Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Why drone racing will be more fun than NASCAR

Until I saw an article about it on Bloomberg, I’d never even heard of drone racing. And my first reaction when I saw the headline about it – “New Drone Racing League Wants to Be the Next NASCAR” -  was, do we really need yet another professional sports league. Let alone one dedicated to drone racing.
And then I thought about it. After all, there are professional ultimate frisbie players. Professional video gamers. And NASCAR itself.

So why NOT drone racing that goes pro.

That’s the bet Nick Horbaczewski is making by starting the Drone Racing League, with the backing of investors who include Stephen Ross, owner of the National Football League team Miami Dolphins, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures, a New York venture capital firm. Horbaczewski expects most fans to watch races online, much as they do competitive gaming in the U.S., using their phones, computers—eventually even virtual-reality headsets.  Ultimately, he has ambitions of becoming a digital Nascar for drones. (Source: Bloomberg)

Side note here: I’m sticking with NASCAR rather than Nascar. Not that it comes up that often in my writing, but, when it comes to acronyms, I’m a purist. But I’m seeing more and more acronyms turned into proper nouns with initial cap only. Just the other day I saw Wasp instead of WASP (which stands for white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, thus giving it at least a few things in common with NASCAR, although WASP is generally used for a tonier, more high-falutin gorup). But sorry. Neither Nascar nor Wasp does it for me.

Anyway, the key to drone racing becoming successful – which, if it happens, will no doubt occur without my becoming a fan; after all NASCAR and professional video gaming have gotten along without me  just fine – is creating an engaging experience for online watchers.  So,

For now, [Horbaczewski’s] focused on well-produced video content to be consumed on browsers and mobile devices, including ones that put the viewer in the pilot’s seat.

Thus, the key to going pro will be GoPro.


As said, I probably won’t become a fan. For one thing, I’m not wild about the idea of walking out of my house, looking up, and seeing (and hearing) nothing but drones zooming around spying on people and delivering packages from Amazon because no one could possibly wait an extra moment to get their hands on that order of lightbulbs, or the leprechaun salt and pepper shakers. Yet drone racing certainly appeals to me more than watching a bunch of guys in jumpsuits and helmets – guys you can’t even see - gunning around in tricked up, logo-plastered cars in circles ovals, at blur-speed. While kinda sorta hoping that some car will go planing off into the stands in a ball of flame.

Here’s why I think drone racing will be better than NASCAR:
  • The drivers will probably be nerds, not good ol’ boys in leather jumpsuits and helmets.
  • No one is likely to get killed. Even if two drones crash, it won’t likely result in death. Most are battery-powered, so there’ll be no exploding gas tanks to worry about. And the pilots are on the ground working a joy stick, not sitting in the driver’s seat manning a steering wheel and stick shift. So they’re not likely to die. Sure, this will eliminate some of the frisson with which people watch NASCAR, but that’s all for the good. I suppose there’s a risk that a drone could drop out of the sky and conk someone on the ground in their noggin. But if the courses are well thought out, this won’t happen.
  • Viewers will get to see cool stuff. Even if there’s a camera mounted on the hood of a NASCAR car – and I have no idea whether this occurs – what’s there to see in a dirt circle oval? I suppose there’s the chance that a wheel will go flying off. Or that someone will start swearing up a storm at a pit stop. But mostly, yawn! But just think of a race that’s go-proing over Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon? Of course, I don’t want to see the peace of tourists or wild animals disturbed. But the views could end up being pretty interesting.

So bring on the Drone Racing League.

But is it a sport or not? Is video gaming? Is poker playing? Is NASCAR? Or even Nascar?


Take me out to the ball game any old time. (Pitchers and catchers report on February 18th. As sucky as the Red Sox were last year, I do have to give this a woo-hoo!)

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