Despite my very slight case of megalomania, I don’t envy Randy Bernard one bit.
All the “input” he’s been getting lately from such divergent sources as TV networks, team owners, sponsors, and the ‘almighty’ fans, all with legitimate views, he must feel a bit in need of some sorcery to fairly placate these people. The recent hoopla over the proposed changes to the restarts/pitting/lucky doggery, as suggested by the owners, raises the question of who does Bernard need to listen to the most?
Owners have ‘skin in the game’ and must always have their input, but that is to say not always will they, or should they, get what they want. Sponsors want to have as much exposure for as little money as they can which is totally understandable, but their influence on the racing product should be minimal.
TV networks appear to be the most flaky part of this equation with their heads half-buried in the traditional decades-old model of ‘we show it, when we want to show it, and you watch it and be thankful’. TV, while still the most traditional method, is far from the only avenue of content viewing and until they realize how much they’re missing out on by not including online access, extra features, and expanded content that a majority of the faithful viewers WOULD PAY EXTRA FOR, they will continue to underserve the very audience for which they are aiming. Traditional TV media appears quite able at head-in-the-sand thinking which stems from an acute misunderstanding of how the audience is getting their content these days (‘I want it, when I want it, on multiple devices I may use to attain it’).
Lastly, the fans. Perhaps Mr. Bernard has set a precedent from which he may never recover. He allowed direct contact from the fans. Wow. Big mistake. You want 17 different opinions about your product? Ask 17 different fans. Herding felines is a simpler task than understanding what the fanbase wants. I’m as guilty of taking advantage of this access as anyone and I think it’s time for the fans to take a step back, count to 10 or something, and get a grip.
Yes, we are the reason for sponsorship dollars and ticket sales. Yes, we buy merchandise and watch the (at times, meager) coverage. Yes, we are the end customer, but what we are NOT is racing experts. Why do we as fans feel the need to have our input so greatly valued, just because we have the ability? I’ve never raced a day in my life so how valuable is my input on the mechanics of making a good racing product really? A significant portion of long-term fanbase (pre-split) is very knowledgeable in the ‘how it used to be and what worked 17 year ago’, but how valuable is that really in today’s game? Not much, I say.
What we DO have of value is a great enthusiasm and passion for our beloved sport, and for that reason alone, the league, owners, and TV coverage should be open to input from the end customer. We’re ultimately the reason everyone there has a job. We’re the people who spend money on this diversion and not one of myriad others. We deserve to be heard, but like the owners, and because of our herd-like mentality, shouldn’t always get our way with respect to racing product, because we may not actually know what the hell we’re talking about all the time.
What’s a solution? I think Mr. Bernard needs to seriously consider a competition committee which includes representatives of the league, owners, tracks, promoters, fans, media, and sponsors who all get in one room at the same time and hash out the final racing product. Using the current ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks’ (or put it online and see what flames erupt) is a fairly poor way of developing a product that satisfies such divergent input.
Unfortunately for 2011, it’s too late to accomplish this feat, but for 2012, I see it as essential to maintain a product that satisfies as many as possible and can therefore grow and prosper into the future.