Friday, November 2, 2012

This House Is So Confusing

I stole that line from a scene in the 1980s-era movie "16 Candles" where Long Duk Dong goes to open the front door and opens the closet door instead. Of course, given the fact he was hung over didn't help, but that line sort of reflects my feelings about IndyCar right now.

Given the oversaturation of information I've seen this week, maybe I'm a bit hung over too.

I'm really, really confused, and the the last week hasn't helped much. Let's see, Randy Bernard was sacked, no actually, he just stepped down. New (or old) CEO Jeff Belskus sends out and open letter saying despite the fact that they think Randy sucks, they are still going through with most of his plans for 2013 and that IndyCar is moving forward.

In other words, the letter screams "ALL IS WELL!" (Animal House reference here)

Then I read a massive, epic, awesome two-part series by SpeedTV man Marshall Pruett that is so informative and complete it reminds me of the fact that there are two kinds of writers -- ones that have a talent to do so and the others (like me) who do OK because we try really, really hard.

You can read Part 1 and Part 2 if you'd like. Also, check out Robin Miller's rant and his mailbag chock full of fed-up fans while you are at it.

One thing I have figured out over the last few days is that these events, sooner or later, were inevitable. Bernard had a wonderful vision of the series, which is good, but at the same time, a widening chasm developed between him and the paddock, and when you are talking the kinds of personalities and egos that are involved at that level of anything, that doesn't get repaired.

Bernard's case was also not helped in the paddock because despite the positive changes he has brought to the series, it didn't reflect in attendance and didn't result in better television ratings, but with that dog of a contract I don't think that is necessarily on him. Still, someone has to take the fall when things go wrong, and Bernard had been out-numbered from the get-go. He was going to lose.

In short, there were a lot of good things going on, and I think everyone liked those, but there were underlying issues that couldn't be resolved and that led to what happened last weekend. Kind of reminds me of the time I ended a relationship a couple of years ago and my mom said, "She is a very nice girl, just not the girl for you." She was right, because the one I'm with now is mind-boggling incredible. But I digress.

For varying reasons, Bernard wasn't right for the series. That's not said with the purpose of degrading Randy or the job he did, because he did the best with what he had to work with and made certain strides never seen before in the series' history. He was an outsider with great ideas that was pushing the series forward faster than many wanted to see, and because of that he met resistance at ever turn.

From what I have read this past week, the relationship was beyond repair, and a change had to be made in one way or another. It's like a bad baseball team, you can't fire all of the players, so you fire the manager. I don't agree with that decision, but I see it.

What a lot of people don't realize is that this outrage isn't just about Bernard the person, it is also what he represented. He was a breath of fresh air, someone who brought the sport to the fans and made us feel like what we had to say mattered. That had never happened before, and we liked it.

In the end, what bugs the absolute crap out of me is that this was handled in the worst way imaginable. Yes, these are messy, but the problem with IndyCar is EVERYTHING is messy. Everyone should know by now that every move the series makes is scrutinized to the nth degree, but yet the people in charge continue to bungle each move in a way that embarrasses the series.

The fan reaction wasn't all about outrage in regards to Bernard's firing, it was how it was handled. Couple that with the bungled and ill-timed takeover by Tony George just a couple of weeks before, and the series was once again made to look like it is run by a bunch of bungling misfits. A quick Google search of "IndyCar PR nightmare" brought back 422,000 hits. People are talking about IndyCar, but as usual, not in the way we need them to.

Maybe the series is run by a bunch of morons. Maybe it is true that an organization wrought with insiders and nepotism needs to step aside and let a more progressive group take over. Maybe it is time for IMS to entertain the thought of selling the series and getting a group in there with enough clout to run the series with a NASCAR-like absolute power. Maybe it is time to get people involved who have the means and the desire to push technology, innovation (on and off the track), social media and a presentation that will bring eyeballs to the product.

I don't know, because as I mentioned at the top of this piece, I'm confused. All I'm going to say to the powers that be is this: 2013 is all of the sudden a make-or-break year for IndyCar, and I pray that you all know what the hell you are doing. And to the owners that made this happen: watch what you wish for.

1 comment:

  1. The Pruett two-part article did a better job of outlining why Bernard was fired than IndyCar ever could. That still doesn't make it the right decision. But I remember the anger that I felt shortly after Dan Wheldon's death - the horrible, greasy feeling I had that IndyCar's leadership bungled that Las Vegas event in so many different ways that it (inadvertently) led to the depth of perhaps IndyCar's greatest driver-ambassador. Those feelings did subside, and I came to a more rational opinion about the causes of that accident. (Bernard's post-accident emotions in the press conference leave not doubt that he would not have purposefully put anyone like Dan in a clear situation of harm). But for that one very public (and tragic) example, the Pruett argument reminds us that there were dozens of other clashes between Bernard and the paddock over things like safety, fairness, and financials...things that fans only heard about in vague reports leaked to the media. At the end of the day, we shouldn't be surprised that IndyCar would oust a CEO with all of the problems over sponsorship, attendance, and TV ratings that keep it financially in the red. But I just don't know how much of that was Randy Bernard's fault. They'll have a tough time convincing the dedicated fans that Randy Bernard was the PRIMARY thing holding the sport back from becoming a financially profitable "mainstream" sport again.