Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Turner Broadcasting's Publicity Bomb

What was Turner Broadcasting thinking? It planted devices that resembled bombs near bridges and the New England Medical Center to promote a lame cartoon on the Adult Swim package on Cartoon Network, and the result was a swarm of bomb scares and the inevitable intervention of local and federal law enforcement authorities, not to mention nightmarish traffic jams on the late-afternoon commute from Boston. And apparantly nine other cities including New York and San Francisco were similarly "targeted" for this bizarre and offensive ad campaign.

Why Turner pulled such a tasteless stunt is presently beyond comprehension, unless it reflects how much contempt broadcast media types harbor for ordinary people. It obviously never occurred to anyone at Turner that people would become scared of objects under bridges and so forth that resembled bombs; certainly any sane members of a broadcast network pondering new publicity ads would take into account such a matter as whether an ad campaign will bring federal law enforcement officials after you.

I'm baffled at this one.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pre-Speedweeks Miscellenia

Some miscelleneous thoughts as Speedweeks approaches -


Leave it to Bruton Smith to say something that has the RSM salivating but which on second thought isn't too swift. Smith doesn't want NASCAR to fine drivers for swearing or postrace scuffling. "Look at what built this sport, don't sanitize it too much. I remember when AJ Foyt would win a race and still crawl out of the car to whip your butt. We've got to stop being so quick to fine people. Stop it already. These drivers should not have to walm that thin line. Don't penalize them. When they crawl out of that car, let them say what they want."

Wait a minute. Since when did "saying what they want" really do that much good? I regularly hear fans talk about how good it is when a driver like Kevin Harvick "speaks his mind." It seems no one ever asks if a driver is right when he speaks his mind, because speaking your mind doesn't give you a right to be wrong on something. And as for "sanitizing" the sport, this sport doesn't need spectacles like the postgame brouhaha between the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers; if anything, the sport needs to crack down more and stop the postrace burnouts and improper postrace laps that drivers engage in for showoff purposes - racing doesn't need Deion Sanders, it needs Barry Sanders. No taunting, just win the race, drive a simple dignified victory lap, and go to victory lane.

Bruton is wrong here.


Juan Montoya got his 2007 season off to a good start by co-driving the winning car in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Now can he do that on the superspeedway portion of Daytona.


Does anyone miss Deborah Renshaw?

I thought not.


BTW, when will Daytona finally be repaved?


Speaking of repaving, Las Vegas didn't exactly garner rave reviews for its new banking after numerous crashes and blown tires interrupted Winston Cup testing there. Elliott Sadler topped the speed charts while A.J. Allmindinger may be on the way out of Winston Cup after two wrecks in two days and zero competitive moxie anywhere.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Continuing Stupidity Against The Iraq War

What is it about celebrities that they side with leftism? A recent demonstration against the liberation of Iraq attracted celebrities and attracted MSM attention, and like all such demonstrations, attracted nothing in the way of truth.

The reality is nothing the antiwar side says about Iraq is the least bit accurate. There is no civil or sectarian war in Iraq, there is Islamo-Arab sabotage; there is no hopelessness for a democratic Iraq, there is a battle to secure it; there was no recklessness by the US in attacking, there was the fact it was the only option. We of course get "realists" trying to say otherwise, except those "realists" are unrealistic.

The continuing stupidity against the Iraq war needs to be countered, and the need for real ideological diversity in the celebrity culture remains high.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Drawback Of Star Power

This look at David Beckham's foray to US soccer makes a great point about when sports teams and leagues try to emphaisze a "face of the sport/team" instead of competitive depth. Star power is a two-edged sword because the boost it can make for a sports team is ultimately short-lived and does not change that it is competitive depth and emphasis on the basics of a sport and a team, not glitterati, that make a sporting endeavor successful.

Monday, January 22, 2007

NASCAR Knows What It's Doing?

David Smith argues that NASCAR knows what it is doing with the varied changes of the last few years. He argues that the changes of the last few years "have been an amazing success, especially the new 'Chase For The Cup.'" His argument, however, is not persuasive.

Smith askes, "Tell me who was in tenth place in points at the 2003 Capital City 400." Of course one has to look up this stat, "but I'm sure you can tell me who was there in 2006, 2005, and 2004, as well as eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth." Uh, no, like with the 2003 Richmond question it would have to be looked up, and how relevent is it in any event? The driver who was tenth after the Capital City 400 was locked into the top ten in points those previous three seasons; what happened after that? The competitiveness of the racing wasn't helped at all by the playoff format.

Smith also cites new TV deals, without noting that NASCAR has done a 180 here. When it got the FOX/NBC deal of 2001-6, a stated goal was to centralize TV coverage, the argument going that fans had to jump around too much to find TV coverage each week. Now, though, we're going back to jumping around, as BGN will be on ESPN entirely, the Trucks are still on SPEED TV, while Winston Cup starts at FOX, jumps to TNT for late-spring and summer, then jumps to ABC/ESPN from late July onward. So which is it, guys - is TV coverage split up too much or is it centralized too much?

"ESPN has access to markets and mediums that NASCAR could only dream about." It does? You mean FOX, NBC, and/or CBS don't have similar access? Smith lays out that a problem was "lack of good television coverage during the second half of the season," and states that the solution was "Bring back ESPN." He ignores the lowball quality of ESPN programming, far worse than anything NBC or FOX have - ESPN has made Monday Night Football in particular a travesty and its racing coverage was always inferior to CBS/World Sports coverage when it was involved in the sport.

There is also the addition of Toyota to Winston Cup, and like everyone else David Smith ignores how Toyota has helped bankrupt the Truck Series like it has every other racing series it has entered. Smith mixes Toyota's entry with the entry of Juan Montoya, saying "it will boost NASCAR's drive to diversify the sport." Smith of course doesn't explain just why there is any need to diversify the sport or anything else for that matter. Diversity campaigns never succeed, especially in a competitive market that makes arranging the winners beforehand fail.

Smith wants us to remember the mid-1990s and claims NASCAR was not in the top five in pro sports in this country. He ignores that NASCAR ratings back then were more than competitive with everyone save the NFL. NASCAR has not improved in that regard since then. "Last season's dip in ratings and atendence was going to happen at some point." A leveling of ratings and attendence, yes, but not a drop as has been seen the last four seasons; a drop such as this indicates a fundamental weakness catching up to the sport.

Smith obviously hopes the Spec Car/Car of Tomorrow will live up to its promise of safer drivers and racier cars, ignorant of the failure of the COT in testing and the fundamental unsoundness of the design to go with overselling the danger element of the cars before. NASCAR for its part has continued pushing the COT, and Penske Racing's Daytona test last week was part of that push, even though once again teams boycotted bringing COTs to the Daytona test - all were invited to do so - and neither driver tried to draft with the car; the speed of 191 was a red flag as "that's not the way we can race around here," Ryan Newman noted.

"Many of you said NASCAR was ruining the sport 20 years ago when they switched over to different cars..." Actually no one thought that. "...or when they changed from bias-ply tires to radials, or when they added restrictor plates..." It's been the plate races that saw the highest ratings increases over the years. "Still, even after all that, you watch. Why? Because NASCAR knows what its doing." No, David, people watch to see racing, not because NASCAR knows what its doing - if anything, NASCAR has shown it doesn't know what it is doing. People watch more in spite of NASCAR than because of it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

NASCAR's Gimmick Gets Gimmicked

To no one's surprise NASCAR will add two drivers to its playoff format and increase race-winner points by a whopping five points. However, a bizarre new twist is added, as for the Chase, the drivers will be seeded based on wins, so that the driver with the most wins will start first, then a driver will start second, etc.

Thus does the gimmick of the playoffs get its first of what will likely be many gimmicks in coming years.

The playoff run was implemented after Matt Kenseth stroked his way to the 2003 title on the strength of one win, clinching the title well before the season finale. With TV ratings and attendence beginning to slip in 2003, Brian France pondered what to do to increase the competitive fire of the sport.........and came up with a dud called the Chase.

2004's inaugural Chase saw little in the way of a spike in interest in the sport, despite what some of the RSM may say today about how "compelling" the 2004 playoffs were. 2005 and 2006 saw the novelty of playoffs wear out and ratings and attendence slippage continue.

Adding two drivers to the playoffs doesn't correct the fundamental flaw of a playoff system for a sport, racing, incompatable with any kind of playoff, and increasing race winner points by only five is worse than useless, it is an indication that NASCAR brass is refusing to recognize the seriousness of its competitive ennui.

Lack of winners and lack of lead changes remain the core issues of NASCAR's competitive ennui and ensuing ratings and attendence slippage. Adding two drivers to an absurd playoff format does nothing to correct this; adding a measely five points for a win likewise does nothing to correct this - the Chase will continue to lock out drivers who should not be arbitrarily locked out of top-twelve points contention and will continue to see stroking for the championship; despite the seeding format, race wins will continue to play only a minor role in the championship outcome, and the slippage the sport is seeing will continue.

NASCAR, in short, has accomplished nothing with this change.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

NASCAR's Kelly Clarkson

Just how is Kelly Clarkson supposed to help NASCAR? Clarkson's music deal with NASCAR will include a prerace concert at the Daytona 500 - which explains why the race's starting time is well after 3 PM - and another of those stupid NASCAR, How Bad Have You Got It? ads that are turning people off instead of bringing new fans in.

Yes, there is such a thing as promotional overkill and it shows in how the sport is turning fans off of racing instead of bringing them in with all these gimmicks from the playoff format to promotional overkill. Whatever happened to letting the competitive product sell itself?

If Kelly Clarkson wants to impress me, sing some Michael Nesmith tunes; otherwise stay the hell away from the racetrack.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Paying For The Same Land Twice

As usual the reality that we're making progress in Iraq, especially with regard to militias, has been overlooked by the MSM - an MSM that doesn't even understand the model to meaure progress in the war - but also overlooked is the reality behind Democratic calls for "redeployment." It began even as the first wave of the US liberation of Afghanistan began and continued afterward. And of course it continues today thanks to a bogus read of the progress we're making in the Middle East.

"I hate to pay for the same real estate twice," George Patton said. The Democrats of course disagree.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Daytona Testing Resumes

Daytona testing resumed after the Trucks took their turn, and it was a good mixture of speeds up top. David Gilliland timed first on Day One of this second test, but that's irrelevent given Gilliland's lack of killer instinct in his handful of Winston Cup starts, a bad sign for his career, as one can calm down an aggressive driver but one cannot fire up a weak driver.

Juan Montoya as expected saw his technology savvy help Ganassi/SABCO Racing, as they posted 1-2 on the Tuesday AM speed charts. Of the other Dodges, Elliott Sadler was 6th on the cumulative chart, Kyle Petty was 16th, and the Penske Dodges surprisingly sluggish at 18th (Ryan Newman, beginning the post-Matt Borland era) and 20th (Kurt Busch).

Toyota had five cars and the BDR Camrys as expected topped the Toyota charts; Mike Skinner was 7th on the cumulative chart and Jeremy Mayfield slipped from second on Monday to 11th on Tuesday. Michael Waltrip's Toyotas were less impressive as David reutimann was 17th and Mikey only 21st. The Red Bull team, meanwhile, was just 24th with A.J. Allmendinger, who was replaced in a pre-planned swap by Brian Vickers.

RCR was sluggish as they were last week - Clint Bowyer was 13th while Jeff Burton was a distant 26th on the cumulative chart; this is one area where the speeds may portend something later, as RCR made big horsepower gains in 2006 with the hiring of Cosworth engine builders.


Once the drafting session began everything changed. The Penske Dodges were 1 and 3 while David Reutimann was 7th, the only Toyota in the top 20 in drafting speeds. Elliott Sadler and Juan Montoya were in the top-15 for Dodge while David Stremme was 18th and Kyle Petty a dismal 28th. The RCR Chevys, meanwhile, continued to unimpress with dismal drafting speeds for Clint Bowyer (22nd) and Jeff Burton (30th).


The real story of testing, however, was that Penske Racing will bring their Spec Cars to Daytona to run a special test to determine gearing for restrictor plate Spec Car races. This comes amid a new PR push by NASCAR for the Spec Car led by Brett Bodine's public Q&A session with fans which didn't appear to address many substantive issues with the car's raceability; one questioner discussed Dale Earnhardt passing 18 cars in the final five laps of the 2000 Autumn 500 and apparantly no mention was made that that came with a roof spoiler package that blasted open a far more effective and consistent draft than is possible with a wing or the basic shape of the Spec Car. It also appears no serious discussion was made about the gapped airdam that makes the car push in dirty air. Bodine for his part parrotted the company line that there will be no reevaluation of the Spec Car after it's run some races, which is impossible to believe given how poorly the car has done in testing.

The drafting session for Daytona testing is due soon, and here we'll get some clue about raceability.

Benjamin Stewart Parsons - 1941-2007

Broadcaster, racer, Mr. Nice Guy. All are accurate descriptions of Benny Parsons. Born in Parsonsville, NC, Benny was often called The Former Taxicab Driver because growing up he fixed cabs at his father's shop in Detroit and periodically shook them down after he'd repaired them. Beginning in Michigan area short tracks, Parsons eventually became a two-time ARCA champion and parlayed some runs with L.G. DeWitt in 1970 into a run toward the 1973 NASCAR championship and 21 wins in all. The biggest was the 1975 Daytona 500, where he started 32nd and drafted with Richard Petty to the win. His other big win was the 1980 World 600 where he sweated out nearly seven hours of rain and wrecks and outfought Darrell Waltrip over the final 20 laps.

When his racing career ended he segued into broadcasting, a vocation he'd begun on a part-time basis in 1978 but accelerated in 1984. He became a fixture on ESPN and later NBC, known for his congenial nature as well as racing experience.

Less than a month after the passing of Bobby Hamilton, racing has lost another of its greats in Benny Parsons. Rest in peace, Benny.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Day Three At Daytona

Daytona's first round of Winston Cup testing effectively wrapped up even though one extra day was set aside to make up a rainout.

With this session done, the Trucks hit the Big D while the second wave of Winston Cup cars await their turn. With three Toyotas in the first session, there should be substantially more come the next session, and this first session pretty much showed what to expect with a new effort - some teething trouble but the potential for big production come the 500. Only Brian Vickers in the Red Bull Racing #83 looked shaky among the three Toyotas involved in this session.

The Chevrolets predictably dominated most of the speed charts while Ford showed some moxie, especially with the surprise of the session, Ricky Rudd. Dodge was decent as they debuted a flusher new Charger nose, but decent needs to be better than that come Speedweeks.

We also got some more looks at the Spec Car - aka Car of Tomorrow - as NASCAR gave some public display of their new inspection station, a cage within which laser scanners are to determine whether or not cars pass inspection.

It thus largely wrapped up the session as preseason testing continues.

Daytona Testing 2007 - What Have We Learned So Far?

With two days of testing at Daytona down, we've got some speeds to work with and analyze - not of course that they mean that much given the inevitable caveats of differing agendas and sandbagging. So for what it's worth, some pontification -

There's always at least one car that posts a fast lap that will all but disappear when the shooting starts. Count on Tony Raines in that category - fastest on the rain-shortened first day and third in Day Two's drafting session but who hardly set the track aflame in 2006. Boris Said can also be put in that category, as he was 11th on the first day but around 18th in the drafting session and who's never shown much killer instinct even in his primary racing discipline, road racing. Bill Elliott also is unlikely to display any killer instinct come raceday despite being fifth in the drafting session.

Predictably for restrictor plate racing, Chevrolets largely monopolized the speed charts. Dale Junior's Deion Branch to Teresa Earnhardt's Bill Belichick soap opera took up considerable time in press conferences (even though no one seemed to point out that Belichick is a smarter leader than Teresa Earnhardt) and Junior seemed to channel some frustration into the fastest time in the drafting session. The Chevys looking a little suspect are the RCR Monte Carlos, as Kevin Harvick hasn't made any noise in the first two days of testing and testing teammate Scott Wimmer hasn't lit much up, either.

Of the Dodges, the Evernham squad looked pretty good as did Reed Sorenson of Ganassi Racing. Bobby Labonte was slow on the charts in solo runs but the #43 was pretty good in Tuesday's draft, hitting 13th (I'm counting each driver once on the charts).

Of the Fords, Jamie McMurray posted good times but is under the gun because of his lack of success with Roush. The surprise was Ricky Rudd's fast laps in Robert Yates' #88, both solo and in the draft; whether he has enough to sustain anything like that remains to be seen but it's a good start.


Then of course there is Toyota. Dave Blaney fired a shot with a strong Day One session in Bill Davis' #22 but was less impressive in Day Two solo runs and was way down in the drafting session charts. Dale Jarrett (Michael Waltrip #44) was decent in the drafting and solo sessions and Brian Vickers (Red Bull #83) has been largely MIA on the charts, looking to become the first #83 to win since Lake Speed said Hoosier Mama to the Lady In Black in 1988.

Of course it's all subject to change as Day Three rolls in.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Five Ideas From Tim Tuttle

Everybody wants to get into the act. Tim Tuttle of SI has offered five changes he wants to see for 2007, and they're worth examining.

Abolish The Top-35 Lock-In Rule - He's wrong here. He offers arguments about how if a car not in the top-35 goes home, it cripples that car's ability to establish a foothold in the series and is not a level playing field for cars trying to break into the series.

The first problem is that it's not at all clear that the sport even should have some of these new cars or teams entering the series. Given the damage they've done to the Trucks, it is unfathomable, for instance, to see where Toyota benefits Winston Cup. And what about established teams trying to regain a competitive balance? What would benefit the sport more - Red Bull Racing's Toyotas winning in 2007, or Petty Enterprises Dodges winning in 2007?

NASCAR's current teams deserve to be protected, but that doesn't mean the top-35 rule is really adequate. What it boils down to is that it's time for larger starting fields - no more send-homes after qualifying. Inf 50 cars show up, as seems likely every week, then start 50 cars. Sending teams home after qualifying has never made any sense.

Limit Buschwacking - He's only partly right here, in that he doesn't go far enough. Buschwacking needs to be banned outright. The arguments for some form of Winston Cup participation in BGN no longer work because all Buschwacking has done is bankrupt the BGN series and has also hurt in the Trucks; the series need to establish their own identity and NASCAR needs to start spending the money it should have been spending on these series before.

Make All Restarts Single File - Again he's only partly right, for lapped cars should never be allowed up with the leaders on restarts. He apparantly proposes lining lapped cars in the middle of leaders a la in open wheel racing because he notes, "cars will be stuck behind lapped or slower cars, but they'll have plenty of room to maneuver past." He ignores that this consistently costs these cars time and track from the leader of the race. He also ignores that double-file restarts allow more passing; the sport needs to line the leaders abreast for all restarts.

Reduce The Number Of 500-mile Races - The Attention Deficit Disorder Brigade whines again. Contrary to Tuttle, Dover has seen some attendence slippage after it was all but extorted by NASCAR to cut its race distances to 400 miles, and Daytona never reaches the attendence for its 400 that it has for the 500. Tuttle and the other like-minded critics always ignore that changes in the race's outcome always happen when they are 500 miles, not 400; they also ignore that the drivers don't race harder in a 400-miler than in a 500-miler; 500 miles is always a better test of machinery and driver than 400.

Modernize Engine Technology - For what? "Control speeds through rev limiters," never mind NASCAR already has those and they don;t control the speed all that well. "Allow more advanced electronics like a pit-lane speed limit control." Just why NASCAR needs to have pit speed limits at all isn't even considered. "Increasing the technology would get rid of the restrictor plates and improve the racing, the safety, and the fairness of racing at Daytona and Talladega." Nowhere in history has increasing racing technology per se ever improved the quality of the racing, and restrictor plates do something all this technology has always failed to do - slow the speeds and keep them permanently down. As for safety, it's higher speed that is the safety danger, not restrictor plates. And fairness? Where has the restrictor plate ever been unfair?

"Doesn't NASCAR believe in Win On Sunday Sell On Monday?" It gets that with the technology it presently has; it doesn't need to increase technology; if anything it needs to take technology out of the cars.

Tim Tuttle needs to work on his ideas for racing.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Yes, Vietnam Was A Winnable War

Whenever there is talk about Iraq we often hear comparisons to Vietnam - comparisons supposed to convey that the war can't be won.

Problem is Vietnam was a winnable and noble war, and this look at an overlooked book on the early years of the war helps rectify the amnesia that still permeates discussion about Vietnam.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Imitating Nick Saban On The NASCAR Chase

NASCAR still isn't getting it about the failure of the playoff format, but it also appears there's a case of putting out fires going on. Brian Z. France had stated in November that changes were "not on the table.....ten races, ten drivers." But now Jim Hunter has stated that there will be changes - more points for winning a race and more than ten drivers in the playoffs - Bruton Smith speculates the changes will be ten extra points and twelve Chase drivers. Ramsey Poston of NASCAR then added in classic spin mode, "We don't think there's anything new here."

Either someone is confused about what policy is coming or there's an awful lot of imitation of Nick Saban going on here. Regardless, they display the maddening refusal of NASCAR to get it - The Chase is a failure. They remain in denial about the Chase, refusing to see that it has hurt TV ratings and attendence, has made what was an already ennui-driven championship battle even more mediocre, and continues to attack racing's competitive core by trying to stick-and-ball-ize the sport.

Adding ten points for winning the race might as well be adding one point, for it continues to refuse to make winning races paramount; winning the most races still needs to be the requirement of a champion. Adding two more drivers to the Chase ignores the question, what of the others mathematically still in the points race? And what of the rest of the field? Why does NASCAR have to arbitrarily shut out most of the field from at least top ten points contention for an illusiory spike in TV ratings?

It gets NASCAR off to another uninspiring start as it enters a pivotal season.

The State Of Defeating Jihad

Some interesting looks at the state of defeating Jihad can be found here and here. Also worth examining is this big picture look at the battle against Jihad worldwide. These pieces certainly show civilization has a long way to go against Jihad, but there is progress to be seen, and certainly no reason to quit - especially given the absurdities inplicit in the antiwar argument and also with regard to Iran, whose Ayatollahist regime is much weaker than we are. Also worth remembering is the historical reality of Islamo-Arab imperialism.