This just in: Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are all thinking about driving in NASCAR.
They certainly wouldn’t be short of rivals, that’s for sure.
Ok, that may not exactly be true, but given how things have unfolded over the last few weeks as the Chase for the Sprint Cup has hit a fever pitch, what we’re seeing is an end result that has evolved into nothing short of a heavyweight fight – both literally and figuratively.
But in the whole big scheme of things, is that good or bad?
About 100,000 fans went to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday to see a Sprint Cup race. But instead of playing up Jimmie Johnson’s win, what many of those same fans will likely be talking about for the next several days is not the race, but the post-race fight between two of the sport’s own heavyweights, Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.
Both drivers emerged from a post-race brawl – which included more than a dozen undercard bouts among crew members at the same time – with matching fat lips.
Keselowski appeared to get the worst of the battle, with blood streaming not only out of his mouth but also getting waylaid on his forehead, as well.
And we had to laugh that while Gordon and Keselowski were talking smack to each other before the fists began flying, Kevin Harvick got into the mix and pushed Keselowski from behind.
Ding-ding-ding, the battle began. Harvick, meanwhile, smartly backed out of the ensuing mess and left his pretty face unscathed – which is more than Keselowski and Gordon can say.
Sure, the battle between those two drivers was great theater and drama, and will definitely have fans talking for quite some time, but is this REALLY how NASCAR wants its marquee event to play out?
Yes, it will draw attention from around the globe, but at what cost? Is it a cost that NASCAR wants to pay?
If we saw constant fistfights and more on and off the field during the NFL playoffs, would commissioner Roger Goodell sit idly by and let more of the same occur?
For with every viewer that tunes into Sunday’s race at Phoenix or the season finale at Homestead to watch for more fisticuffs, will NASCAR emerge looking like a genius, or will it ultimately become the laughingstock of pro sports?
Not only is the championship a high-stakes fight, the post-race battles we’ve seen in recent weeks (both physical and verbal) between Keselowski and Matt Kenseth, Kenseth and Harvick and now Keselowski and Gordon have done exactly what NASCAR had hoped for, albeit maybe not necessarily the way the sanctioning body intended.
Yes, fans have gotten more engaged and excited, while non-NASCAR fans are also taking the bait and being drawn in, all with the goal of driving up TV ratings and at-track attendance for the two remaining races.
We received proof of that earlier Sunday when Phoenix International Raceway officials announced that next Sunday’s next-to-last Chase race is sold out. Seats are still available on the hill that overlooks PIR, but if you want the sheer comfort of a seat inside the track, you’re out of luck.
And from what we hear, tickets for the remaining open seats for the season finale at Homestead in two weeks were already selling briskly.
But with what happened at Texas, watch those same Homestead ticket sales jump dramatically between now and the green flag two weeks from now.
Anybody who is anyone will want to be at Homestead, especially if what we’ve seen the last few weeks – including Sunday – continues at Phoenix and potentially at Homestead.
Frankly, I’m not going to be surprised to see that race a total sellout, as well. Rather, I’ll be surprised if it is not a completely sellout.
But still we go back to what will all this fighting do for NASCAR’s reputation.
If this were the NFL or NBA or Major League Baseball, a fight like what we saw at Texas would likely result be dealt in almost identical fashion by governing officials in any of those leagues: resulting in significant fines and penalties – the playoffs or its main actors in it be damned.
Will Brian France or Mike Helton decide that NASCAR’s reputation and integrity are more important than a one- or two-race spike in TV ratings and attendance?
Or will “Boys have at it” ultimately overrule common sense?
When Gordon went after Clint Bowyer both on and off the racetrack in the Chase race at Phoenix two years ago, he wound up being fined $100,000 and 25 points. Will we see something similar in light of the Texas takedown?
You won’t get an argument from me that fans like beating and banging on the racetrack. It’s part of the sport’s legacy over the last 65 years.
But when that beating and banging carries over to pit road after the checkered flag, when does NASCAR decide too much is enough?
No matter what NASCAR officials ultimately decide to do about all the beating and banging that’s going on off the track, in the court of public opinion, will they ultimately be judged by what they do or what they don’t do?
Follow me @JerryBonkowski