I have tried to be compassionate, I really have. I have mustered up every ounce of empathy, pity and solidarity I can possibly muster. But the next person who complains to me about being unable to watch NASCAR racing on “free TV” is going to be buried alive beneath a gigantic, heaping mound of STFU.
NASCAR announced its 2015 Sprint Cup Series schedule earlier this week, and a small (but extremely vocal) minority of NASCAR fans lapsed immediately into a fit of indignant apoplexy. They’re upset that 20 of the 36 point-counting races will be broadcast on either Fox Sports 1 or NBC Sports Network next season; networks that are not available as part of most basic cable or satellite television packages.
They’re equally unhappy with the NASCAR Nationwide Series – where 25 of 32 races will air on FS1 and NBCSN next season – and the Camping World Truck Series, which will contest 22 its 23 races on FS1.
Somehow, these unhappy denizens have come to believe that they're entitled to whatever they want in life, without actually having to pay for it. That’s not the way my Old Man explained it to me half a century ago, but apparently, that’s how it’s supposed to work today.
I’d love to drive a Lamborghini, but my meager wages do not allow for such an extravagance. I drive what I can afford to drive while putting two daughters through college, and sometimes eat hamburgers when what I really want is a nice, juicy steak. That’s the way it works out here in the real world, and yet, I continue to hear from the complainers who want what they want, no matter what.
“We should be able to watch NASCAR for free, without having to pay an additional cable or satellite charge,” they scream, ignoring the fact that they already can!
If the “we won’t pay” brigade had spent as much time researching this issue as they've spent complaining about it, they'd know there is a simple way to enjoy prime-time network and sports programming without paying a monthly cable or satellite bill. Most of the television sets sold today include either a built-in or external over-the-air tuner, allowing you to enjoy local news, out-of-town broadcasts and sports programming without ever paying a monthly cable or satellite bill. This “free programming” isn’t entirely free, though. You’ll need to shell out for a rooftop or attic-mounted antenna – just like grandma and grandpa used to own -- which will run you somewhere between $75 and $200.
If you’re unwilling to pay even 75 bucks for a full season of NASCAR racing, there’s probably nothing more that can be done for you. You’ll just have to curl up on your couch and read a book.
There are also those who insist that NASCAR should force the networks to carry races on so-called `free TV’.
Unfortunately, NASCAR does not have the clout to get that particular job done. Networks like ABC, NBC and FOX have no interest in filling the prime time airwaves with sporting events. While they will occasionally televise a NASCAR race, NFL football or Major League Baseball game on Sunday evening, ABC, NBC and FOX reserve the vast majority of their prime time hours for sitcoms, news magazines and reality programming. That’s where the revenue lies, and that’s why most sporting events will continue to be found on networks with the word “sports” in their names, like ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and NBCSN.
No amount of foot stomping and smoke-blowing by NASCAR (or its fans) will ever change that.
The premise that NASCAR is someone alienating its longtime fan base by broadcasting races on cable television is ludicrous, short-sighted and downright incorrect.
Many of those irate over having to pay for their NASCAR speak glowingly of the “good old days” when Bob Jenkins, Larry Nuber and Benny Parsons called the weekly NASCAR action. They conveniently forget that Bob, Larry and “Buffet Benny” worked for ESPN, the same cable network we’re so angry about paying for today. While CBS aired one or two races each season on “free TV,” NASCAR fans were more likely to see commentators Ken Squier, Mike Joy, Buddy Baker and Neil Bonnett on The Nashville Network. Like ESPN, TNN was a cable network, not readily available over-the-air.
How quickly we forget.
The bottom line, as I see it, is this.
NASCAR has the longest season in professional sports; beginning at Daytona in mid-February and concluding -- nine exhausting months later -- in mid-November at Homestead Miami Speedway. The sheer weight of that schedule precludes NASCAR from being telecast on any single network. Add in those Nationwide and Truck Series races, and it becomes even more unworkable.
Just like attending races in person, watching NASCAR on television requires a certain level of financial commitment. If you want to play, you’re going to have to pay, at least until the Bill Of Rights is amended to include the right of watch Dale, Jr. for free.