Saturday, February 20, 2010
The Third Half: Speed Skating or NASCAR?
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
I reached an interesting conundrum just a few days ago in trying to decide what I really wanted to watch on television. The end of the Fox’s Daytona 500 partially overlapped with NBC’s broadcast of the Vancouver Winter Olympic games, specifically the men’s short-track speed skating event, and I was forced to make a decision. While some of you may have written me off from the mention of the word NASCAR, allow me to appeal to your sports intellectuality.
While I thoroughly enjoy both sports and their collective environment (of which I’ll compare and contrast shortly), I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoy watching a sport that seems so polarized in the world today. At first glance, it seems that you’re either a NASCAR fan or you’re not. I like to think of myself as somewhere in between. I enjoy the Daytona 500 and watching NASCAR at its best at Bristol, Talladega, Atlanta, and the other major tracks. However, my viewing habits are less than habitual and are usually reserved to the first 20 or last 20 laps of a race (often the only ones that matter in a 400-500 mile event). I’m enough of a fan to know about 35 drivers out of a 43 car field, but not enough of one to put a ‘3’ sticker on the back of my pickup.
As for speed-skating, I only really know of the U.S.’s Apolo Anton Ohno. But like NASCAR, I can’t help but sit on the edge of my seat as the field of six or seven skaters tears up the ice in the same fashion that I tried to with my rollerblades in the neighborhood. Those guys absolutely smash it…and are graceful at the same time.
Due to TiVo restrictions and other complications, I was forced to make a decision. In doing so, I took into account the following factors of which I think will be of interest to you.
Sponsorship (Edge – Speed Skating)
Every great athlete needs sponsorship and these two sports have very different backings. Speed skaters proudly wear their country’s logos on their skinsuits. NASCAR drivers proudly display every type of sponsor imaginable on the sides of their cars at the racetrack. Budweiser or Germany? Pennzoil or Korea? Bass Pro Shops….or the U.S.? In the end, I gave a slight edge to the speed skaters only because their post-race speech doesn’t have to include the sponsor’s name 73 times.
Commentary (Edge – NASCAR)
You simply just can’t beat Darryl Waltrip’s “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity!” at the beginning of a race. Yes, the Olympics provide the ahem…more professional commentators, but sometimes Al Michaels just sounds a little stiff in calling a competitive speed skating race. An instant upgrade to the Olympics would be the color commentary of Monday Night Football’s Jon Gruden or even John Madden but it would still be hard to beat the NASCAR feel as you watch the race.
Race Format (Edge – Speed Skating)
500 miles or 1500 km? If time is of the essence, speed skating is the bang for your buck as the races last around three minutes each. Compare that to this year’s Daytona 500 in which the race started at 1pm and ended at nearly 7pm (including a 2 hour delay for track repair). Still, NASCAR just takes longer. The middle of the race can sometimes resemble paint drying. Speed skating is decided quickly and thus receives the edge in format.
Personality (Edge – NASCAR)
Everyone is stock car racing has a nickname. There’s Smoke (Tony Stewart), Lil’ E (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), Shrub (Kyle Busch)….and on and on. Speed skating could use some of this as the eastern European competitors look a little stiff and unfriendly out there. From a marketing perspective, I’d rather have NASCAR’s bad boy than Bulgaria’s speed skater. Sorry. Edge goes to NASCAR in a decisive defeat.
The Decision (Speed Skating…but NASCAR during commercials)
Ultimately, this was an issue of timing. Both sports have their own compelling reasons to watch, but it boiled down to which sport I couldn’t see year round. Speed skating is a once every four year event (as the Winter Olympics will occur in 2014 in Sochi, Russia) whereas the boys in NASCAR will beat and bang on each other until late November. I can always catch up on the race online anyways. So for now, I’m glued to the television watching Ohno take on the best in the world in speed skating.