Off the Mic: Short Track Racing, Social Media, and You

It’s the new age-old problem—the effect of social media on short-track racing. Is it positive? Is it negative? Is there any way to really tell?

I guess to figure it out we should take a look back at how people received news and heard rumors from the racetrack. Way back before there were computers (can you imagine what that must have been like!?) racetracks had to do something to get the word out about the races. It started with word-of-mouth, radio advertising, fliers, and newspapers. Those crafty promoters found a way to get by and began turning their racetracks into solid businesses.

Eventually, when short-track racing blossomed in popularity, some racing-only publications began popping up (my favorite was Checkered Flag Racing News). They were wonderful papers full of results from around the area, and tracks that seemed so far away, even if they were only a few hours down the road. Believe it or not, there was a time when promoters saw some negatives in the publications. One of my neighbors when I was a kid used to write a column and news reports. Apparently, he criticized a local track for being too dusty and was not allowed back. Instances like that, though, were few and far between.

Then the Internet came. Sadly, the first thing it did was squash those racing newspapers I loved so much. There are still a few around, but not in the quantity of those circulating in the ’80s and ’90s. The Internet started off slowly with tracks developing websites, but then hub sites began to come together. Some of those hub sites brought forth forum boards—and the fun began.

Before this time, only those who had the clout to be part of publications (like my neighbor) had the power to criticize tracks. They usually did so very carefully and with their names attached. But when the forum boards came around, it was game-on. Not only could everyone who wanted create an account, but they had a voice—and many times it was an anonymous voice. Also, the responses and arguments were immediate. No letters to the editor here. No matter how uninformed or dead-on right they were, the criticism hit the forum boards like a truck. Unfortunate moderators had to sit with their fingers on delete button for most of the day.

Did this do damage to racetracks? Yes and no. It certainly made some people feel more empowered, even though they were basing their “facts” off rumor and hearsay, which wasn’t good for anyone. But it was also an internal struggle. Most fans, especially casual fans, didn’t come across these boards very often—and it didn’t discourage them from attending events.

The unfortunate thing about the most recent evolution (social media) is that it brought these forum-type arguments and comments into everyone’s world. Family, friends, fans—when your favorite driver was mad, you knew about it. And, it was everyone else’s fault but his. Suddenly, the casual fan who added this driver on Facebook read that the local racetrack plays favorites and it just isn’t a business he or she should patronize—or so it seems. Is this damaging to racing? Absolutely.

There is no hard evidence to suggest a post made by an angry driver, crewmember, or fan actually keeps people away from the racetrack, but it comes down to commonsense. If you read a post about a restaurant saying the floors were sticky and the staff was rude, would you go? Probably not. But if you loved that restaurant, had been going there since you were a kid, and thought it had lost its way, would you run to social media to attack it? Probably not. Wouldn’t it be better to talk to the owner and try to suggest improvements first?

I would argue racers have become much more responsible with their postings on social media. It wasn’t long ago I would see multiple posts on a weekly basis bashing officials, tracks, and other drivers. Those poor flagmen. Thankfully, those occurrences don’t seem as abundant any more.

For those who still feel the need to do it, I’ll leave you with this. I’ve worked as an official in some capacity for about 15 years now (yes, I know there are a lot more seasoned veterans out there), and I have never once seen a Facebook post or Tweet cause a change in a result, a rule, or a policy. I have, however, seen a calm conversation with promoters and track officials achieve results.

What do they say? “You kill more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Give that a shot next time there is a bee in your bonnet. See what I did there? Until next time my friends, stay out of trouble!

Source: hotrod.com

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