One of my first newspaper assignments was getting a one-on-one interview with CART driver Rick Mears at Michigan International Speedway. He was a demon on the track. One thing I noticed was a burn mark on the tip of his nose and how Mears complained about foot pain from a lot of accidents.
Mears didn’t drive a race car. He drove a rocket. In fact, one of his nicknames was “Rocket Rick” because he could push a car beyond 230 miles per hour.
Getting an interview with one of the open wheels top stars would not be as big a deal today. CART is dead thanks to the greed and mismanagement of a man named Tony George, who began the International Racing League.
Once upon a time, open wheel racing was huge in this country. Now it is an afterthought.
The same could happen to Major League Baseball. Just because we love something today does not mean we will love it tomorrow.
Mar. 4, 2022; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Locked gates instead of packed lines at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-USA TODAY NETWORK
Open wheel racing is a prime example. Racing fans were excited because ratings for the 2021 Indianapolis 500 reached a five-year high with a 3.13 share. Ratings were up 51 percent from the previous year.
In comparison, the 500 drew a 16.5 rating in 1976 and a 16.4 the following year. Even when George began watering down the sport in the early 90s, it grabbed a 9.3 rating in 1993 and 9.1 in 1994.
The decline has been steady and devastating.
Could the same thing happen in baseball if the owners and players don’t end their dispute soon? We might side more with the players because the owners locked them out and we don’t pay our hard-earned money to see the owners play at the ballpark. Or we might side with the owners because they are the ones who take the financial risks to put a product on the field.
Already we are seeing national and regional games drawing fewer than 1 million viewers.
The lockout reached its 98th day today, making it the second longest work stoppage in baseball history. Owners proposed a new minimum salary floor at $700,000 that would increase to $770,000 at the end of the deal.
The bottom line is we have Vladimir Putin on both sides of the table and the fan base is angry with everybody. Baseball strikes and baseball lockouts don’t make sense because nobody is hurting at the bargaining table.
Will you go back? Will you watch? Older fans may. Younger fans may not. The game is too slow for many and the action not exciting enough. But what if baseball is off the radar for most of the summer? Will we go back?
We haven’t gone back to open wheeled racing because of greed. The same could happen in Major League Baseball if these greedy men are not careful.
Follow Foster on Twitter at TerryFosterDet.