Ground(ed) Effects

Indycar and general autosport opinion

As you, my much-appreciated (and very select) readers may have noticed, this blog has taken a mid-summer’s fortnight siesta and actually it appears a little break from the E85 ethanol fueled contrivances was just what the Dr. Jerry Punch ordered. I feel ready to open my eyes and enjoy the Indycar universe again… 


(but his demeanor and unwillingness to look his readers in the eye betrayed his statements of goodwill as a lie…)   DUHN-DUHN-DUUUUHHHHNNNNNNNN…

Hmmmmmm…

Was just reading a post from.. our good friend.. Mister.. Bill.. ZAAAHHHRRENNNN (aka the mighty pressdog), who has ongoing advice for the majority of kerfuffled blog and forum voices that cannot seem to ever find a common-sense middle-ground on matters relating to Indycar (Iowans are perhaps the most effective of midwesterners like that – common-sensical, middle-grounded). Even I, who purport to be ‘Grounded’ (hence the naming of this blog) admittedly get my raceday knickers twisted now and again (not in a good way). I even shake my head at myself when in a heated Indycar moment I can almost see the disappointed stare and hear the paternal words of Uncle pressdog chiding me from the ZOMGoodness reactions that I muster from time to time.

Then it hit me.

Perhaps the desire to reduce the drama associated with Indycar is the exact opposite thing we need. Perhaps to INCREASE the viability of said dramas, a’la Soap Operas, is a way to increase the total populous of eyeballs, thereby increasing numbers across the board (I can hear your shrieks and groans, but hear me out). Danica was a perhaps but an unintended experiment into capturing the fans of drama which, by most accepted accounts, garnered many thousands of new fans. Properly nurtured (aka exploited), these everyday dramas can be used for the expansion of the sport (the owners and drivers must be in on the act as well for this to work). I daresay the almighty NASCAR is already a fer-piece up the road from Indycar on this one, but not out of sight.

Racing as a ‘true sport’ in my view is for the most part, deceased. Much as the ‘race for space’ galvanized country, government, and tax revenue into the ever-escalating and literal heights for supremacy, there comes a point at which the economic Law of Diminishing Returns (I’ve spoke of before) will begin to fight back at the pure progress gained by the input of money (capital). Only by inputting exponentially more and more money will noticeable levels of progress be made while fewer and fewer participants will exist. CART much? 

Professional Wrestling, as another good-blogger-friend, Mark Wilkinson noted in his blog New Track Record, has long lost any semblance of its Olympic sport origins and become the testosterone-fueled, pyrotechnic offspring of gymnastics and the afternoon soap opera. Racing as a form of entertainment, he contends, rather than pure sport is what appears to currently flourish. I find it very hard to argue against his point.


Perhaps I should reframe my stance by borrowing a definition of ‘soap opera’.Take this excerpt recapitulating the form of modern soap opera from the website of The Museum of Broadcast Communications
The “soap” in soap opera alluded to the sponsorship by 
manufacturers of household cleaning products; 
while “opera” suggested an ironic incongruity between the 
domestic narrative concerns of the daytime serial and
the most elevated of dramatic forms.
It isn’t difficult to see the similarities between this description of soap operas and the existing Indycar or NASCAR as a form of soap racing entertainment. Both are some ways removed from the most elevated or purest of racing forms (for good reason I’d argue – cost in both life and resources). The drama? We’ve had quite a bit of it already just in these past 2 seasons haven’t we?

Are we missing a larger audience for Indycar events by trying to extinguish the drama du jour or can Indycar gain previously unwatching eyeballs by showcasing the very interesting things going on over here and, oh by the way, they do this amazing stuff at over 200mph

Is Indycar the place where racing is the backstory is equally if not more important than the on-track outcome? 

I can’t answer those questions, but I will pose them.

NASCAR supporters already shows a willingness to consider trading the science of racing for the art of entertainment when one of its larger event promoters is willing to publicly suggest scripted yellow flag periods. While largely scoffed at, I’m not so sure it isn’t a bad idea for the NASCAR bunch. It’s not much different than timeouts or periods or playclocks or shotclocks in most other popular American diversions when you look at it. It’s all manufactured drama. It also implies that the original elements of the sport are inherently not good enough for the viewing public or they wouldn’t have changed them, but I digress..

Ultimately, this thing, auto-racing, must become either science or art. Both avenues are expensive in their own right, but for Indycar to try this ‘double-major’ in such divergent fields will be impossible and the time to decide is yesterday.

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