• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

INDY NEEDS REPORTING, NOT CHEERLEADING

For over 15 years, American open-wheel racing has suffered from too much cheerleading instead of journalism. When Tony George announced his mistake-for-the-generations Indy Racing League, starting with the 1996 season, many media people took sides with either the IRL or CART/Champ Car. Fans -- and the industry -- were done a disservice in the name of self-interest.

That, as a wise man once told me, is a True Fact.

It's a sad commentary that, even with unification and Tony G's dethronement by his own family, not enough has changed on the journo front. Except, of course, that due to the Indy sport's diminishment in attention and prestige, there's a lot less coverage.

And even less actual, honest-to-God, reporting.

More microscopic, yet, is the absence of Business of Racing-informed analysis. Foreign adventure, as expanded by numerous CART/Champ Car managements, further eroded the domestic fan base -- to NASCAR's gain. One of the biggest PR BS lines was that profit from international events would help the series re-build in the U.S. NO! The sanction's slice of those hefty fees was revenue to help offset sizeable overall financial losses.

So, now, the IndyCar organization has gone to Brazil. And that same line has been trotted out yet again -- unchallenged (until now). And, once again, precious USA market turf has been yielded to others.

I could only shake my head when one writer put at the top of his "what I learned" list after the Sao Paulo trip: "Brazilians love IndyCar racing."

I'm glad some fan population does. Good, then. Move the ICS headquarters to Rio and make it a South American -- rather than American -- series. Then, the new business model would make Indianapolis and Long Beach "international" stops on the tour.


FAST LINES: We pretty much knew Bristol's streak of 56 consecutive Cup sell-outs would end, but the number of empty seats Sunday was STUNNING . . . So, as of March 15, Versus is back on DirecTV. Where's one of the first places you heard that was in the works -- maybe THE first place? The Race Reporters, on March 2 . . . Good for IndyCar the Brazil race beat last year's Versus ratings. Meanwhile, ponder this: While the League is on Versus April 11, Tiger Woods (unless he misses the cut) will be playing in the final round of The Masters. It will take MIT's most powerful electron microscope plus Hubble to find a viewer. NASCAR runs that Saturday night at Phoenix . . . What happens when a network news president also heads the sports division? Conflict of interest! Thus it came to be that Tiger's return was the LEAD STORY on the March 16 CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. The other net news shows rightly led with the historic health-care debate in congress. But with CBS televising The Masters, and with Sean McManus in charge of both news and sports, the black-eye net went with Woods. When the time comes -- and it will -- CBS senior management should be held accountable, along with Couric -- for the failure of her newscast . . . Since The Masters tightly controls media access, watch for all the second, third, fourth and even fifth-level so-called Tiger "friends-of-friends," and "associates-of-associates" to make themselves available to writers and broadcasters who show up in Augusta but don't have credentials -- going for their 15 seconds of fame . . . I made the mistake of turning on NASCAR Now last Wednesday. First up? Nicole Briscoe introducing Brad Daugherty for "Bristol Bracketology." Click . . . ALMS opened at Sebring and, sadly, Speed brought back the same terrible trio of pit reporters. Jamie Howe -- the Brienne Pedigo of sports car racing -- had this sharp question for one winner: "How was it?" Given the absence of prototypes, the series has no choice but to hype-up the competitive but second-level GT class, which is like NHRA trying to grab attention with Pro Stock instead of the nitro classes. Porsche vs. Ferrari vs. Corvette vs. BMW is good, but the PR line that it's better than the 1970s Trans-Am is bogus. I was around in those days and the likes of Dan Gurney, Mark Donohue and Parnelli Jones were wheeling for Ford, Mercury, Chevrolet, AMC, Dodge and Plymouth. Sorry, guys, no comparison! . . . As a former member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, I wonder: Why can't hockey come up with it's own version of the SAFER wall?


The American Media, March 2010: An AP story about a Navy officer being relieved of command included this -- "(The officer's) phone number is unlisted. He didn't immediately return a Facebook message seeking comment."


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

March 24 -- Newsmaker: Bryan Sperber (president, Phoenix International Raceway). Panelists: Mark Armijo, Bob Pockrass.

March 31 -- Newsmaker: David Reutimann. Panelists: Dustin Long, Ron Lemasters Jr.

April 7 -- Newsmaker: Max Papis. Panelists: Kenny Bruce, Dave Kallmann.

April 14 -- Newsmaker: Melanie Troxel. Panelists: John Sturbin, Bobby Bennett. Plus, Peter De Lorenzo.

April 21 -- Newsmaker: Patrick Long. Panelists: Larry Edsall, Jonathan Ingram. Plus, Matt Yocum.

April 28 -- Newsmaker: Simona De Silvestro. Panelists: John Oreovicz, Jim Pedley.

[ Bryan Sperber news nugget Thursday . . . ]