I know that NASCAR's changes to the Chase format, first reported by Jim Utter in the Charlotte Observer, will offend some fans. Change does that. I understand.
NASCAR announced the changes Thursday in a ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center. As Brian France and Mike Helton talked on stage, large boards beckoned on their left and right. On the boards were brackets.
Yes, NASCAR has brackets.
Do you of you follow the NCAA men's basketball tournament? Of course you do.
Do any of you fill out brackets, so pure and pristine before underdogs prevail and your teams go down? Of course you do.
The Chase Grid, as NASCAR calls the brackets, has spaces for 16 drivers in the first round of the Chase, or playoffs, the Challenger Round. How do you claim one of those spots? You win. There will be a premium on winning.
Twelve drivers advance to the Contender Round.
Eight advance to the Eliminator Round.
Four advance to the Championship.
NASCAR has a tournament. NASCAR wins.
But wait. Is it fair for drivers to excel all season and be eliminated?
Was it fair for the Carolina Panthers to finish first in the NFC South and lose at home to a lower seed, San Francisco, in the playoffs?
Of course it's fair. Denver had the best record in the AFC, Seattle in the NFC. Nice that they advanced, but they had to earn it. Drivers have to earn it.
The NFL, incidentally, has earned the highest television ratings in sports.
"This is as excited as I've been going into a season," says France, NASCAR's chairman.
The changes shouldn't surprise anybody. The change is the fourth to the Chase in 10 years. When Chevrolet gains an advantage, NASCAR does something to slow them down so Ford could catch up.
If you're astute, you adjust.
Asked about the risk, France says, "The biggest risk would be not to do it."
What works for the NFL and college basketball and Major League Baseball and the NBA will work for NASCAR, too.
France and NASCAR should be commended.