Kligerman: The fight (or flight) predicament for NASCAR . . . and how to solve it

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You may have heard: Immediately following the race on Sunday, there was a fight.

A full-on, barefisted knock-down-drag-out to the hard and rubber-encrusted concrete.

If you travel frequently or at all, you have experienced your own version of such a confrontation. The indecency of modern air travel features lines, fees, faux elitism, bad wine, hierarchy and fellow travelers.

It’s among the only times in the First World that we are offered a view of our fellow beings at their most selfish.

The modern-day traveler is tired, stressed, sweaty and fighting for space – and never more so than in the case of boarding a plane.

A terribly inefficient system lies amidst the zones, classes and gaggle of people trying to line up in an orderly way.

See, the airlines are spending millions to figure out two things:

  • How to take care of the loyal and high-paying customers, while …
  • Boarding the rest of the common customers, in an orderly and efficient manner.

The efficiency is critical because every minute cuts into the airlines’ ability to be on time and eats at their available growth. And you most likely have noticed that they are failing with predictable precision.

After boarding first class and the highest spenders, the flight attendant constantly is slowing the rest of the boarding process to provide orange juice and bubbly refreshment to the elite. It slows the process to a frustrating crawl.

Every time, they plead with you to do things orderly and quickly. But they actually are asking you to make their system look appropriate and as if it works.

The problem is, it doesn’t. Time and again, the best system is proven to be Southwest Airlines’ hands-off, pick-your-own-seat free-for-all.

No hierarchy. No loyalty.

The most antiquated of human systems. Every man for himself. The adult version of middle-school dodge ball. Cast in the open sea in an eat-or-be-eaten hunt for real estate.

Much can be learned from this for sports and fighting. And most of all for NASCAR, which always is walking a fine tightrope.

It must offend no sponsors by respecting its uptight corporate heads of state (i.e., the first-class cabin). But it also must satisfy the laid-back, casual fan (i.e., those in coach).

Intervening could cause an uproar from a fan base angry about overregulating and catering to a group that isn’t in line with customers paying for the show being provided.

But do nothing, and it might embarrass the VIPs who fund NASCAR with sponsorship that allows the show to reach high levels of monetary support.

It’s just like the airlines that can’t help but shoot themselves in the foot while catering to big-money types and enraging common customers who just want to get their carry-on bag in the fleetingly available overhead space.

NASCAR might learn that you make everyone happiest the quickest by saying “The hell with hierarchy, we are not intervening.” It’s the quickest and simplest way to board a plane for an on-time departure. It might be the simplest form of appeasing everyone.

I sat in a bar waiting for my red-eye flight Sunday from Las Vegas as ESPN played highlights. It showed Martin Truex Jr. taking the lead with two laps to go, but it focused on the Kyle BuschJoey Logano drama.

That was to be expected. What wasn’t anticipated was the reaction around me.

Suddenly, everyone in the bar was glued to the screen. As Kyle Busch’s car went spinning, there was an audible “Ooooooh!” and when Busch fell to the concrete, one guy said, “Whoa, what happened! What is going on?”

And the coup de grace: Kyle Busch, being interviewed with his face dripping with blood. An entire bar full of non-race fans with a couple occasional fans erupted in an audible roar! Another guy said, “That is last year’s champion! Wow!” (I politely reminded him it was two years ago.)

As the volume in the bar rose, a round of applause emerged from the back. They approved. They loved it. Some were in NASCAR gear. It was then I realized that it was in NASCAR’s best interest to avoid intervention.

The fans want a free-for-all. NASCAR wants the governing to stay between the drivers.

It makes for great TV, and it ensures we are providing the best platform for our sport to stay lined up for a popularity takeoff.

Make it every man or woman for themselves.

It might be the only system that works.