May 9, 2022
Miami threw a party and F1 was one of the many invited guests. The Miami Grand Prix was filled with stars on the track and hundreds off the track and thousands and thousands of party goers.
The crazy part is, while Super Bowl sites are chosen 3-5 years in advance, Formula 1 announced this race last April and in less than 13 months a track was built and a party was planned. In the end, it became the highest ticket demand for an auto race in this country. It brought sponsors that rival or pass Super Bowl level and only enhanced a sport that may have benefited more than any other from the pandemic.
While home during the peak of COVID people watched their streaming services more than ever and millions tuned into "Drive to Survive" on Netflix. The show brought new fans to one of the world's richest sports. It introduced the concept of Formula 1, the teams, the drivers, the money and it took the sport to a different level. The show's success has led to other sports trying to capture the magic with similar attempts coming from the PGA Tour and others. It will be hard to capture the same magic because the original always benefits.
When "Hard Knocks" took you inside the training camp of an NFL team we saw things we had not seen in the past. The cameras and microphones went where fans were not allowed before. And while the early years of "Hard Knocks" were must-watch TV, the access ended in training camp. You didn't get to listen to coaches talk during the game. You didn't get the same access during the game week or game access. And then the show got stale when it appeared coaches and players were playing to the camera and scenes looked forced or acted out.
Formula 1 offers in-race access that is unmatched. The cameras are all over, the audio of the drivers to their teams are all part of the live action and the drivers get it.They know they are the stars and understand how to give the fans what they want.
The Miami race was not one of the greatest races ever. It had limited passing in the front as Max Verstappen made a move early to pass Charles Leclerc and then held off Leclerc late to secure the win. There was lots of passing behind the leaders but in the end the top two drivers and top three teams finished in the top six.
Formula 1 is a hot sport right now. Some wonder if NASCAR should be worried. I don't think NASCAR is in trouble, but competition for your viewing audience can make you better. NASCAR can learn a few things from F1. For example, shorter races would help NASCAR but NASCAR has a solid fan base and a talented group of young drivers. The racing world is big enough for multiple circuits. But while NASCAR has its Daytona, F1 now has its Miami and few throw a party like South Florida...
Last week two Power 5 commissioners went to Washington asking for help in oversight of the pay-for-play world that has come to college sports. I'm not going to rehash the news of what Name, Image and Likeness has become. You know that story. The visit to DC by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and Pac 12 boss George Kliavkoff was to meet with senators and a few others to see what they can do about rich boosters buying players for their favorite teams. I am not sure if Congress can or wants to do anything but the optics looked good. While everyone loves mocking and ripping the NCAA and calling them powerless in enforcing rules to stop the rich guys throwing cash at players they may be the only group to control the renegade world college football and basketball now lives in.
While most college sports leaders stayed at 5-star resorts in Scottsdale last week, they all panicked in trying to reign in the boosters they need to keep giving millions to their athletic departments and stop giving that cash to players. I've talked about how this cannot sustain itself. I just don't see rich guys in these fake non-profit setups giving aways millions to players for years with no financial return. But who can control the system?
Which brings us back to the athletic directors. Remember, schools make up the NCAA. Presidents rely on ADs to help create policy and now ADs are the ones talking about reeling in their rich supporters. And here's the thing, most legal people think the rules set forth about booster behavior can be enforced and that while some might challenge a school's ability to control its boosters, a number of legal observers think it's the path for schools to go and likely have more success than waiting for congress. The problem is will ADs be willing to police others?
Ohio State AD Gene Smith was among the most vocal people last week about the problem of what pay-for-play has become. But is he more upset that SEC schools have these directives with millions buying players while the Buckeyes are slow to catch up? And does Greg Sankey really want to change what appears to be a system where his league is miles ahead of others in getting those directives to land those top players?
It's an interesting showdown on the horizon, do ADs want to stop the flow of cash because it's what they think is the right thing to do or is it all about publicly looking like you want change, but privately knowing you cannot control what you publicly appear to want to stop?...
Nuggets: You could have bought Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike for $30,000 in October. But no one would have said that was a great investment. But the horse ran one of the most incredible races. Rich Strike was in 16th place 30-second before he crossed the finish line. Jockey Sonny Leon, who the day before the Derby had six rides at a small track outside of Cincinnati, had a brilliant ride weaving through horses and gambled to go inside and make a move to surge down the stretch to run down the two favorites who tired. Rich Strike runs into the history book with a memorable race the industry will buzz about for a while. I have no idea if the horse can win the Preakness, but if any of the favorites had won the Derby the hype is nowhere as big as the next two weeks will be. Rich Strike may not go off as the favorite in the Preakness, but that's why we watch sports. You can't predict what might happen...The Reds are now up to five wins...Golden State's Jordan Poole is the spotlight guy today about whether he broke "the code" in his defensive play on Ja Morant. The Grizzlies believe Poole grabbed Ja's knees that led to the injury that looks like will keep Morant out of the game four. Honestly, I don't agree with the Grizzlies that the play was dirty. I've watched it several times and don't see anything intentional done by Poole. The Grizzlies are upset because Dillon Brooks got suspended for his hard foul on Gary Payton Jr. that broke his elbow earlier in the series...So Joel Embiid is the difference for the Sixers? Who would have thought the MVP candidate would impact a playoff series...Witnessed a first Sunday at a breakfast buffet at my hotel in Tampa Sunday. Big Man gets a big omelette and then cuts it in half and then takes two big pancakes and makes a pancake taco with the omelette inside and hot sauce, salsa and pancake syrup on top. Sometimes you just applaud the creativity and admire an artist at work...
Final note: Pancake, flapjack, hot-cake or griddle cake. The ancient Greeks gave us the pancake back in the 5th century.