Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Iowa! (Part 2)

Back today as promised! I got to watch the last 100 laps of the IndyCar race, as well as the last 50 laps of the Indy Lights race, so I have a little more perspective to offer. For the amount of material out there from Iowa I could probably go to a third post, the weekend was that good!

The Ed/Sage incident -- Watching it in person, I thought Ed blew the whole thing out of proportion and that it was just hard racing. And after seeing the replay I stand by that opinion. While I thought Sage took a couple of unnecessary chances, I still think Ed could've handled it much differently. At no point in their racing each other did I think either drivers health or life was in danger.

Screaming on the radio for a penalty, launching into a profanity-laced rant on pit road and then running straight to Race Control is flat-out bush league. Then to treat Sage like crap on the plane ride home was just childish.

Lots of people in and around IndyCar say Ed's a nice guy, but all I see is a hothead who goes off when the racing isn't done on his terms. And let's call a spade a spade -- Ed's a Hulman, he's never, ever sat in a race car with the bottom line being he needed to win a race or have a good result to keep his career going. That's where Sage is at, and he is been in that situation many times in the past as well. While I know that everyone who races at that level has worked hard to get there, it's not as easy for some as others.

I can relate to Sage a little. Growing up there was a time my family didn't have a lot of money, and on top of that I was teased and bullied a lot. When I got onto equal footing with these same people (mainly a court or ballfield), I played them hard. Be it a pickup game, practice or the real thing, I only really had one speed because I felt I always had something to prove. Some people didn't appreciate that, but I felt that was what I needed to do in order to compete, and, yes, win. I grew out of that as time went on, and am certainly not proud of some of my actions, but I won't apologize for it, either. Neither should Sage.

Bottom line, Ed Carpenter is a veteran driver and, more importantly, a car owner, and I think he needs to conduct himself in a more professional manner. It's obvious that Sage needs direction and coaching -- while I thought his driving for the most part was brilliant Saturday night, he has been a hazard to himself and others at other points during the season -- and it's up to the experienced drivers to help him.

The kid is only 20 years old, and young drivers at the highest levels tend to tear up a lot of equipment. Like Paul his first ride for Roger Penske at Michigan in 1991, he destroyed a car and broke his leg, and in his first 20 IndyCar starts he crashed out six times! I once read back in the day that PT's repair bill for the 1992 season was over $2 million. PT never lost his edge as a driver, but he certainly smoothed out the rough edges and became an absolute beast. Can Sage do the same thing? I hope so, he's a cool guy with a great backstory that we need more of in IndyCar racing.

Another one-day show -- I mentioned last week after Milwaukee that I thought the one-day aspect of the event led to an uptick in attendance, and given the crowd at Iowa on Saturday night I think that having qualifying and support races along with the main event made for more people in the seats.

It doesn't matter the situation, people want to feel like they get the most for their money. There was certainly a lot to see and do on Saturday, and everyone I encountered seemed pretty happy with their experience. On Saturday afternoon I found out my friend Kevin was at the race as the guest as a vendor, and during one of the cautions came up and hung out with us for a while.

Although he once came to the 500 with me, he isn't an IndyCar fan, but he said he was having a great time and was really into the race. Iowa is always a good show, and is a gorgeous place to be at night in the summer.

Montoya -- JPM's crash was a bit of a shock to me. I wasn't following him specifically, but he was in my field of vision and when his car pancaked the wall my first thought was: "Wait, did that really just happen?"

Can't do anything about equipment failures, and as the night went on, he wasn't the only one to have that problem as Turn 2 jumped up and bit several drivers. But what could've been a turnaround night for the rest of the field didn't lead to much as Helio Castroneves went backwards the last half of the race and Scott Dixon had mechanical problems as well, just as it seemed like he had gotten a good car underneath him.

In a short season, a driver has to count his lucky stars if he gets a "mulligan", and JPM definitely got one on Saturday night. He had a disastrous result and no one was able to take advantage, at least as far as he was concerned. Like I said last week, that's the kind of luck you need in your corner if you want to win a championship.

Rule 9.3.8 -- I was going to dedicate a full post to this but in the end think it is so insignificant that it doesn't deserve one.

IndyCar jumped the shark here, everyone lost their shit, put on their Fonzie jacket and skis and jumped into oblivion.

And no, I'm not talking about the series, I'm talking about the people on social media who absolutely went off the deep end about this. We should've seen this coming after Fontana, when the drivers said way too much after the race and were way too critical of the series, which they have been for as long as I remember.

You can read the deets here.

People, the sky isn't falling here. I don't see where anyone could possibly believe that the drivers, owners, etc. constantly airing their dirty laundry in the media does an ounce of good for the series. Plus, rule No. 1 is that you never criticize management. Let's be honest, IndyCar has one of the most negative and anti-management fanbase in all of sports, and most, if not all, of the reasons for that lie in the fact that everyone and anyone can criticize them without fear of repercussion. I feel that much of the damage done to the reputation of the series has been the constant sniping over the bow in the press between the powers that be, and also has created an Us vs. Them mentality that keeps things from getting done.

And, as my PR wife has told me before, it's important to do two things 1) control the message and 2) stay in front of the story. Any organization is smart in controlling the message, that's why these rules exist.

Besides, these kinds of rules exist in every sports league in the world. Here is one from the NBA Constitution and bylaws, section 35:

(c) If in the opinion of the Commissioner any act or conduct of a Player at or during an Exhibition, Regular Season, or Playoff Game has been prejudicial to or against the best interests of the Association or the game of basketball, the Commissioner shall impose upon such Player a fine not exceeding $50,000, or may order for a time the suspension of any such Player from any connection or duties with Exhibition, Regular Season, or Playoff Games, or he may order both such fine and suspension.
(d) The Commissioner shall have the power to suspend for a definite or indefinite period, or to impose a fine not exceeding $50,000, or inflict both such suspension and fine upon any Player who, in his opinion, (i) shall have made or caused to be made any statement having, or that was designed to have, an effect prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball or of the Association or of a Member, or (ii) shall have been guilty of conduct that does not conform to standards of morality or fair play, that does not comply at all times with all federal, state, and local laws, or that is prejudicial or
detrimental to the Association. 

There is also a section 35A which discusses the behavior of non-player personnel, like Mark Cuban, for example. In researching a potential post, I discovered that Major League Baseball has the same kind of language in their by-laws (in fact, being ejected from a game carries an automatic fine). Oh yeah, and my HR handbook has something in it as well.

Like always, people are thinking that they are trying to take the passion and excitement from the sport. I say, far from it. Drivers will still be able to express what they think, so long as they don't cross a certain line. I hope the drivers act like adults the rest of the season and continue to say what they do, and if they get fined for it, so be it. Then again, many in this group of will just stop talking to the media altogether, and they will get a lot of support for that. Which sucks.

I get drivers have concerns, and I fully agree with and support their desire to express their opinions, whether it be about safety, the series, sponsors...whatever. However, take the proper channels and do it the right way that is done in a positive manner for what helps everyone get on the same page and keep things moving forward.

I have been a part of the sports media for 15 years and I can guarantee not a single story I have written where one side criticizes the other has caused the side being criticized to act in a way the critical party wants them to. It doesn't happen. As I said about Robin Miller...Mark Miles seems like a reasonable individual. If someone wants the story, why don't they just call up Miles' admin and schedule a time to swing by and talk? 

One other criticism I want to address...people say the drivers go to the series about safety issues and the series doesn't listen. My answer to that? Other than James Hinchcliffe's freak accident in May, how many accidents this season, no matter how violent, has the driver jumped out of the car and walked away?

The answer: all of them. Seems to me they are paying attention. 

OK, I'm done with that rant. Bottom line is that I don't understand how anyone feels like it is a positive thing for the drivers to be constantly harping on the series. At some point these guys just need to drive, and let everyone take care of what they are good at. Because despite what everyone wants to believe, if you look at attendance, revenues, sponsorship and TV numbers, the people taking care of that end are doing a pretty good job. Maybe they aren't doing things the way some want them to or in the timetable they want them to, but if you don't think the series is on better footing now than three years ago, you are delusional.

As I said to Patti Nolen at the Milwaukee race -- if the fanbase of any sport, not to mention the drivers or owners, were responsible for running their sport or series, it would be bankrupt by mid-season. Oh wait, didn't the owners already bankrupt a series before? Maybe it is a good thing when the grown-ups take over.

1 comment:

  1. That's about as even a take as I've seen on 9.3.8 yet. I'd say that the my main problems with it are 1) there was already verbiage in the rule book for the Series to fine guys for "actions detrimental", which would include saying stuff against the sport, and 2) they (as your wife says) "failed to control the message", leading everybody to lose their crap over what's essentially a rules clarification. That's a bad job by IndyCar.

    Anyway, great post, Mike.