"I have but one question" – Existential Ennui In The Summer Of Our Discontent


“Now is the summer of our discontent
Made glorious winter by this sun of Anton;
And all the clouds that lower’d upon IMS
In the deep bosom of racing buried.”



In paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Richard III, I am comparing the rise and fall of not only the oft-maligned leadership of Indycar by Anton Hulman George, but Indycar itself. 

It is interesting to me that nobody is more narcissistic or wants to believe just how fantastic Indycar is more than the sport itself, its fans, and its leadership. 

NO-body. 

Hubris, people… hubris.

A fantastic and wildly unpredictable race on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana Cali-forn-aye-ay, and subsequent social and traditional media storm in the following 48 hours was as exemplary a modern Indycar event that you’ll ever see. 


If it were possible to quantify this statement, I’d proclaim the 2015 MAVTV500:
 
the single-best, highest-quality, overall Indycar race ever, that was seen and appreciated by the fewest people in modern (post-1979) history.

Talk about exclusive. For better and worse. 

That’s Indycar ‘in a nutshell’. 
It’s in my nature to be inquisitive. Perhaps to a fault. Maybe I should have gone to journalism school and become an investigative reporter, like this guy who brought down the massive FIFA scandal. Journalism bad-assery of the sports variety at its best, but I digress.
I’d like to suggest that the most important thing we might do to help is to challenge ourselves to take a huge step back and look inward at the sport from the outside. I’m talking big, big wide-angle view of Indycar here.

Imagine you are NOT one of the approximate 500,000 (or 00.0083%) humans on this planet who follow Indycar. If you’re reading this, it’s quite likely you are a fan already, but please try. 
~ IF we are to take the leap and assume my posit about the quality of this race relative to the total audience worldwide is fairly accurate, my question is, “WHY?”
~ IF Indycar has such great racing (even applauded publicly by much more famous drivers from other disciplines – via Twitter et. al.), why is it not wildly successful and more popular?

~ Why does Indycar struggle to gain any TV ratings of significance (which, as we know, serve primarily to bolster media ad buys, increase exposure and sponsorship for teams and the league, leading to better financial stability and security)?

~ Why does Indycar struggle with ticket sales in such low demand to the degree that venues have little desire or financial incentive to host a race?

Which, therefore, leads me to wonder – does it matter that Indycar exists at all? 
“Why does Indycar exist and for what purpose?”  

Here’s where I ask for your thoughts. In the comments please try to step waaaaay back from the sport and clearly, concisely, and honestly illuminate your answer for me in one or two sentences/less than 50 words.

I have a thought in mind already, but I want to see what you say.  No snark, no bile, no humor, just honestly and succinctly answer the question.

If the Indycar ownership could also do that for me, we’d be well on our way to solving some things.




J.W. von Goethe and the Ever-Esoteric Indycar

There have been several treatises written by many much more skilled than I dealing with the sturm und drang surrounding Indycar and it’s TV ratings (which is oft used by media and advertising folks to indicate its relative popularity in our culture, and, in some cases, to indicate relative worth in the commercial marketplace) so I shall not attempt to add to it.

Oh, wait. I already have. Back in 2012, here. Another one of quality by our long lost comrade in Indycar arms, Pressdog, can be read here. Read those in your free time later. For now, just understand that we’ve covered much of this ground before, and reference the continually, relatively small TV ratings outside the Indy 500 as a backdrop to this post.

Today’s Indycar Word of the Day is: Esoteric

esoteric adjective es·o·ter·ic \ˌe-sə-ˈter-ik, -ˈte-rik\

1 a : designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone (a body of esoteric legal doctrine — B. N. Cardozo)
   b : requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group (esoteric terminology); broadly, difficult to understand (esoteric subjects)
2 a : limited to a small circle (in esoteric pursuits)
   b : private, confidential (an esoteric purpose)
3 : of special, rare, or unusual interest (esoteric building materials)


For this writer, attempting to express ideas through words are typically a source fun and ‘esoteric’ is among the most enjoyable for me to throw out in conversation or print. Regardless, I find this word especially useful to frame what I saw as a very good race at Long Beach last weekend. 
For a sport that is already quite esoteric, to continually heap upon the negative comparisons to the glorious past of 50 (or even 25 years ago) serves no good.

You may think you’re doing the sport a great service, but you’re not. It is pure folly and unfairly shackles the sport to something it cannot possibly be. It reminds me of a younger sibling who becomes a freshman in high school, only to continually suffer the unfair comparisons by possibly more glorious elder siblings’ friends and teachers. To have these comparisons and judgements awaiting you, before you have a chance to develop your own identity, would be highly infuriating. Perhaps you were just such a sibling and can identify with this feeling, but I digress…

My point to all this can be summed up by a quote I came across yesterday attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – influential writer, statesman, and all-round free-thinker from late-1700s/early-1800s Germany. The english translation of his quote is,

“the hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes”

What is currently (and has been for a few years) in front of our eyes is the gilding of a new group of Indycar legends. 
Yet nobody seems to care.
Scott Dixon scored his 36th career win in Indycar at Long Beach last weekend, surpassing the golden-era legend Bobby Unser, and moving to 5th all-time, a full year quicker and in 17 less starts that ‘Uncle Bobby’.  
Let that sink in for a bit.
I’m not going to attempt arguments which bring in subjective comparisons based on the sport or vehicle history – only the hardest, most basic statistics. We can certainly view them all through the lens of their time but I find it increasingly hard to say one era is better than another based on conditions of the time. Liars figure and figures lie, correct?
We are in a time when new legends such as Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Sebastien Bourdais recently retireds Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy, ALL are in the top 15 in career wins.
These drivers, some of whom are permanently gone from the cockpit, or likely soon to be, are legends in their own right, yet most often we only hear and celebrate the voices of those who continually lob mortars at the sport’s façade, quite unfairly damaging this current generation of legends. The worst thing, the absolute WORST we do as fans is depreciate their status.
(c) Jeff Gritchen – OC Register
I’m making an concerted effort to eliminate the unfair comparisons with the sport’s past. The drivers of today are legends in their own right, living in the shadows of the sport’s earlier legends, yet they’ve earned the right to be treated as such. 
The subdued congratulations from TK and Helio on Sunday, seemed akin to a knowing nod that despite the weight of golden-era legends and their esoteric, nostalgic fans before them, they do understand their place in the sport’s pantheon.
If only more Indycar fans did as well.



J.K. Rowling, Contrition, and Wagers

“Bizarre title, that” I can hear you say… bear with me. Yesterday I ran across this quote attributed to writer J.K. Rowling:

I always surprise myself on my ability to turn a phrase. 
Words are, in my not so humble opinion, a most inexhaustible source of magic; 
capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” 


I immediately brought this into my realm and how this quote applies to my Indycar-related word-butchering blogging. Broken-down, here is how I applied it:

I read: “I always surprise myself on my ability to turn a phrase.”
I heard: I have a high regard for my writing. 

When I sit down to write, in essence, I do little more than jot a stream of consciousness. I simply don’t have time or the financial compunction to belabor my direction, theme, and modus operandi which can lead to wild inconsistency from one post to the next. Maybe that is a feature which can be appreciated to a degree since it is meant to be fodder for entertainment, and not an examination of critical sociological matters. 

However, I do see that as a convenient circumstance which can preclude me from such professional behaviors as outlining a point, proper grammar, proper spelling, etc. A writer, in the professional sense, I am not. I am an opinionated, digital graffiti artist with a college-level vocabulary and a means to extend that to this world via the internet, which brings me to the next portion of the quote:

I read: “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, the most inexhaustible source of magic; capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.
I heard: There are many directions that words can take. It’s how you choose to go about using them that makes all the difference.


Those words caused me to think about some of my previous writings and I recall one which has bothered me for some time, especially with the myopia of hindsight. It is a post from mid-2011 which has a prediction-based pro and con of the sport from 2012 through 2013.


It is with sincere regret that I look back at the negative tone of that post and how it ultimately was released. It was consistent with my stream of consciousness style of writing and, with the end tone hanging in the balance as I wrote, it skewed into a backhanded and ham-fisted negative critique. I wrote out of discomfort with many (then) current unknowns and a genuine fear for the decline of a beloved sport which I truly only wish for better days ahead.


Many people much smarter than me have worked very hard to right the ship of Indycar.  For my over-reaction and straying from the ‘grounded’ viewpoint that my blog is supposed to have, I am quite sorry. I do aim to be fair and well-thought with my views, however, I sometimes succumb to my own emotional leanings. An emotional diatribe is not what I intended this blog to be.  


Having said that, and in light of the fact that with all the effectiveness of the new car,  manufacturers, teams, and NBCSN’s great TV coverage, Indycar has just put on a great show at Barber Motorsports Park, (which may very well be the best Indycar twisty racing in the last 6 years or more) and virtually nobody outside of our little Indycar cloister saw it. This bothers me to no end.


Ultimately, what I firmly believe is this – Indycar CAN regain an audience comparable to its previous glory, but that will only comes with risk. Risk is relevant to the amount wagered versus the amount of potential gain. There are more changes necessary for Indycar if its goal is to return near its previous peaks. 


Which ever direction Indycar goes, I wish it nothing but the best and will continue to support it because I like it and have followed it for over 30 years. I also would love for it to be here 30 years from now.

Missed It By THAT Much…

As the cloud of excitement and ethanol and rubber and sunburn fades into memory, I can say without question that the 2011 Indy 500 was among the best 10% of races.  The last 35 laps were nothing short of classic sporting drama and, as Steph at More Front Wing so eloquently stated, without the information fed by a scanner or TV coverage, one never knew where all the players stood with regard to fuel, speed, and handling which made the closing laps all the more exciting to watch from the stands and every few laps of the closing 15 presented a new leader.


I must admit to feeling fairly clairvoyant with regard to the race winner predictions 6 days prior to the race. I then noted a predilection for the winner to be from a one-off team overcoming the day’s dominance of team Target (who would befall some late-race misfortune) and win his second Indy 500 ring…  Sound vaguely familiar?  Where the prediction misses the mark is which one-off driver would win. I had Buddy Rice but history would show Dan Wheldon to be that driver in Victory Circle.

My Top 10 was a bit off, but still the overall theme was nearly right on. As for the weekend and raceday enjoyment, it was nearly unparalleled in the 24 different races I’ve been (’79, ’80, ’88-’96, ’99-current).  Definitely in the Top 5 of races I’ve witnessed first-hand with 1992, 1979 (my first), 2006, and 1989.

Time will tell just how important this race was, but with the fantastic weather, pomp and circumstance on ’11’, complete stadium silence at Taps, our good friend Mister Jim Nabors, exciting racing with a finish to be long-remembered, it certainly has all the hallmarks of one of the greats.

We can also take a deep breath, and begin to look forward. 

Only 360 days to the Indy 500…

One small suggestion to those that run the Indy 500


I’ve been going to the Indianapolis 500 for many, many years now and almost nothing about Indy and it’s changes have caused me any angst.

Nothing except for one seemingly small but ignominious detail, which I humbly submit for reversion back to its previous form, for your review…

There are precious few truly outstanding and hallowed moments in all of sports and the 30 minutes preceding the drop of the green flag of the Indy 500 is one of them.  Much like the reverence given the Masters grounds, or the call to post of the Kentucky Derby, those final moments leading to the command to start engines is truly stuff of American legend and should be treated as such.  The herky-jerk schedule of today does a disservice to one of the greatest traditions in all of sports and is only, I presume, due to the television’s coverage demands for last-minute commerical inserts before the green flag.  This, to me, is simply appalling.

It is in the spirit of the highest traditions that I submit to revert back to the days (as recently as the late 90s) when the television coverage did not dictate the flow of those traditional proceedings: The National Anthem, America the Beautiful (lets shelve the God Bless America for now, please), the Invocation, the playing of Taps, the Flyover, Back Home Again in Indiana (long live Jim Nabors), Balloon Release, and “Start Your Engines” (merely typing this recalls goosebump-producing moments of Indys past).

There always was an order for these events which created a palpable crescendo of anticipation, nerves, and excitement that culminates in the sensory overload of 33 cars screaming by on that first lap.  It’s almost as if summer itself waits reverently for this moment before signaling the official end of spring.

I propose that any schedule be continuous as in years past and that should live TV coverage desire to catch all the aforementioned grand moments, that it be commercial-free from The National Anthem through at least the first 5 laps or so.  

TV, you must rethink your desire to dictate for it is not you that made this tradition, you are merely one of its witnesses.  You do not command the proceedings and I submit the Masters TV coverage as the example the Indy 500 should follow – even if for only 30 minutes.

Also, please remove the unnecessary pit road exit booth.  I sit on Pit Road each raceday and the mad rush to remove the staging, lights, booms, and talent after the command and prior to the green flag is both ridiculous and unnecessary.

Dear TV, when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway asks you to do the aformentioned, humble yourself ever so slightly and show proper reverence for this great American tradition and its grounds by complying.  Your fans and your public (and thereby your advertisers) will thank you.