Supercross is already built for short attention spans with its brief, action-packed races. But what if the entertainment value throughout an entire night could get even better?
That’s clearly what officials were going for when they implemented the new Triple Crown format, which debuted Saturday night at Anaheim 2.
Did it work? Well, it was certainly interesting. By having three races of varying lengths — short, medium and long — it shook up the field a bit and made it harder for the best riders to dominate (longer races benefit the elite riders who are in the best shape, which isn’t a bad thing).
Preseason championship favorite Eli Tomac ended up winning the night, so it’s not like the format produced an upset. But points leader Jason Anderson struggled in the first moto before winning the last one (he finished third overall), so that made for an extra storyline to watch. And Ken Roczen, who was second in points coming into the race, never really found his footing the way everyone expected — though it was unclear how much of that had to do with the format.
In NASCAR, officials have tweaked both the race format and playoff format to emphasize parity and make it harder for one driver to dominate. So if that was one of the goals for Supercross, it worked.
But the primary motivation for the change was entertainment — and it only was partly successful there. There were two issues that could be improved upon: One was the long delay between races — teams needed time to go back to their pits and prepare for the next moto, but it seemed like forever on the broadcast — and the other was the math.
Let’s talk about the second one, because that’s an easier fix. With adding up points for each race, it put a huge emphasis on the third main. But although FS1 did a great job of telling fans the situation, it fell short in getting graphics on the screen that showed a constant points as they run (it appeared a few times, but wasn’t consistently there).
The points as they run is the key to the whole night in the Triple Crown format, and viewers needed to visualize what was at stake. It would have been helpful to see a graphic that said “Cole Seely: Needs two positions to claim overall win” — and leave it there as we saw him chase the riders in front of him.
The Olympic-scoring format isn’t very complicated once it’s explained. But for people just hearing about it for the first time (which may have been the majority of viewers), it’s good to both over-explain and over-emphasize it with graphics on the screen. Plus, many of us can’t do math like that on the fly.
If FS1 can do the calculations and the race organizers can cut down some of the time in between the events (I know it still has to fit in a three-hour TV window, so that’s not easy), then the Triple Crown has a shot to be a long-term hit.