Before you place your bets on the winner of this year’s Daytona 500 it might be wise to listen to the first hour of the Coast to Coast AM Radio program that aired last week, on Saturday, February 12. The guest was Brian Tuohy and the topic of discussion was ‘fixing’ major sporting events.
Tuohy is the author of “The Fix Is In,” a controversial book that takes a look at the history of major league sports and the behind-the-scenes showbiz manipulations the fans never see and the players themselves only suspect.
According to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal written by Valerie Bauerlein, NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps says this year’s racing fans can expect to see a rougher, rowdier race at Daytona than they’ve seen in years past. Thanks to double-digit losses in TV viewership over the past few years, NASCAR officials have “implied,” according to Bauerlein, that they’ll be overlooking aggressive behavior once deemed punishable under NASCAR guidelines. Swearing and shoving off the track and even bumping on the track will now be allowed, along with allowing fans to carry in as many as 36 beers instead of just a six-pack. Keep in mind that a loss of TV viewers also means a loss of big-money sponsors.
Now, add into the mix the fact that the Daytona track was just resurfaced, to the tune of over $20 million. According to Jeff Burton, also heard on this morning’s Wall Street Journal This Morning program, the new surface is going to make for some very aggressive racing. He expects frequent three-ways and maybe a few fours.
Oh, and one more thing. This marks the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death on this very same track.
So what does all of this have to do with Brian Tuohy? According to Touhy’s interview last week, all major league sporting events are considered entertainment and, as such, they are not overseen by any government regulatory agencies with regard to fair play. The only laws they have to worry about breaking have to do with gambling and providing entertainment for the price of the ticket.
In May of 2010, when a Jets season ticket holder filed a class action lawsuit, complaining that the game with the Patriots was rigged, Senior Appeals Court Judge Robert Cowen ruled in favor of the NFL, stating:
“At best he possessed nothing more than a contractual right to a seat from which to watch an NFL game between the Jets and the Patriots, and this right was clearly honored.”
According to Tuohy, declining track and advertising revenues and declining TV viewership, combined with the resurfacing and the 10th anniversary of the death of one of NASCAR’s legends, all make for the perfect setting for a fix.
And the fact that NASCAR has been turning a blind eye to more aggressive behavior, possibly even encouraging it? Haven’t NASCAR officials for years touted the fact that the safety of the drivers, above all else, is their main concern and intentional rowdiness on the track won’t be permitted? Yet now they’ve done a complete 180. Go ahead. Have at it! Sounds like we’re about to watch a wrestling match instead of a tastefully – and fairly – run car race.
But wait a minute. Didn’t Tony Stewart say exactly that same thing back in 2007 when he accused NASCAR of dictating the outcome of the race with a few well-placed caution flags?
“There’s a ‘legend’ within NASCAR that I discuss in the book labeled ‘The Call.’ It’s basically when NASCAR calls a driver and tells them either today is your day (or it isn’t). I didn’t make this up. It’s been around a long time. And there are many instances when it appears as if The Call was made. So when you hear drivers like Tony Stewart complain as he did a few years back that NASCAR was intentionally manipulating races through the use of yellow flags and he compared the league to pro wrestling, fans should have stood up and taken notice.”
As recently as July of 2010, the AP claimed that drivers were still being warned that public criticism would not be tolerated and offenders would suffer a hefty fine. Yet now we have those same officials encouraging the drivers to start acting like rowdy … well … wrestlers.
In this corner we have the NFL making $6 billion a year in TV revenue alone. And in this corner we have NASCAR, losing viewers, losing fans, and most important, losing advertising revenue. You do the math.
In a follow-up interview Tuohy says that NASCAR isn’t above changing the rules to suit their needs.
“Sometimes they will favor one car manufacturer, then mid-season they will change rules to favor another. Sponsorship money fuels the cars more than gasoline does, and NASCAR is not naive to that truth.”
To further make his point, Tuohy says the NASCAR drug policy for their drivers is as thick as a phone book.
“But when’s the last time a driver or member of a pit crew tested positive for an illegal substance? I couldn’t tell you because it never happens. So are the drivers all clean? Or does NASCAR keep these results to themselves and use them as need be, as in, ‘You failed our test, what would you prefer: public humiliation and a suspension, or would you rather not put the pedal to the metal this weekend?’”
Tuohy made a pretty accurate prediction for the outcome of the Super Bowl and you can see it on his website at TheFixIsIn.net. So, what does he predict for the Daytona 500?
“I can’t say for sure. Maybe the lure of the resurfaced track is enough to get casual fans to tune in when they otherwise would not have. But something’s got to make them stick in their seat. A close, exciting race will do that more than a one-car race. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see a happenstance yellow flag fly … just to tighten the race back up and make things interesting again.”
Brian Tuohy’s book, “The Fix Is In,” is available at Amazon.com.
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Hey, buddy, can ya gimme a hand with this?