Friday, June 08, 2007

If they really want to get everybody's attention...

I am by no means a NASCAR fan. Not even remotely. But I think this premise can apply to all forms of motorsports.

I notice this headline: "Kurt Busch Docked 100 Points, Fined." Mostly just out of curiosity, I clicked the link. I see that Kurt has been fined $100,000 for reckless driving and endangering a crew member on pit road. I'm no expert, but pretty much if cars and endangerment are involved, lives are on the line. Is $100,000 really a significant dent in the pocket of a multimillionaire that is risking the lives of others? The quote that jumped out at me is from the vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton: "We felt like we got everybody's attention." Really? Everybody's? I'm not so sure.

I'm not sure that sports fines are really in line with the "crimes" being committed. I always laugh when I see $5000 fines for NFL players, say for a nasty hit or something. Puh-lease. That's like my boss fining me $1 for failing to use the new cover sheet for the TPS reports. I may spend the buck each time just for the political statement. Jack that fine up to a substantial percentage of my income, and now you have my attention and are more assured of compliance.

At the end of the day, these guys care about money. Sure, a $100,000 fine hurts a little now, but he's probably more concerned about the 100 points. Why? Because it hurts his chances to finish well at the end of the season. Why does that matter? Because winners attract sponsors. What do sponsors bring? BIG MONEY. $100K? Pfffft. Pshaw. These race teams pull in millions of dollars in sponsorship. So how do you hit them where it hurts?

Whenever a driver and/or a team commits some kind of infraction, sure, penalize them with some form of point deduction and/or fine. On top of that - here's the big idea - impose some kind of blackout period against sponsorship.

How would that work? Let's start with the cars. They pretty much repaint/revinyl the cars for each race anyway. So for the next 5 races, Mr. Bad Driver, your car will be blank, aside from your number. Let's move to the drivers. Those fancy racing suits with all of the logos? Yeah, Mr. Bad Driver, you must wear this solid-color, logo-free pullover sweatshirt during any official press events for the next week. Oh, and no hats. If we really want to be mean, pick a color that suggests a competitor to the primary sponsor. Ok, that UPS car is normally brown, let's use purple today to hint at FedEx.

They say there is no such thing is bad publicity. If true, then the only bad thing I can think of would be no publicity. If the hotshot driver is suddenly circulating the track in a blank car, then the sponsor isn't getting their bang for the buck. That will make them mad. They will either start withholding their money, or start leaning on the teams to comply with the rules or else lose their funding. Either way, there will be some serious financial motivation from the top down to make sure that teams and drivers are good citizens. The bad ones won't get the message and will lose their funding. The good ones will attract that money, and this will encourage more people to be good.

I'm not sure if this would work for sports like football or basketball, since they aren't really covered in logos all of the time. But NASCAR, IRL, and so on, heck yeah.

When you take away the source of income - and I mean real money, not this nickel and dime B.S. - then you get everybody's attention.

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