If you’re trying to quit smoking, the best place you possibly could go is Las Vegas. Because of its nonexistent rules on indoor smoking, innocent bystanders partaking or walking through a casino floor will get the nicotine fix they need — secondhand
After a night out in Vegas, you’ll wake up with the same gravelly voice, dry throat, wheezing cough — signs you’re headed for an increased chance of the big “C.” But free of the self- and societal-imposed guilt from actually partaking in the indecent action of sucking nicotine into your lungs in smoke form.
You get all the benefits of nicotine without your partner being able to cash in on the inevitable bet you made with them to quit.
And it doesn’t get much better as you travel around Vegas throwing around “fun coupons” in the form of $100 bills. Because it doesn’t feel like real money, as it goes so fast, and the place unashamedly will find a vice or trick to take it.
As you lose your hundreds, you eventually will decide to change locations, so you’ll walk out of your casino-hotel and into what you hope is fresh air and gratuitous expanse. But what you really enter is a carefully designed maze that guides you along a path to the next establishment to take your hard-earned rubles.
The reason is the casinos know.
If they constantly keep you in the throes of gambling, if they encourage their customers to infect their fellow patrons with nicotine and cheers, even the most stubborn will break down and eventually gamble or buy their high-priced cigarettes with a “courtesy fee” of $1 trillion.
It’s all carefully designed to break down your morals. It gets to the core of the human psyche. If everyone’s doing it, or you’re doing it without noticing, it’s only a matter of time before you’re inclined to give it a try.
Which brings me to auto racing.
Each weekend, the sport constantly vies for a piece of a shrinking attention span pie. And we don’t do ourselves any favors. We schedule races from two of the world’s top series on the same day and time — acting as if the other series doesn’t exist and a fan of one series couldn’t possibly be a fan of another.
For example, Oct. 23, 2016. The most well-known racing series in the world ran its only race in the United States on a Sunday afternoon directly in conflict with NASCAR at Talladega Superspeedway.
Making it almost impossible to watch both at the same time.
Sure, there are people who will say “it’s completely different fan bases” or “the schedules are bound to clash.” Which are valid points.
But the thing is, NASCAR and Formula One are the two biggest series in the world, and I am sure – at least, I hope — there was someone in either series saying, “Well, this was a mistake.”
Because Talladega is NASCAR’s best form of natural marketing. Forty cars inches apart at more than 200 MPH. It’s the kind of riveting, made-for-TV intensity that a marketing executive dreams of between meetings of words such as “synergy” and “engagement.”
Meanwhile, Formula One has only one chance each year to market itself to the world’s largest single economy.
And who would be the easiest targets? Certainly not Julia Sue watching Kardashian reruns hungover on her couch.
No, it would be the very people who will tune into Talladega. The same people who already are fans of a motorsport, or at least intrigued enough to watch a motorsport (and most likely hungover on their couches as well).
This year, the two series will clash again. This time, though, not against such a marquee event for NASCAR as Talladega. But it still will clash. And it’s a crying shame.
The thing is, there is an exception — Memorial Day weekend and specifically race day Sunday. Each year, three of the biggest races on the planet are scheduled perfectly apart. And I am sure it happened completely by chance, but like the tables in Vegas, even stark odds can prove to be a valuable learning experience.
As any ardent motorsports fan will tell you, the last Sunday in May, isn’t Christmas come early. It’s the last day of school, beginning of summer and infinite possibilities wrapped into one single day of entertainment.
For the seriously early Sunday riser, you can awake to watch Formula 2 from Monaco, before the prerace for the full-on Monaco Grand Prix, and eventually the full Monte Carlo bash itself.
And as the postrace champagne is drying and the yachts are full of sunburned billionaires, the telecast will come to a close. But no worries, as you immediately can shift to an entirely different form of open-wheel entertainment.
It comes in the form of the largest single-day sporting event in the world, the Indianapolis 500. Where 33 drivers will vie in-front of more than 250,000 in the grandstands and infield for the one of the biggest motorsports prizes in the world.
As the leftover mustard on your lunch plate dries to an almost brown color, and the winner of “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” has the smell of sweat and milk on their overalls, the Indy 500 telecast will come to a close.
But no worries, as the Coca-Cola 600 will be up and running only a couple hours later. Where NASCAR’s finest will duke it out and test their physical and mental fitness in the longest race in NASCAR.
And just like that, with hardly anyone noticing, three of the biggest races in the world will have worked together just like the casinos in Vegas: Funneling you from one form of motorsport to the next.
So it makes me wonder, what if we did this more often?
Like the casinos that don’t let you escape the nicotine fix, we worked together to keep viewers watching burning rubber instead of making a choice.
Because as the casinos have learned. If there is no choice, you can’t help but do what they want.