It’s pretty likely that by now you’ve heard that Josh Wise made the last Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup All Star race via fan vote. Yay for Josh.
The reason you’ve probably heard about it, though, is because of who he beat. You know who. Don’t play coy.
The fact that Wise beat Danica Patrick for the vote-in spot cued many “underdog beats Danica” stories. The Wise victory is old news to us now. Even older news is that anytime Danica stumbles, “fails,” missteps … name your adjective … it spurs a hundred stories, because Danica drives traffic, and traffic equals revenue online. We’ve been over this many times.
Wise was backed by reddit.com, specifically the website’s dogecoin community, which sponsored Wise at Talladega May 4. They mobilized for Wise and figured out how to vote many times per person, with some fans claiming to have voted multi-thousands of times.
The Interesting Questions to me are:
1) Was the Wise win a fair-and-square deal, or a “farce” as one column called it?
2) Does having online voting involve fans or does it open up a Pandora’s Box?
3) Did Danica’s absence from the race cause the drop in TV viewership?
Let’s go in order. 1 and 2 together. Fair-and-square? Pandora’s Box? I say yes (technically) to fair and square and yes to Pandora’s Box.
Fair and square comes down to one of them “letter of the law” and “intent of the law” deals. The intent of the fan vote is to get actual fans engaged in the event. It’s pretty clear from multiple sources of evidence that Danica Patrick has many many more fans than Josh Wise. BUT, since the voting lets you vote as many times as you can, Wise’s fans figured out how to vote more often per fan than Danica’s did, which is within the rules.
So, don’t hate the playahs (Wise’s voters) hate the game (online voting). The unknown question is how many of Wise’s voters were fans and how many were just involved for the fun of seeing if they could sway the vote without really being a big fan of Josh. Impossible to say, so let’s not stress over it.
The intent of fan voting is to get actual fans of the driver involved in the process. I don’t think that happened here. But because online voting lets each individual vote 90,000 times if he or she can figure out how to do it, it’s about as scientific as contemporary sculpture of a pink urinal.
Cue the Pandora’s Box opening up. IndyCar used to have fan votes every week for the “move of the race” or some such that paid money to the winner. They also asked fans to show their preferences via online vote, with the results of the fan vote were often ballyhooed around as evidence of what the fans want.
Of course it was rubbish, exactly because the vote was as scientific as a pink urinal sculpture. The only conclusions you can draw from online voting is proponents of one position were more dedicated to voting early and often than those of another. It seems to be very hard to limit people to one vote because there are things you can do with your computer that let you vote more than once. Fun exercise? Perhaps. Real meaningful? No.
IndyCar stopped the fan vote because it caused more arguments than it solved (that’s the sound of Pandora’s Box flapping open), and I just stopped voting because I figured I wasn’t going to waste my time on bogusness.
If the Wise vote was all great, I’d urge reddit.com and the dogecoin community to get behind him for NASCAR Sprint Cup Most Popular Driver. I wonder if John Doe beats out Dale Jr. for that award if the reaction will be the same as it was when Wise beat Danica.
I doubt NASCAR ditches fan vote since they have fans vote on a lot of stuff. They may try to make it more difficult to vote 8,087 times per person, though. Even if they do, fan votes should always be taken with a basketball-sized grain of salt.
So, 3) Did Danica’s absence from the race cause a drop in viewership?
I Googled this just this morning looking for opinions on it and found nada. So here I go.
Sports Media Watch reported ratings and viewership for NASCAR’s All-Star Race were the lowest ever on Fox Sports 1 (previously Speed Channel). The Race drew a 2.1 rating and 3.4 million viewers on FS1, down 9% in ratings and 5% in viewership from last year. It was the lowest rated, least-viewed All-Star Race ever on the network dating back to 2007. Full story here.
So, first, if Josh has millions of new fans, viewership tends to suggest they didn’t watch the race. Second, did Danica’s fans skip the event in protest or for lack of interest? I admit I didn’t watch it for two reasons. 1) no Danica reduced my interest and 2) it’s more of an exhibition than a race, which also reduced my interest.
I don’t watch any all star competitions because they’re all essentially contrived events where people generally play at 75% (and I don't blame them at all for that) and, in NASCAR’s case, there are all these rules and provisos and nuisances designed to make the race fun, different and special that just, to me, make it seem more contrived and tedious.
So if my favorite driver isn’t involved, I’ll take a pass on watching this exhibition. I’ll be immediately branded as “NOT A REAL RACE FAN,” but that don’t bother me. If Danica fails to qualify for a real race, say -- Martinsville, Talladega, Bristol … take your pick -- would I still watch? Probably. I’d probably watch the way I did pre-Danica participation: the start, check in half way to see where they are, try to tune in for the A Feature (last 50 or so laps), catch the highlights online post race.
In my opinion, nothing gets NASCAR’s attention like a ratings dip. So they’re likely analyzing the All Star situation even as we speak to get some ideas as to why people didn’t watch. Maybe it was that the race just got to tedious and goofy for a lot of people and had little to do with Danica. It’s not a bit stretch to think that Danica’s fans’ lack of interest had an impact.
Bottom line for me is that Wise’s victory in the vote was within the rules of the game and Danica’s fans not watching was within the rules of a free-market, freedom-of-choice game.
Isn’t freedom awesome?