RIP President George H. W. Bush

Today is the national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush.  Certainly, somewhere in the US, someone will lift a glass and offer a toast to President Bush on this day that commemorates “toasting” in the US.  Eighty-five years ago, on this date in 1933, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution which ended the Prohibition Era.

Rest in peace, Mr. President…

Last week, the Oakland A’s announced plans to build a new stadium in the Bay Area.  Lord knows; they have needed one for at least a decade now.  The proposed site is a waterfront venue on the bay and the architectural renderings show a cozy stadium with a seating capacity of 35,000 – a number that makes sense for the team.  Consider that the A’s were the hottest team in MLB for about a month or 6 weeks last year and breezed into an AL wild card slot with 97 wins on the season.  Despite that surprising and exciting season:

  • The A’s average attendance for 2018 was 19,427.
  • That figure represents an increase of about 1200 fans per game from 2017.
  • Even with a wildcard team, Oakland ranked 26th in MLB in attendance.

Certainly, a new stadium will attract more fans to the games than the Oakland Mausoleum – – uh, Coliseum – – will.  But it is unlikely that a new stadium will increase attendance there to the point that the new venue would be too small.  So, naturally the team execs and the architects involved were very upbeat in their presentations and the politicians in the area did not dump all over the proposed plans as soon as they were announced.  Perhaps this is the start of something new for the A’s.

However, there is a sentence in one of the articles abut this proposed new stadium that makes me wonder how all of this will work:

“Transportation challenges could be met in part by a gondola system connecting to downtown Oakland, which certainly sounds like a unique way to get to a ballgame.”

Maybe I am reading too much into this, but that “unique way to get to a ballgame” makes me wonder how difficult it might be to get to that same ballgame by more “traditional means” such as public transit or driving one’s car or teleportation.

The team laid out a schedule that identified groundbreaking in 2021 and the opening of the new venue in 2023.  In order to get to that groundbreaking date, there are a bunch of negotiations with the city and bureaucratic hoops that need jumping through by the end of 2019.  That may sound like plenty of time, but I will wait to raise my glass and offer a toast to the City of Oakland and the Oakland A’s over the final agreement(s) that moves this plan beyond the artist rendering stage.

The A’s have trouble drawing fans to their stadium; NASCAR has even more trouble drawing fans to their TV sets to watch NASCAR events.  Here are some stats to consider:

  • In 2005 (the peak of NASCAR’s popularity) 8.5M fans on average watched a NASCAR race.
  • In 2016, 4.47M fans on average watched a NASCAR race.  That is a drop of 47% from the high-water mark in 2005.

But it gets worse…

  • In 2017, the average number of viewers for a NASCAR race was only 4M fans.
  • In 2018, the average number of viewers for a NASCAR race was only 3.3M fans.

From the peak year – 13 years ago – NASCAR has lost 61% of its TV audience.  The problem is that the trend does not show any signs of hitting bottom.  From the already smaller audience figures of 2016, viewership dropped in 2018 by 26%.  These numbers are doubly ominous for NASCAR.

  1. The first problem is obvious; with declining numbers of viewers and TV ratings, the networks are going to be reluctant to maintain the level of payments made to NASCAR for TV rights.
  2. The dual threat here is that a lot of revenue flows to the various racing teams from “naming rights” and “logo placements”.  The value of those “rights” and “placements” diminished significantly when there are fewer eyeballs out there to recognize/acknowledge the product involved.

I am not one of the folks who watches NASCAR on TV nor do I follow NASCAR very much. Therefore, I am in no position to offer up any solutions to this situation that anyone should listen to let alone consider.  However, I think the numbers suggest that something must be done by the folks who run NASCAR to hold its basic audience and then to start to grow it back a bit.  If the revenue streams from TV and from sponsorships both decline significantly, it could be an existential threat to NASCAR as a sports entity.

Urban Meyer announced his retirement from coaching as a result of a cyst on his brain.  This is the second time he has retired for different health-related reasons.  Notwithstanding those circumstances, Meyer said that it was a “complicated question” when asked if he would ever coach again but that he was “fairly certain” that he would not.  There is no question that Meyer’s teams have been highly successful wherever he has been the coach; there is also no question that more than a few players on those successful teams exhibited some sociopathic behaviors – and at Ohio State, it would appear that one of his assistant coaches also exhibited those sorts of behaviors.

There is no question Urban Meyer was a great college football coach – at four different universities – if all you see are the wins and losses and national championships.  But there is a side of his story that is not nearly that bright; it may not be a “dark side” to the extent that Darth Vader was on the “dark side” but it has its sinister shades.  Personally, I will not be shocked to see him back on the sidelines somewhere down the line…

Finally, as the days get shorter and we approach the winter solstice, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Seasonal Affective Disorder — the ‘winter blues’ — is real, says Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent.

“ ‘Tell us about it,’ said Bills fans in unison.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “RIP President George H. W. Bush”

  1. I wonder what Bill France would think of the current state of his empire? The notoriously controlling founder of NASCAR would certainly be unhappy. I predicted the sport could not be sustained on TV, but it lasted longer than I expected after abandoning the cozy tracks in NC & SC that nurtured the growth he enjoyed.

    1. Doug:

      It seems that when “regional sports” go and seek “national footprints” things get messy. You are correct; NASCAR now races in places where the novelty has worn off after only several years. Seems that happened to the NHL in some of its “sun belt venues” too.

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