Sunday, March 24, 2013


Oh, how the mighty fall -- and fast.

Of course the Indianapolis 500 is the best example in motorsports -- from the all-time high of (Nigel) Mansell Mania 20 years ago this May to a race largely of nobody drivers in 1996 while the "stars" ran at Michigan in CART's U.S. 500. Indy -- and the open-wheel series no matter who is in charge -- has never recovered.

But there are many other examples. Boxing and horse racing quickly come to my mind. And, in an example ripped from today's headlines, there is NBC's Today show. The departure of two consecutive popular female co-anchors, a badly miscast replacement, and her botched removal (done so badly one might have thought the IMS Corp. had pulled the plug) for a lightweight dropped the highly-profitable morning show from the No. 1 position which had seemed as constant as death and taxes to behind ABC's Good Morning America. It says here Matt Lauer (who was in over his head as a reporter on Robin Leach's old Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) will never recover his standing with morning TV's core female viewership.

NASCAR got itself into trouble with the woeful Car of Tomorrow and its unloved rear wing, as out-of-place in stock car racing as Michael Moore at CPAC. Spectators and viewers were turned off and the sanction's latest attempt at a comeback is rooted in the showroom-esque Gen-6 car.

All of the above, and plenty more, should serve as a case study for the High and Mighty National Football League.

Obviously scared by the suicides of players and former players and lawsuits and the tide of public and scientific and medical opinion, the NFL is rapidly rewriting its rulebook to try to deal with concussions and brain injuries. What arguably was the sport's most exciting play, the kickoff return, has been neutered into boredom. Quarterbacks and receivers have extra protection from those classic "hard hits." And, last week, came word that running backs won't be allowed to initiate contact with a lowered head as Hall of Famers have done for decades.

Don't misunderstand: I'm all for safety -- in every sport. But the NFL, which so dominates TV ratings and thus TV rights fees, commercial rates, sponsorships, media coverage and other categories, does risk alienating fans as it transforms itself into a "safer" game. Rush Limbaugh already is influencing his sizeable audience with such talk.

No one will admit it, but . . . I guarantee you smart executives connected to other sports series and leagues are at least thinking of how they might grab some of the NFL's mojo -- and money -- if the public votes "no" on kinder and gentler football.

Hello, Brian France, Mark Miles, Tom Compton and Scott Atherton?

Formula One can be cold, cruel, bizarre and byzantine. Add to the mix corporate team ownership, politics, Eurozone regulations and God-only-knows how many lawyers and you get this, a disclaimer posted at the end of the Mercedes team's press releases. (Thanks to Tim Wohlford for alerting me to this.)

This document contains forward-looking statements that reflect our current views about future events.  Thewords "anticipate," "assume," "believe," "estimate," "expect," "intend," "may," "plan," "project," "should" and similar expressions are used to identify forward-looking statements. These statements are subject to many risks and uncertainties, including an adverse development of global economic conditions, in particular a decline of demand in our most important markets; a worsening of the sovereign-debt crisis in the euro zone; a deterioration of our funding possibilities on the credit and financial markets; events of force majeure including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, political unrest, industrial accidents and their effects on our sales, purchasing, production or financial services activities; changes in currency exchange rates; a shift in consumer preference towards smaller, lower margin vehicles; or a possible lack of acceptance of our products or services which limits our ability to achieve prices as well as to adequately utilize our production capacities; price increases in fuel or raw materials; disruption of production due to shortages of materials, labor strikes, or supplier insolvencies; a decline in resale prices of used vehicles; the effective implementation of cost-reduction and efficiency-optimization measures; the business outlook of companies in which we hold a significant equity interest; the successful implementation of strategic cooperations and joint ventures; changes in laws, regulations and government policies, particularly those relating to vehicle emissions, fuel economy and safety; the resolution of pending governmental investigations and the conclusion of pending or threatened future legal proceedings; and other risks and uncertainties, some of which we describe under the heading "Risk Report" in Daimler's most recent Annual Report. If any of these risks and uncertainties materialize, or if the assumptions underlying any of our forward-looking statements prove incorrect, then our actual results may be materially different from those we express or imply by such statements. We do not intend or assume any obligation to update these forward looking statements. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which it is made.

The Izod IndyCar series certainly needed a good start to its new season and got one with an entertaining street race in St. Pete. Now, the real question: Did it translate to TV ratings? The fact that NBC Sports Network's presentation of the Australian Grand Prix got roughly half the audience last year's race on Speed did is a cause for concern. Of course, it all was overshadowed by the Denny Hamlin-Joey Logano finish in California.


Must read Gordon Kirby salute to a great guy:

Last week on Twitter: I did two breaking news alerts on Robby Gordon's new Stadium Truck series plus a memory at the start of the 20th anniversary of (Nigel) Mansell Mania: @SpinDoctor500

[ more next Monday . . . ]