adamant about ending the season on Labor Day weekend. This season, I’ll be shifting gears in less than twenty-four hours. The Verizon IndyCar Series will crown its champion late Saturday night (early Sunday morning – depending on where you are). The next night, my Tennessee Vols will kickoff their season against Utah State on the SEC Network. That’s going to be two great nights of TV viewing for me, but it’ll hit me in about a week that our IndyCar season is over until who knows when. At that point, I know I’ll be feeling like every other IndyCar fan – lost.
A lowly over-aged blogger in Nashville had nothing to do with the decision to end the season this early, but I’m hoping they extend the schedule through September. It doesn’t sound like it’s going to change in 2015, but I’m hoping Mark Miles opens his eyes and realizes that this is too early and does something about it by 2016. I’ll admit I was wrong on this. I’m hoping Mark Miles can swallow his pride and admit he was too.