Monday, June 22, 2009

US Open and Nascar not as uncorrelated as initially believed

I have had some free time during the summer to break out my rusty golf game and hopefully return myself to a bogey golfer. I have not had enough time to drop below that level yet, but then again this recession is not over.

So as the US Open approached I was excited. Having recently traversed links over the past two months in Nebraska, Iowa, Florida, Massachusetts and New Hampshire gave me a better vantage point to view the Open. As I watched this weekend the personal experience with the difficulties of target golf I could sympathize with the golfers. However, I only have a basic understanding of the distances at Bethpage, which set it apart from the amateur links I have been frequenting.

So what does this have to do with NASCAR. Clearly the audiences are if not completely mutual exclusive, show little overlap. However, this is not about the audience, instead it is the psychology of the audience which I think are closer than the prima facie evidence infer.

Here is the breakdown of NASCAR fans (both are approximated by

The golf's statistics approximated by attendance to the USGA's website.

So as expected the golf viewers have more income, are more diverse (from low levels) and are older. Also as expected more NASCAR fans are more female and less collegiate experience.

However, like I said on the face it would appear to be different audiences, but if we get into the core of what the sports are about, how they create dran, the diametrically opposite pull of tragedy and comedy, are the same. But first, let me offer the counterpoint before I continue with my hypothesis.

One can view the final round today as watching Phil Mickelson move closer to his first US Open victory. NBC & ESPN play up the moral courage it takes for him to be out there when his spouse faces a mortal challenge in cancer.

Something I take offense to as, I find that personal life obstacles are usually avoided by burying oneself into his career or job, which is what Phil is doing. That is, hiding away from his personal duties by playing, rather than chivalarously playing for his wife that the networks trumpet. For more examples see A-Rod's divorce statistics or Ross Johsnon's work ethic while his son was ill.

I intend that the audience is more inclined to watch Barnes mimic Van de Velde's 1999 British Open, or perhaps if it is more suitable to your taste Norman's collapse at Augusta in 1996. Look at the parrallels:
  • Norman 13 under entering the final round. Faldo -7 and 6 behind
  • Barnes 8 under entering the final round. Mickelson -2 and 6 behind.
So what are people watching? Mickelson's 2 under for the day as I write, or Barnes' +7 on the day. Most people will boldly proclaim without a moments thought that they wish to watch winners win, but I don't think the facts play out.

Now with NASCAR I am certain I do not understand the nuances of the racing event where you "turn left." However, I do watch Formula One where you accelerate, brake, turn right, left, make hairpin turns and 90 degree turns as well. If you wish to watch racing this is a great championship season to spectate. I do know having watched several NASCAR races that the highlights of the events for myself and the cohorts I watched with was when a large crash took out hopefully a few, but optimistically half the field.

So this has been a long-winded reason to explain that the underlying drama of both events is not the par excellence but the bringing back of these sporting gods to the realm of mortal men. If you spent the time on Saturday to watch US Open group after group hit the same shot over and over and all land within three feet of each other and 10 feet of the hole. Therefore, I picked up my book and started reading. However, when a player shanked his ball into the high turf, that is when I put my reading material down to watch the fallen angel return to my plane of existence.

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