MONSTER TRUCKS, DOCKERS AND FAT TIRES?

MONSTER TRUCKS, DOCKERS AND FAT TIRES?

Richard J. Cunningham



Are we really doomed if we can?t work out a television-friendly format for pro racing? The prevailing winds certainly blow in that direction. Ask virtually anyone from the corporate side of the sport: what is the single-most important item we need to grow mountain biking is, and I?ll bet my Zippo that the answer will be; more mountain bike racing on the tube. The formula seems simple enough: Action sport, plus TV airtime equals a national sales boom. I used to believe that was true, but recently, I had a revelation that may disprove the theory.
I was flipping channels in the middle of the night, taking a break from typing MBA. What would happen, I thought, if nobody had ever seen a golf tournament, it would be hard to convince anyone that doinking a tiny ball around a grassy park, wearing a pink shirt, white tassled shoes and Dockers was a manly, must-see event. What if bowling was a fringe sport played only in northern France? Could anyone sit through an hours worth of pot-bellied ball rollers every Saturday afternoon? If U.S. football was invented tomorrow; wouldn?t it seem like a lame-off between a bunch of fat guys that wanted to play rugby–but their moms changed the rules to make the game safer and forced them wear padding all over their body so they wouldn?t get hurt? Heeey. What about pro bass fishing?
My point is, a lot of sports that grab huge television ratings are only entertaining because they are well integrated into popular culture. We all know the rules; we?ve all played the game at least once. Because we have a basic understanding of the game, we can emphasize with the players and sense the drama–even if it’s the lamest amusement imaginable. Admit it. You?ve been stuck in bumper-to bumper traffic and imagined that you had a huge truck that could merrily drive over all the cars blocking your way home. That’s monster truck racing old chap!
The reverse is also true. Nobody who watches land luge races on the summer X-Games, runs to the Big Five sporting goods store and says: Hey man, I?ve got to git me one of those land luge thingies and go git squished under a truck! The same ten guys have been on every X-Games broadcast. If there were a direct correlation between TV sports coverage and sales, you?d think that there would be a lot more than ten guys on the international land luge tour!
Some sports are mega-popular and will never play well to a TV audience. Imagine a prime-time extreme backpacking show. What about Soccer? The most popular sport in the rest of the world airs on channel 250 at midnight in most large U.S. cities–yet it is the fastest growing youth sport in the country. There are as many examples of popular sports that have failed to attract a prime time audience, as there are foolish pastimes that have become overnight sensations.
I know this isn?t the party line, but consider the possibility that mountain bike racing will never be a popular TV attraction–in this country at least. Maybe, just maybe, we could refocus our resources and grow the sport into a wildly popular pastime–without paring it down into a bunch of ten-minute action video clips backed by a cheese-ball metal-rap band. Its been done before. Anyone throws a leg over a mountain bike returns with an ear-to-ear grin. Those are the kind of ratings that are guaranteed to sell.

 

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