All right, let's just throw some red meat out there for the NASCAR-hating crowd: Ratings for Sunday's Brickyard 400 were down 13 percent, from 4.8 last year to 4.2. An estimated 5.7 million viewers took in the Indy race.
And so, we once again begin the Dance of the Spin. Critics spool out the usual lines — NASCAR is boring, "stock" cars aren't stock, the drivers are too bland, blah blah blah. And defenders trot out their usual rationalizations — the economy is still in the toilet, the start time was different, Indy was a dud two years ago, et cetera, et cetera. All predictable.
Longtime readers of the site know that I don't have a whole lot of patience with the kneejerk "NASCAR was better back when" crowd; the warm, hazy glow of memory tends to gloss over the fact that most races in the "good ol' days" really kind of sucked. You've got more opportunity and means to indulge your NASCAR passion these days than ever before in the entire history of humanity. I guarantee Richard Petty, who used to count his winning margin in laps, not seconds, wouldn't have the near-universal acclaim he does now if every single NASCAR fan had the ability to air his or her views to the entire planet, as you can today.
That said ... damn, it's hard to rationalize this one away. There was nothing — nothing — going on sporting-wise last weekend. We're in baseball's dog days, and nearly every other sport — sorry, WNBA — is on hiatus. If NASCAR can't capture eyeballs now, how's it going to do so when the 800-pound gorilla that is the NFL saunters back into the room in a few weeks?
I don't have an easy answer, and neither, unfortunately, do the people who loudly proclaim they do. It's not a matter of just going back to showroom-style cars, or doing away with the Chase, or cutting out the commercials, or whatever. NASCAR's gotten itself into one hell of a bind now. What do you think? What's it going to take to get people back in front of the tube for some Sunday afternoon racing?