(Tip of the hat to io9 and the other websites that posted this image. For the record it actually isn’t me though I can neither confirm nor deny that I have a full stormtrooper costume complete with blaster rifle and rank as a 2nd lieutenant in the Delaware chapter of the 501st Legion. Some things must remain a mystery.)
I watched a good portion of the Brickyard 400 yesterday because, well, I’m the type of guy who will occasionally sit down and watch a Nascar race on a Sunday afternoon. I still contend that I watch Nascar in the same way other people watch golf: it is something that you have on for a few hours and if you happen to fall asleep on the couch while it is on when you wake up you’ll realized that you haven’t missed much. The thing that stunned me was not the race itself but how many empty seats there were. Here you are racing at Indianapolis, the most important track in the US, and the place looked like it was half filled. This when just a few years ago people were wondering if they should have Nascar take the place of the Indy Cars for the Indy 500.
The drop in Nascar popularity has been rather stunning in recent years. Five or six years ago I would come across a lot of fans who were knowledgeable about the drivers and the tracks and the rivalries. Now even though the sport is popular in terms of the total number of people at events I don’t know of anyone who is really a fan. They race twice a year at Dover and I never come across anyone who is making their way to the race.
There are a few reasons for this. For one, the sport has become more boring over the past few years. The cars are all the same, the drivers are all the same, and there just is no overwhelming drama. I know the Chase format was supposed to create drama but instead it has resulted in a pretty meaningless middle of the season followed by ten races in which by the last five you only care how three drivers are doing. Plus, the age of having drivers who were actually characters has ended. I’m not talking just about Earnhardt or Gordon when he was a brash young kid. I miss the days of Dick Trickle always getting his finish announced on Sports Center. Hell, I miss my personal favorite driver Johnny Benson who was just a nice guy who drove a clean race and had the worst luck of any human being I have ever seen. Seriously, the guy could be leading the race with ten laps to go only to have five cars spin out right in front of him and he would get caught up in the wreck and finish 37th.
I do miss having racing as one of the major sports. I grew up in the golden age of Indy Car with the Andrettis and Mears and Foyt and Rutherford all of whom made every race seem like an event. One of my favorite computer games ever was a Nascar racing game that I even bought a steering wheel for my computer to get the full experience. But now, for some reason, it just seems boring. And I’m not quite sure how they go about fixing it.