By Jerry Bonkowski
Okay, so the news came out Tuesday that NASCAR is "looking into" declining TV ratings, trying to figure out what's going on.
Thus far in the first 10 races of 2009, ratings are down 11.5 percent and overall viewership is almost down as much – just part of what some media outlets estimate to be a roughly 25 percent drop in ratings over the last few years.
Sure, NASCAR is still holding to the party line that its Sprint Cup races are still No. 1 in their time slots for the most part, yadda, yadda, yadda.
There's no sense to panic, NASCAR tells us, that they're simply just "looking into" why the numbers keep dipping.
Well, helllllooooooooo, the reason is pretty clear to most people – except perhaps those back at NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach.
Pick your poison as to the reason (actually, they all play a big part individually and collectively): the still-unpopular Car of Tomorrow, Toyota coming into the sport, the struggles of General Motors and Dodge away from the race track, the dominance of Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports, not to mention the penchant for NASCAR to oftentimes make up rules as it goes along.
And that's just for starters.
We can also add the boring Chase for the Sprint Cup and its format, how the sanctioning body continues to have an aloof attitude, particularly to the cares and concerns of its fans, and how it cow-tows more so to sponsors and so-called "business partners."
Most recently, even after a huge public backlash demanding an explanation, NASCAR wasn't even brave enough to man up and give the reason why Jeremy Mayfield was suspended for allegedly having an illegal substance in his system.
I'm sorry, if we have to endure the news that Lindsay Lohan is pregnant, surely NASCAR could enlighten us on Mayfield's condition and not hide behind the cloak of "privacy," when there is a substantial number of fans that feel the sanctioning body is once again being less than honest or forthcoming to them.
That's a shame, because it's pretty obvious Brian France and Co. have forgotten whose money it is that is the true lifeblood of this sport: it's not sponsors or "business partners," it's the hard-working fan and his hard-earned cash.
One of NASCAR's other big problems is its "our way or the highway" attitude and approach to seemingly everything. When was the last time someone from the sanctioning body admitted they were wrong, or that they blew a call or did something that wasn't in the best interest of the sport, the drivers, the teams and most importantly, the fans?
If I had a dollar for every e-mail I've received over the last four years from irate fans or fans that have simply given up on the sport, I might actually have enough money to buy the whole darn sanctioning body.
Frankly, fans have grown tired of NASCAR, both on-track "action" (which has proven to be more of an oxymoron) and off. They've tired of phantom debris cautions, of overt favoritism of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson, of dozens of commercials in TV broadcasts that deprives loyal fans of seeing the action (NASCAR continues to prevent its broadcast partners from using split-screen telecasts like every other racing series, so as not to diminish the "value" of broadcast commercials and their sponsors).
I could go on and on. If NASCAR is "looking into" the real reasons why the sport is slumping on-screen and in the stands, it has my number. I'll be glad to tell 'em why.
In fact, if they did call me, the first thing I'd say is "looking into" why the ratings are slumping is an exercise in futility. The answer is already at hand. The best place NASCAR has to "look into" the problem is simple, a no-brainer:
In the mirror.