Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Are They Really This Dumb?

My 16-year-old son Matt has the unfortunate role of being on the receiving end of a lot of my rants. None are directed towards him, well most of them aren't, most of them are about stuff we see on TV or hear on the news.

I think he knows when I am getting amped up because I'll say "You know..." and his response is, "Heeerrre we go!"

That's my response to the drama in IndyCar that has been festering for a while but is finally bubbling towards the surface concerning some owners and other hangers-on in the series wanting to get rid of Randy Bernard. I'm trying to decide if the people involved are really this stupid, gluttons for punishment or both.

Jenna Fryer of the AP reported this about 10 days ago, and Robin Miller said his piece here. He names names, among them being Michael Andretti, John Barnes, Tony George (WTF?) and Kevin Kalkhoven.

Really? People care what George and Kalkhoven think? Didn't they at one point each run a series, and didn't they run said series into the ground? And they want to be in charge again? Didn't George spend hundreds of millions of dollars of his family fortune to support an idea that was terrible in the first place, and then got canned by his own family?

Bernard went public last night, saying he knows what he is going on and is "disappointed". Ed Carpenter, who at one point was believed to be part of the revolt -- and in my mind if George is involved he is guilty by association, because my weekend in the garage area made me think ECR looks a lot like Vision Racing 2.0 because George was all over the place -- came back with a tweet that said he had nothing to do with it, then added another saying we should be focusing on selling tickets and propping up the series. (To that I say a rousing AMEN!)

After Miller's piece ran, Michael Andretti came back to say that it is all being blown out of porportion and that Robin is out of his mind. Given how hard Michael is working to build the series through the events in Milwaukee and Baltimore, I'll give him a pass here.

But beyong that, at this point, who do you believe?

At face value, the idea of ousting the current CEO is a head-scratcher. Attendance is up, ratings are up, people are finally beginning to make money. The series in terms of competition and health is sitting on its best footing in years. But yet people want to get rid of the man who is responsible for much of it.

I'm sure that means that there are plenty of things going on behind closed doors that we know nothing about. Some promises were made that apparently weren't kept, but I'm going to guess most of it has to do with the owners having little input in Bernard's decisions. Now, most of them are CEO's themselves, and while their minions have little input in THEIR decisions, they feel that they should be consulted on things, because, well, they are the owners. Makes sense doesn't it?

This is about power, I get that. And when power is involved, it doesn't matter if stupid decisions are made in attaining said power, as long as you get it in your little hands that's all you need. It's like a faction of guerillas that stage a coup in a small third world country. They blow up buildings, kill a lot of people and throw the country's economy further into the tank. But at the end, they have the power, so the path of destruction they left behind doesn't matter.

What's funny is that all of these owners are successful businessmen who would never make these types of emotional deicisions in their work, so you wonder why they do it here. Not only that, they do it again, and again, and again. The owners and the establishment have been fighting this battle for 30-plus years, don't you think they would have figured it out by now?

I just don't understand how the same people do the same self-destructive things over and over. Not only that, they pick the worst time to do it. Now, maybe this is something that has been going on for months and months, but the worst thing you can do is bring this to the surface just after the series hit one of the highest highs it has experienced since 1996, staging an event that, if managed correctly, could be the official start of the comeback of IndyCar. There is finally, FINALLY (!) a buzz, the series races the next four weekends, and by Iowa they could be on quite the roll, but yet this is the news instead.

They decide that it is time to eff all of this up. And the worst thing they are doing is fighting this battle in the public eye. Power struggles like this go on in the business world all of the time. Yet most of the time they are done when nobody is watching. Nobody wants to see it go public because it devalues a brand and drops consumer confidence in a company and its products.

And here is a tip for any owner that reads this (really, I know they don't): people who live everyday lives, who struggle with their jobs and their bills and their families but still shell out their hard earned money to come see your product, HATE IT when millionaires haggle about money and power. Yeah, we hate it. I spent a lot of money that I probably didn't have to go to Indy the last two weekends, but I did it because it is Indy and it is what I do -- and I am not looking for sympathy because I would do it again in a heartbeat. I for one can't stand this kind of bitching. Some of us, lots of us, have real problems, idiots. If you are worth over $100 million and you have to pay 100 grand extra for a car (and especially if it isn't even your money, it's your sponsor's), I don't feel your pain. Go cry someplace else.

I've held off calling every little thing that has happened in the series a "black eye on the sport" because many are just overblown by the faction of haters that hover over IndyCar, waiting to pick the carcass and say "I told you so" when all is said and done.

This one, this one is a black eye, and it is quite a shiner I might add. Remember in old movies where someone would get punched in the face and they would put raw meat on the wound to keep it from swelling? You need a Porterhouse, and later a lot of makeup, to cover this one up.

That is what pisses me off, that this battle is being waged in a public forum. At this point, I don't care who is right, wrong or otherwise. It should never have gotten this far.

As I said on Twitter, do you really, really think that all of the owners in NASCAR are happy with the way the France's run their business? No! NASCAR is run by people who have egos just as big, if not bigger, than the people in play here. Still, for the sake of everyone's best interests they keep their greivances within the family, and that's exactly how it should be handled here.

(Before anyone goes on a rant, I am not supporting NASCAR. They have their own issues to deal with.)

I'm not close enough to the series to totally understand what is going on, and I'm not going to try. I just wish everyone would get their heads together and say "we have to figure this out" and do whatever is best for the fans.

IndyCar, the series, is one of the most fan-friendly sports organizations in the world. The owners are not, and cannot understand, or do not care, about the fans and giving them what they want. They are in it for themselves, and the sport suffers because of it.

They want this series run by a Bud Selig-type. A guy that will do their bidding, push through things that they want -- whether they are good for the game or not -- and make them money. Selig does all of that for them, and yes they are all very, very rich. However, the game itself, and especially the fans, are the ones that in the end will pay for all of it.

In fact, the structure of baseball looks much like IndyCar. A few franchises dominate, and the rest are on the cusp of losing 100 games a year. The teams that lose all the time can deal with it, because they get money from the powers that be. And far be it that they would say anything because that cash spigot can be turned off at any time. That sounds really, really familiar.

I'd love to think this is another of Miller's ridiculous pieces that he throws out there from time-to-time, but despite some damning evidence, the only words we have heard from the people involved are tweets that Miller is delusional. If that's the case, tell us the truth. Take the opportunity to tell us what is really going on. We're waiting.

So even though it will fall on deaf ears, here is my plea: for once, everyone involved needs to put the fans and the best interests of the series ahead of their own personal agendas. Focus on what is important. Keep your eye on the prize.

Because if you don't, history will repeat itself. Again.


  1. I feel much the same way. I think that what Indycar is lacking, and has always lacked, is the iron fisted dictatorial rule of a single "owner". The France's, and Bernie Eccelstone have issues of their own, but they rule their series with the kind of iron fist that can keep these ginormous egos in line. That's why, despite my loathing of NASCAR, in the long run the best thing that could happen to Indycar as a business would be for the George's to sell it off to the France's. It would remove the head to head competition with NASCAR, and give the France's a property that could expand their market share into a new area, something that they have been struggling with the last 5-6 years.

    (Yeah, I just threw up in my mouth a little as I typed that)

    I think it's important to understand that while some of these owners are successful businessmen in their own right, in their own businesses they rule the roost. Bring all these "alpha dogs" into one pack, and their is bound to be snarling. I think Pressdog put it best when he speculated that this sort of stuff goes on all the time behind the scenes in every series. The difference here is that it has spilled out into public.

    In the end I hope that cooler heads prevail, and they eventually kiss and make up. Indycar is barely off of life support, any sort of "split" or mutiny now would be the end of it.

    On a positive note, only 362 days left to Indy!

  2. Amen. To everything you say. The PR implications of this are amazing, with so many fans angry about IndyCar (some set of representatives) shooting itself in the foot.

  3. The emergency that brought everyone together (saving American open wheel racing) must be over and we now move on to "business" as usual. That's a shame-it was refreshing while it lasted. RBs done a great job and I think he'll overcome this trial.