Just when it seemed like all the unbelievable and irresponsible fisticuffs being carried on ESPN were limited to one NASCAR driver’s rage at another for cutting him off, we have the return of the National Hockey League.
And, sure enough, there were enough brawls and one-on-one slugfests on "opening night" to even make a Daytona 500 fan blush with pride.
The fighting is absurd, and both "sports" should do something to tone it down, if not abolish it outright. Brawling has always been a sleazy and, in my opinion, totally unnecessary part of ice hockey. But, it sells tickets and the fans have come to love and expect it. Ditto, I guess, for the race car crowd.
But, I have two questions:
1.) In both sports, especially hockey, the marketing goal should be to build the core fan base. But, how can they attract someone like me when I find the fighting absurd and irresponsible? Don’t get me wrong, I love boxing and often go to live events. But, the notion of race car drivers and ice hockey players moonlighting as pugilists is bogus.
2.) If one of the marketing goals for both brands is to grow the bottom line, then why not publicize the hell out of the fisticuffs to the core fan base and sell "bloodiest fights" videos, peddle boxing gloves, trunks, etc., at the arenas and racetracks and, maybe, even stage live boxing matches between drivers and players after the events?
Both sports face a bit of a conundrum: while their core audience adores the fighting, potential audience members, like me, are probably turned off by the nonsense. But, instead of making a bold and decisive move to either ban the boxing or market the living daylights out of it, both sports remain in neutral.
NASCAR is growing faster than the weeds on Ed Moed’s backyard patio, so they really don’t have to fret about alienating future fans. Hockey, though, is struggling and really needs to decide how to reach more mainstream audiences. So, if the NHL commissioner is paying attention, here’s a promise: ban the boxing and maybe I’ll tune in your games.