FOX broadcaster Joe Buck was talking about the finest athletes in sports gathering together for a high-profile contest the week before a big event. I looked up from my magazine and said, “Hey, Joe Buck is talking about NASCAR right in the middle of this football game. Cool!”
I was wrong, of course. Although there were numerous promos for the 2010 NASCAR season, and especially for the Daytona 500, during the game, the star-studded event Buck was referring to is the NFL’s annual Pro Bowl game, which has been moved this year to the weekend before the Super Bowl.
And naturally, the ‘big event’ Buck was talking about is Super Bowl XLIV, which is either how you say the number 44 in Roman or some type of new flu vaccination. (Before you start squawking at me, yes, I know the Romans spoke Latin. It seems they had numbers but no words. Weird.)
Anyway, just to lay it out in the most simplistic terms, the NFL now has established a two-week period -- their most visible period of the season -- with an all-star game on one weekend followed by the biggest game of the year on the following weekend.
Is it just me or does this sound awfully familiar? Let’s see ... For over two decades, NASCAR’s top drivers have competed in the Budweiser Shootout on the first weekend in February, a tremendously popular lead-in to NASCAR’s ‘big event.’
Currently, there are 28 drivers who qualify for the 2010 Shootout, including 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contenders, the 2009 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions and Shootout winners, and active drivers who have won either the Daytona 500 or the Coke Zero 400. In other words, all of the sport’s biggest stars will be represented.
The following weekend marks the return of the Great American Race, the legendary Daytona 500. So that’s two weeks of excitement leading up to one major sporting spectacle. What a concept.
You’re a little late to the party, NFL, but good call.
After I processed this, I had one of my deja-vu moments, which I like to call FedEx flashes. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been six years since NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France announced the creation of what is now called the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, an innovative new system for crowning the Cup Series champion.
You know the drill. After the first 26 races, the 12 highest-ranked drivers are seeded based on their total number of wins and compete in the last 10 races for the series title.
We’re accustomed to the Chase format now, but when the announcement was first made, it created uproar. Internet message boards exploded. It was unfair, people said. It was confusing. It was unnecessary. Almost nothing about it was going to work.
What a difference a few years makes. Nowadays, most fans agree the creation of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is one of the most successful changes made to the sport in its entire history, the greatest thing since sliced bread (with apologies to Joey Logano).
2007 marked the first year of the PGA’s FedEx Cup, a playoff system where golfers accumulate points for each event they play. The field is gradually winnowed down to the top performers, the points are reset, and the 30 best-scoring golfers compete for the title.
Great idea, PGA. You scored a real hole in one with that one.
NASCAR does take its hits and criticisms from time to time, and for the most part, absorbs them with grace and humor. If both the most “refined” sport and the most popular sport are copying pages out of NASCAR’s book, more power to them. We all know the proverb that describes imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, and we wish them well.
Still, it’s important to remember these additional words of wisdom when borrowing ideas from NASCAR: Often imitated; never duplicated.