Originally Posted by WmCraven
NASCAR is wildly popular now but, in the late '60, no one outside of the southern Appalachians knew or cared about 'stock car racing'.
Well put: it's all about marketing.
You can take the auto racing argument a little further, too: NASCAR has blossomed in recent years because of excessive media exposure. To many auto racing fans, NASCAR is the lowest-common-denominator of auto racing: crap cars on crappy little ovals. Only in the last decade has it overtaken CART/Champ, IndyCar and Formula 1 racing in popularity here in the U.S., and that's largely due to marketing: the cars are huge billboards, the drivers are mostly people with whom the "typical viewer" can identify (read: Americans), etc. These guys drive cars that are similar in form (at least from a very superficial standpoint) to the ones in a typical American's garage, the brands are ones they recognize, and the tracks are almost exclusively in the U.S. - basically, it's easy for Joe Average to picture him- or herself as a NASCAR racer.
With the others - especially F1 - it's a much more refined sport. The drivers are skilled, the cars are technological wonders, the courses are all over the globe and have twists, turns and truly technical sections that most drivers never experience.
So drag this similarity to skiing: the X-Games stuff, like skiercross, is kinda like skiing in the terrain park. Their equipment looks (to the untrained eye) like something you can buy off the shelf at your local shop. The race format is simple elimination on a head-to-head course: no need to know whose technique is best, as time doesn't necessarily matter. The racers wear "normal" ski clothing, too, so it's something that average skiers can picture themselves doing, and most of the races take place in the U.S. or Canada. It's the NASCAR of the alpine skiing world.
FIS World Cup Alpine racing is like the Formula 1 of alpine skiing: the racers wear lycra speed suits and use poles with funky bends. They race on courses that are seldom ever mimicked at the average U.S. ski resort, the majority of races are held in Europe, and the field of racers is dominated by European nations. It's tough for the average skier/viewer to picture themselves in an alpine ski race.
And how does the FIS market the World Cup? By refusing to accept that image sells, by operating under the impression that media in sports is still "earned" in the U.S., which is simply not the case.
Look at where most of alpine racing's coverage happens in the U.S.: it's things like Hermann Maier flying off the course in Nagano, or Bode Miller partying it up in Torino (or the incredible recovery at Snowbasin in '02). There's not a lot of coverage of most alpine racing because most sports reporters don't know what they're looking at: they can't see where speed is scrubbed, etc. Skiercross is easy to digest, whereas alpine racing is for the more discerning fan.
And the typical sports broadcast in the U.S. has "dumbed down" in the past 20 years. Look at ABC's "Wide World of Sports," which used to be the U.S. broadcast home for events like the Lauberhorn, the Hahnenkamm, the Aspen Winternational, the Tour de France, etc.: while they used to show a bit of everything (alpine, XC, jumping, bobsled, weightlifting, track & field, cycling, figure skating, speed skating, golf, bowling, GR wrestling, and many others), they now show mostly golf (summer) or figure skating (winter). It's not the show it used to be because they went where the ad dollars were, and knew that they couldn't compete with the burgeoning cable market.
It's sad, really.
So the FIS has its work cut out for it: they need to spin their product the right way for it to catch on.
Just my $0.02 - your mileage may vary.