An Offseason Can Be Too Short

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We are now past the halfway point of the Verizon IndyCar Series offseason. This coming weekend marks the fourteenth consecutive weekend that we have gone without an IndyCar race. We still have another thirteen raceless weekends to go, but at least we’re whittling them down. Twenty-seven weekends is a long time between races, but IndyCar CEO Mark Miles is addressing that issue by starting next season earlier and ending it later so there’s no use in beating that dead horse.

By comparison, I think we can all agree that the NASCAR offseason is way too short (or their season is way too long). The just completed NASCAR season ended just four days before the turkey was carved last week. The potential for having Christmas decorations at a race track just doesn’t seem right. The next NASCAR season starts back just eleven weekends from now. Actually, it’s only ten if you count Daytona qualifying and whatever the latest version of the Bud Shootout is called.

One offseason is too long, the other is too short. There has to be a happy medium. I’ve always thought that the NBA and the NHL seasons were way too long. October to June doesn’t allow fans much of an offseason to catch their breath before starting the grind all over again. Baseball runs from April to October (or the first couple of days in November, as it is now). Seven months allows a five month offseason that is probably mandated by the seasons more than anything else.

The IndyCar offseason this year is six and a half months between events. That’s long, but how does that compare with the NFL offseason? The 2015 Super Bowl took place on February 1st. The new season did not kick off until September 10th. That’s almost seven and a half months. All sports, including IndyCar, have some sort of pre-season that precedes the opener. I have not counted any pre-season in these comparisons.

Don’t overlook the importance of fans catching their breath. I think that’s one reason why we saw such a rise and fall in the popularity of NASCAR over the past fifteen years. Whether it was coincidence or not, there was a rapid rise in the popularity of NASCAR immediately following the death of Dale Earnhardt. For a few seasons, Yuppies who had never watched racing before were talking NASCAR and trying to immerse themselves in the sport. After a few seasons of that, I think that many of them felt burned out after a string of such short offseasons. They ended up leaving the sport as quickly as they found it.

I don’t follow the NBA at all. I never paid attention to the NHL until Nashville got a team almost twenty years ago. But I think their seasons are both way too long. The Nashville Predators have never gotten past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, so I might feel differently if that happened. But playing a winter sport on ice in June in the south just seems a little far-fetched to me.

Baseball seems long because they play almost every day. Fan burnout is practically unavoidable when you play 162 games in a season. I tend to pay close attention in April because I’m glad to have baseball back. Then when the month of May cranks up, baseball doesn’t even make it onto my back burner. I mentally put it on the shelf and don’t really start paying attention again until long after the All-Star break. Then I pay very close attention during the September pennant races and the October playoffs. If I tried to follow baseball for the entire season I would go nuts. That’s why I pace myself like I do.

As usual, the NFL has it about right. The regular season is sixteen games four months, then a month of playoffs culminating with the Super Bowl. By the time the season rolls around seven months later, fans are foaming at the mouth to get things going. That was about the only advantage to the long IndyCar season. We IndyCar fans cannot wait for the green flag to fall in St. Petersburg in mid-March.

Like the NFL, there are sixteen events. Unlike the NFL, there are several “bye” weeks – especially near the end of the season. There is also no intense month of playoffs in the final month. But that’s fine. I much prefer the way that IndyCar ends their season, compared to the contrived and convoluted “chase” of NASCAR.

If NASCAR began their season at Martinsville instead of Daytona, do you think there would be mass hysteria surrounding the beginning of their season? I doubt it. It’s odd that any sport would put their biggest event at the beginning of their season. It’s a great kickoff in a circus-like atmosphere, but most purists don’t consider restrictor-plate racing to be a true measure of greatness. I mean, Derrike Cope won the Daytona 500 and Michael Waltrip won it twice.

So, at the risk of sounding like a shill for IndyCar – I think Mark Miles is now on the right track with the schedule. He’s not there yet, but he’s listened to the fans enough to abandon his idea of wrapping up by Labor Day. He has also tried to find venues to host a race as early as February. He just hasn’t found one, not yet anyway. While I’ve dumped on Mark Miles a lot, I’ll give him credit for coming off of that idea.

Nineteen races from mid-March to mid-October sounds about right to me. That gives us a longer season and three more races to talk about in the season. It also gives us five months to catch our breath, decompress and focus on other things in our world. Just remember; NASCAR has proven to us that there is such a thing as too short of an offseason.

George Phillips

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10 Responses to “An Offseason Can Be Too Short”

  1. I remember CART in 1998-2001 era when the season started around the middle of March and ended around the End of October. Granted, there were more races during that time. There were 19 in 1998, and 20 in 1999-2001. I loved it. It seemed the right amount of time to race. I know there are less races these days but it has to go to at least the end of September or mid October in my humble opinion.

  2. I actually would like to see baseball go back to 154 games, with all the playoffs they have now, and the NFL back to 14 games. However they will never reduce the amount of games due to their union contracts. For me, even one game is too long for the NBA.

    I think a mid-march to early October schedule for Indycar would be perfect. Start the third weekend in March. Maybe the weekend before the NCAA tournament while the initial rush of Nascar and spring training baseball is past. Finish up the second weekend of October before we get very deep in the baseball post season and after the initial rush of start of the the NFL season. It would be perfect with 12 ovals, 6 road courses and 1 street course. I can dream, can’t I

  3. hey. it should be 21 races justas formula one does. it should wrap up around the beginning of October.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    I completely disagree that NASCAR’s offseason is too short, and it’s not even my third favorite type of racing.

    All racing and all basketball offseasons are too long.

  5. Here in Wisconsin the Bucks and Brewer seasons seem too long after the first week.

    I don’t pay much attention to Nascar and even less to F1, but I would like to see IndyCar from mid-March to mid-October.

    I agree with Bob that I would like to see baseball go back to 154 games. The NFL exhibitions games are about useless and disliked by all the teams.

    I love hockey and still play a bit of pond hockey, but the NHL season seems way, way, way too long to me.

    TV money pretty much rules all those decisions.

    With all the horrible things taking place in the world these days, we are fortunate to be able to turn to our favorite sport for a bit of escape from all that, however briefly.

  6. Rememebr the old IRL schedule that was to end in May? That would have made for some strange racing and such. I am all for some early races, that Disney event was fun because it was a little appetizer for the season coming up.

    I do like an offseason and like when they end close enough to each other (other motorsports). For example, my interest in F1 slipped away once Lewis locked it up, I honestly forgot about the last race this past weekend! I mean, I totally forgot about it. NASCAR, NHRA and Indycar are done, so I have moved on to football, holiday planning, etc….

  7. We are halfway home! Thanks, George. I needed that. These first couple of months were hell with NASCAR, NHRA and F1 still going. Am looking forward to an “off” weekend.

  8. I have long been an advocate for IndyCar running SOME sort of event on the weekend between the NFL Conference Championships and the Super Bowl. It’s still not at the climax of college hoops, the NBA isn’t worth watching yet and NHL games, except where your favorite team is concerned, are of little consequence. I have always considered it kind of a “dead” weekend, and on a couple of occasions I’ve scheduled cruises for my wife and me. Certainly no ratings will be lost to the Pro Bowl, and while it’s a nice distraction to have on the weekend in between, overall it’s a big “WHO CARES?”
    (Even gamblers who regularly bet football stay away from the Pro Bowl except to bet on the over/under.)

    At least until the NFL expands its regular season to 18 games and runs the playoffs through the end of February, why not try and run a street course in Hawaii? Or Tahiti? Or even return to Australia?

    While it would not be cheap to move everything to the Islands, I doubt there’d be many drivers or crews complaining, and it seems like a natural for travel and tourism people to entice crowds to such an event. Can you imagine an IndyCar cruise from LA to Hawaii with all sorts of special events for fans, driver meet-‘n-greets, etc? Two seater rides around the Lido deck? It has an episode of “The Love Boat” written all over it.

    (Granted, that’s not just thinking “outside the box,” that’s BREAKING the box.)

    In Hawaii, you could run the race in prime time on Sunday night, missing ALL of the sports world save for a couple of NBA games. And the scenery alone in the dead of winter would almost guarantee some “eyes” on the telecast.

  9. European football runs fron August to May with few breaks. They seem to do fine.

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