• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

LET's DEMAND BETTER FROM THE MEDIA

Perhaps, if circumstances allow, you'll have a little extra time this holiday Labor Day weekend. If so, please give what follows a good, hard, honest think.

With fall's cooler temperatures, the American sports scene is about to heat-up with the NFL, college football, baseball's pennant races and post-season, U.S. Tennis Open, golf's FedEx Cup, and NASCAR's Chase. More eyes will be on TV screens, newspapers, magazines and the Internet, and ears on sports-talk and event radio.

We should look forward to the coverage of the excitement. In some respects, I'm dreading it.

Too many in the press boxes and the production trailers can't see it for their egos, but there is a true crisis in confidence in the media. Every public opinion poll proves it: Respect for, and trust in, the media-at-large is right down there with Congress, used car salesmen, and Yellow Pages lawyers.

I'm sorry to have to say this, but that also applies to the sports media, although far-too-often arrogance provides the foundation for denial.

As I've shared here before, the late Paul Newman once offered me an incredibly valuable sentence of advice and I'll forever be grateful for it: "Know your audience."

Common sense would tell you it's their job, but too many egos have spun so far out of control that they have lost touch with the real world. That is, their audience.

In a down-several-cylinders economy, how many vacation days have you been able to enjoy? ESPN's PTI co-hosts pretty much took August off to play golf, while the core of the viewership that put them on the ratings map were working more hours for less money, just trying to make ends meet, let alone have enough to go out to a game.

With full appreciation for our Constitutionally-protected guarantee of innocent until proven guilty, the felony arrest of Around the Horn mouth Jay Mariotti certainly wasn't a shocker given the self-adulation ESPN enables five days a week. Even less a surprise was the knee-jerk reaction of one of media's most offensive yaps, Dan LeBatard, who wailed over "seeing so many people enjoy someone else possibly get ruined." The comment itself demonstrated that LeBatard and his fellow pseudo-intellectuals exist in a different universe from the audience. Here's what's really sad: It wasn't all that long ago that the Miami Herald, Denver Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and other major newspapers would have told their employees such conduct was not acceptable.

To be fair to ESPN, let's say right now that Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer well-deserve to be high on anyone's list of Big Mouths in Empty Suits. (I'm still waiting for Wallace to apologize for his remark on rpm2night just a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that we all should "chill out.")

For years, the 6 p.m. (ET) SportsCenter was appointment TV for me. It's been so devalued, so gimmicked-up, that I haven't watched a total of three hours of SC in the last three years. There definitely are some terrific, legitimate reporters there, but the franchise has been dumbed-down by the "personalities." It would be fascinating to me to learn how moving a camera so we get to see the earpiece wires taped to the anchor's backs helps the viewers know more about A-Rod's hip, Tiger's swing, or Donovan's ankle.

The production people think we are so dumb we get this on the crawl: "You are watching the NASCAR Sprint Cup series on ESPN." All together now: Duhhhhh . . .

That once-proud Sunday staple, The Sports Reporters, is so old, so tired, so predictable, as to be unworthy of its founding host, the late Dick Schaap.

It's gotten to the unbelievable point where we can't even believe our own eyes: On the PGA Championship, Turner would have had us believe its analyst was standing three feet away from a golfer's drive, or two feet away from the ball's landing spot on the green. How far have standard's plummeted? It's now routine for production truck techies to electronically place words and things on the screen that aren't really there. (Yes, I know, fans like the first-down line graphic.) When we can't believe what we see, why should we believe what we are told?

Last weekend proved it again: The weakest link in all of racing TV production is pit reporters who don't know how to ask a meaningful question. They teach you that in Journalism 101, but somehow, the microphone holders didn't learn it or think it's Rocket Science.

I live in a market that has three sports-talk radio stations. What comes out of them too often is so insipidly stupid, that's it's actually difficult to find anything of use.

(Let me add: Political cable TV now is pretty much the theater of the absurb. Why do people hate the media? Classic example: Last Friday, on MSNBC, Chris Matthews -- whose image is that of an ego so inflated he thinks he's the smartest person in any room -- uttered not-so-veiled warnings of hatred, anger, racism and even violence at the Glenn Beck rally in Washington, D.C. When challenged on this by a guest who invited Matthews to attend the event, the host said dismissively: "I'll be out of town." By the way, how many people would bother to show up for a rally staged by Matthews or Keith Olbermann?)

The bottom line here is modern media offers us too little information and too much opinion. We get less on the actual newsmakers and more from the pundits. The egos, not the fact gatherers, are given the spotlight. News takes a back seat to hype.

We're all to blame. By watching, listening, reading, we have provided the numbers data to empower the decision-makers to encourage more-and-more nonsense. (And, please, can't at least a few advertisers step-up to support some smart, intelligent, quality programs?)

On this Labor Day holiday weekend, before the fall's big events, how about all of us thinking about the fall of credibility. Despite what the egoheads, living in their self-absorbed and insular worlds and smugly looking down on what they consider to be the lower class believe, they can't exist without us.

For the sake of the high standards that made America great, let's show them just that, and demand better. Let's insist on quality. Let's show who is the boss. Let's do it so we can believe again.

P.S. -- Maybe there's still hope. In explaining last week why he's leaving Fox News to return to print journalism, Major Garrett said: "I want to talk less and I want to think more."

FAST LINES: Perhaps drag racing journalism's last truly independent voice, Jon Asher, is skipping this weekend's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals for the first time since 1967. Asher, a journalist with 45 years experience, explains he's not going because, with the loss of the Pro Bike Battle and Funny Car Showdown sponsors and thus the cancellation of those special races, and the fact that the Countdown to 10 ended in Brainerd, Minn. (that changes next year), it's made Indy "just another drag race" . . . CompetitionPlus.com will still have the best online coverage of the Big Go, with reporters and bloggers assigned to each class . . . You thought NASCAR's 2011 schedule represented big change? Wait until 2012, when the NFL very likely will go to an 18-game regular season, pushing the Super Bowl onto the traditional Daytona 500 weekend. It says here NASCAR is no IRL, which all the way back in 1996, stupidly started its first season at Disney World the day before the SB and was so caught-up in its own self-importance proclaimed itself as adding to the country's biggest sports weekend . . . Last week's Forbes.com story on Danica Patrick was embarrassing in its shallowness. This "effort" at reporting tarnished that brand's proud heritage. These sentences from writer Kym McNicholas tell you all you need to know (bold emphasis mine): "Patrick has two big name bosses in motorsports. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a successful driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the legendary Mario Andretti is her team’s owner in the Izod Indy Car Series" . . . According to an AP story, USA Today will make the most dramatic overhaul of its staff in its 28-year history. The print edition will be de-emphasized in favor of increased efforts to serve readers and advertisers via mobile devices. About 130 layoffs are expected . . . Despite two days of reporting from Afghanistan recently, Katie Couric's CBS Evening News tied its all-time low in total viewers. When is CBS' senior-most management going to be held accountable for its $15 million a year Couric failure? . . . Something new for those of you who feel the need to know more: http://www.mediabistro.com/sportsnewser/

[ more next Tuesday . . . ]

Monday, August 23, 2010

MOVING ON

Here's something I truly believe:

Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

And, as someone who has looked beyond my own personal passion for professional excellence at the real-life reality that journalism or public relations or any of my other career pursuits must be treated as business, here's something else I truly believe:

Anything worth doing is worth an acceptable financial return-on-investment of my time and energy.

After 14 months, I have discontinued my The Race Reporters show. I will explain why, briefly, but first let me caution the skeptics -- those whose default button is to believe the negative -- that this was my decision. Everything I share with you below is true fact and can be documented and verified, without any doubt.

My written agreement to host the show continued through the July 28 program. On July 7, I was offered a renewal agreement, to continue for a to-be-agreed-upon length of time, at the same terms. I declined that offer. To do the show the only way I wanted to do it -- at the highest level I could -- required, on average, four hours of preparation (research, writing, developing questions, booking guests, news release, show description, music selection, etc.). Add in the 90-minute round-trip travel time to the studio, and another 45 minutes of in-studio preparation, that brought the weekly commitment for a one-hour show to between 7 and 7 1/2 hours.

It seems to me not a lot of people are willing to stand up for themselves these days: I am. I am discontinuing the show due to insufficient financial compensation. Plus, there were some things I was told would happen, but didn't, such as an advertising budget to further promote the show. Here's the way I operate: If I tell you I will do something, I do it. If you tell me you're going to do something, I expect you to do it.

Last March, while traveling to do the show featuring Ashley Force Hood, I was involved in an accident. I believe a lot of people, in that situation, would have bailed out on the show. I called in and said I would be there but with only a few minutes to spare. I remember walking into the studio six minutes before the start, sweating and shaken, drinking a bottle of water, and doing the show as best I could. I have no memory of actually talking to Ashley or my other guests. I listened to the re-air a couple of times but it didn't jog my memory. I tell you this only to stress my level of commitment to the entire enterprise, as well as the guests, and most certainly, the listeners.

There was some miscalculation that my ego demanded that I do a show. As I said from day one, and repeated in the opening to the one-year anniversary show, that was not -- and is not -- true. The opportunity to do this came unexpectedly. I take pride in being the one who developed the concept, chose the title, picked every guest, selected every topic, and even decided on what day and time it would go live. Doing all of that with a high-quality format -- no gimmicks -- that resulted in the channel's top-rated show and a 2009 AARWBA journalism award. My greatest accomplishment was being able to put the right Newsmaker with the best media panelists and have a smart conversation. We LEARNED together. How many other shows can honestly say that?

I don't think I had any point to prove -- but since that's a typical measurement in this society -- I'll go ahead and say I think I made my point.

I stand with satisfaction of what I accomplished. It was high-quality talk and information in an age of shouting and nonsense, heat without light. My great thanks to all who helped, especially the Newsmakers and media panelists. And, most especially, to those who listened. Now, I must stand up for myself, and do so comfortable in the knowledge that I did my best. Thank you.


FAST LINES: At least three Fox News Channel hosts regularly criticize the slant offered on NBC and its cable outlets -- and I think there's more than a little merit in what they say -- but it was just the opposite last Wednesday. While the NBCers were going flat-out with live coverage of the historic withdrawal of the last U.S. military combat forces from Iraq -- MAJOR NEWS -- The O'Reilly Factor was featuring the pseudo-science of "body language." This reveals that pre-taped shows are very vulnerable to true breaking news -- but it also shows how network management considers it more valuable to stay with a "personality" show rather an interrupting to go to a big breaking story. Bad, BAD error in judgment. These days, I wonder if a flying saucer landed in the middle of Boise, Idaho, if that would be deemed important enough to preempt the recorded show of a news "star" . . . A very misleading USA Today headline last Thursday referred to a "new drivers union." The story was about the group meeting Indy drivers had at Mid-Ohio. The word "union" has a very specific meaning in America and what the Indy guys did in no way came close to forming a union . . . I'm more than a little curious as to how NASCAR will spin the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award, which this season, appears to be completely meaningless . . . The definition of crazy: Grand-Am in Montreal and ALMS in Mosport on the same weekend . . . Add this to an IRL TV season sure to be remembered for mind-numbing production decisions: Versus cuts to commercial with four laps to go (!) Sunday at Sonoma. And, again, the pre-race host talked over the National Anthem . . . They live in their own world: ALMS TV announcers who use car numbers as primary identification. Most people don't know any of the drivers, let alone their numbers (!) . . . Danica qualified 23d -- back in Milka's zip code -- finished 16th at Sonoma, but, hey it's all good: She'll be on The Simpsons . . . Here's a classic example of why you don't take what you read on chatrooms with a grain of salt -- but with pounds: Someone, noting the disagreements between the IRL and ISC, saying the IRL could start its own stock car division. (!) You betcha! Absolutely the Hulman-George sisters can't wait to write that check and will put Tony George in charge of this exciting new business opportunity!


I broke the story in last Friday's Arizona Republic that Firebird International Raceway will host a round of the 2011 NHRA Countdown. Use the first link below for that story and the second one to see what I wrote -- with more quotes, details and background -- for CompetitionPlus.com:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2010/08/19/20100819nhra-arizona-nationals-date-shift.html

http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php/drag-racing/news/15215-phoenix-to-become-countdown-event-in-2011


Well done here by the Pocono Record -- and this should be a cautionary tale for those who play too many games with crowd estimates. Good job by the Record also in explaining just how it reached its number.
http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100815/NEWS/8150330


[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

CASE CLOSED on SOCIAL MEDIA as JOURNALISM

The place and purpose of social media as a way to get out information came into question again recently with news -- published the old-fashioned way -- of "secret" fines to Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman for being too-critical of NASCAR. Hamlin then admitted that caused him to re-think the true need for his Twitter habit.

I say, good for Hamlin. I do indeed understand how serious fans enjoy the increased interaction with their sports (or entertainment or political) favorites. But to what purpose? Twitter-just-for-the-sake-of-Twitter reminds me of people who do things like crowd outside the hospital where Michael Jackson died, just to make a scene for the media, hope to get on TV, and somehow make themselves a part of the story.

Last Feb. 28, I wrote here about my experience covering the sad, spot-news story of the spectator fatality at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. I won't recount all of that here -- feel free to go to the blog archives to read it. But my point was to refute the bit of criticism I got from some "modern" journos that I should have been on Twitter, tapping-out a few characters of info at a time, that whole afternoon. My point was, I was busy REPORTING, INTERVIEWING, WRITING, UPDATING, RE-WRITING, and thus didn't have time for Twitter.

I wonder when, or IF, people will grasp the fact that Twitter isn't true journalism -- by its classic nature -- something more thoughtful and considered, tested and questioned and challenged by editors and fact checkers independent from the writer. I've been sounding this alarm since early days of this communications revolution.

Now, I offer yet more proof.

On Aug. 3, on a Phoenix sports-talk radio station, the following was said -- and I quote exactly:

"On Twitter, it's pretty much better to be first, but wrong, than second, but right."

If I knew the name of the person who said that, believe me, I would expose him. But circumstances were such I couldn't ID him.

Regardless, as it pertains to the lie of Twitter-as-journalism, I say -- CASE CLOSED.


FAST LINES: I don't mind admitting it when it's true -- I was wrong. I was one of those who thought (and wrote) that taking NASCAR to the California media market immediately after the Daytona 500 was a winning idea. As we now know, it didn't work. In 2011, Phoenix will get what should be that juicy opportunity . . . The way NASCAR's ISC-SMI schedule realignment played out was interesting -- a drip-drip-drip approach to letting out the changes one-by-one, designed to maximize individual market media coverage with NASCAR to follow with its spin in the full schedule announcement . . . Why would NASCAR -- and the team owners -- want to have their hauler drivers portrayed as engaging in illegal street racing on an ESPN promotional spot? I sure as hell wouldn't have allowed it . . . Michigan wasn't the best for ESPN analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Jarrett called Greg Biffle the favorite to win in the closing laps, based on fresher tires, but Biffle finished fourth. Petree said Kevin Harvick made a mistake by not pitting on a late yellow. Harvick won. Meanwhile, Brad Daugherty kept his streak going -- I'm still waiting for him to say something insightful. And that's the accurate word, insightful . . . How many times do the TV heads get to talk about "Markus" Ambrose and Rick "Hendricks" before the responsible producers notice -- and demand better? . . . Sunday revealed a new career opportunity for Brian Barnhart: PGA Championship rules official following the leader at the 72d hole . . . There are several lessons to learn from the sale of Newsweek -- reportedly, for $1 (plus assumption of debt). Big huge take-away for me: How editor Jon Meacham used his position atop the 77-year-old magazine to get himself booked as a regular on the liberal talk-show circuit and to hype sales of his own books and pump-up his own sense of celebrity. Meacham should have laser-focused on his job instead of his ego . . . At a time when there's rightful concern about the lack of effective sponsor activation, give credit to Burger King and its current campaign, featuring Tony Stewart as a store worker. I've noticed the spots running on plenty of non-NASCAR telecasts -- a great thing . . . The tough question that should have been asked the other week: How does Pocono International Raceway justify the big investment on a solar farm when safety standards at the oval should have been the top concern? All of that ancient (could be 30-40 years old) infield guard rail should have been torn-up after the 2002 Steve Park-Dale Earnhardt Jr. crash. (See for yourself on YouTube.) Just how did Pocono get NASCAR to allow it to stay in place for another EIGHT YEARS?! When stupid Pocono victory lane towels are a priority for the track over obvious safety improvements, well, that tells the story . . . With too-high-a-percentage of international drivers being an on-going concern to Indy Car fans, Versus rubbed salt in the wound by having Lindy Thackston talk over the National Anthem before Mid-Ohio . . . Out of touch with their audiences who are working harder than ever in a bad economy: Michelle Obama and the PTI co-hosts, the summer's league-leaders in vacation days . . . This is what really matters about whatever was or wasn't said at the PGA Championship between Corey Pavin and Golf Channel contributor Jim Gray -- yet again caught in controversy: Gray telling Pavin, "You're going down." That sort of threat is inappropriate by any journalist in any coverage setting. The Golf Channel should discipline Gray. I'll say to Golf Channel what I've said to Speed: Join ESPN and hire an independent Ombudsman. Your audience deserves it, not the typical knee-jerk "We stand by the story" statement . . . Just unveiled, and shown here, the logo for next May's 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 . . . Good luck to two friends: New Daytona International Speedway (and former IMS) President Joie Chitwood and former DIS prez Robin Braig . . . Here in Arizona, the primary election is Aug. 24. I'll say this: If John McCain had run as hard and as biting a campaign against Barack Obama as he has vs. Republican opponent J.D. Hayworth (whose character he has been attacking all year), he might well be president today.


Well, yeah, you know, Danica said her goal was a top 15-20 at Michigan, but, you know, she was already, yeah, you know, three laps down after, like, you know, only 42 laps Saturday and, you know, finished 27th but, you know, that's not going to give ESPN, ESPN.com, AP, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and the rest of the, you know, celebrity-over-substance crazed media like, you know, any reason to stop and reflect on, you know, their credibility in again juicing up the hype before, yeah, you know, her next Nationwide race.


Here are links to some of my recent articles:

August "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column on CompetitionPlus.com -- Controversy isn't always the best way to sell:
http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php/drag-racing/editorials/15084-drags-dollars-a-sense-sometimes-controversy-isnt-the-best-sell

Phoenix International Raceway to host first Sprint Cup race after Daytona 500, Arizona Republic:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2010/08/09/20100809nascar-pir-subway-fresh-fit-500-date-change.html

NASCAR 2011 schedule changes could have big impact on NHRA, CompetitionPlus.com:
http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php/drag-racing/news/15136-2011-nascar-change-could-affect-nhra

Arizona Republic notebook (November schedule shift and potential repaving at PIR, etc.):
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/speed/articles/2010/08/12/20100812pir-nascar-championships.html

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, August 01, 2010

COMMENTARY ON a BAD STATE of AFFAIRS

I'm occupied by some other matters at this time and didn't plan to post this week. However, since I feel so strongly about the issues raised below, here is the text of my opening commentary on last week's The Race Reporters. If you want to hear it, the audio link is at the bottom. Thanks.


THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE KINDLY LISTENED TO THIS SHOW KNOW THAT, FROM THE BEGINNING, I HAVE BEEN HONEST WITH YOU. YOU, THE LISTENER, DESERVE THAT RESPECT.

NOW, YOU DESERVE MY HONEST OPINION ABOUT WHAT I CONSIDER TO BE THE BAD, THE WRONG, AND IN SOME CASES -- THE DANGEROUS -- THINGS THAT ARE GOING ON IN THE RACING WORLD.

I AM NOT HAPPY WITH THE SPORT, OR WITH THE INDUSTRY. FRANKLY, I’M NOT OPTIMISTIC ABOUT IMPROVEMENT, AT LEAST, NOT IN THE SHORT TERM.

JUST LOOK AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN RECENT WEEKS.

CARL EDWARDS – AGAIN -- TURNED HIS CAR INTO A WEAPON IN THE NATIONWIDE RACE AT GATEWAY. I DON’T CARE IF YOU ARE A CARL FAN – AND I HAVE BEEN – OR A BRAD KESELOWSKI FAN. JUST TAKE A HONEST LOOK AT THE VIDEO AND SEE KESELOWSKI’S CAR BEING SLAMMED INTO, AND SPUN, BY OTHER COMPETITORS.

DO YOU REALIZE HOW CLOSE THAT WAS TO DISASTER? THE SAME AT ATLANTA IN THE SPRINT CUP RACE EARLIER THIS SEASON.

I’M SICK OF HEARING HOW THE FANS LIKE "BOYS, HAVE AT IT," AS QUANTIFIED BY TV RATINGS OR WEB SITE ‘HITS.’ IS ANYONE SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING THE PROFOUND CONSEQUENCES IF SUCH ACTIONS LEAD TO A DRIVER OR SPECTATOR FATALITY? HAS EVERYONE REALLY FORGOTTEN THE LAST LAP OF THE 2001 DAYTONA 500?

I CONGRATULATE NASCAR AND OTHERS FOR WORK ON SAFER CARS, BETTER SEATS AND RESTRAINT SYSTEMS, AND ENERGY-ABSORBING WALLS. THE DOWNSIDE TO PROGRESS IS TOO MANY PEOPLE SEEM TO HAVE BEEN LULLED INTO A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY, THAT TECHNOLOGY HAS MADE DRIVERS AND PAYING CUSTOMERS INVULNERABLE, SAFE FROM HARM.

THAT’S AS FALSE AS SAYING THE BRICKYARD 400 WAS A SELL OUT. ALL THOSE EMPTY SEATS AT THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY SERVED AS A METAPHOR FOR THE TRUTH ABOUT TODAY’S NASCAR. OF COURSE, EVEN BABE RUTH WOULD HAVE A SLUMP. BUT, IF REPORTS TURN TO REALITY, AND NASCAR CHANGES THE CHASE FORMAT TO DETERMINE THE CHAMPION BASED ON THE OUTCOME OF ONE RACE, WELL, I SAY THE STOCK CAR GAME WILL BE CALLED ‘OUT’ BY THE MEDIA AND PUBLIC.

NHRA HAS HAD TWO DRIVERS AND ONE SPECTATOR KILLED THIS SEASON. THE TRAGEDY FOR THOSE FAMILIES IS OUR GREATEST CONCERN. BUT, AT A TIME OF MANY CHALLENGES IN TERMS OF ATTENDANCE, SPONSORSHIP AND CAR COUNTS, IT CAN’T BE IGNORED THESE DEATHS HAVE DAMAGED DRAG RACING’s IMAGE.

AS A NATIONAL RADIO TALK SHOW HOST SAID TO ME DURING A RECENT INTERVIEW, "IF THIS WAS ANY OTHER SPORT, THERE WOULD BE A CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION."

THAT, NO DOUBT, WAS SAID TO BE OUTRAGEOUS. BUT IT IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE MINDSET OUT THERE. LET’s BE CLEAR – NHRA ISN’T BIG ENOUGH OR IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO WITHSTAND SUCH AN ONGOING TIDE OF NEGATIVITY.

MY IMPRESSION IS NHRA’s CORE ATTITUDE IS, ‘THERE’s NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT’ AS FAR AS CRITICAL COVERAGE. THAT IS A MONUMENTAL MISTAKE -- AND SMACKS OF LACK OF EFFORT.

IN FORMULA ONE, THE SPECTACLE OF TEAM ORDERS AGAIN REARED ITS UGLY HEAD IN THE GERMAN GRAND PRIX. FERRARI ORDERED LEADER FELIPE MASSA TO LET FERANDO ALONSO PASS HIM FOR THE VICTORY.

AND THEN, THERE IS THE INDY CAR SERIES, TRYING TO CLIMB OUT OF THE 500,000 MILE DEEP HOLE DUG BY TONY GEORGE AND HIS HAND-CHOSEN MINIONS. THE GRAND SWEEP OF HISTORY HAS PROVEN TONY’s FOUNDING OF THE INDY RACING LEAGUE TO HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE MOST DISASTROUS BUSINESS DECISIONS OF THE LAST HALF-CENTURY. THERE WAS NO ‘VISION’ INVOLVED – ONLY AN ARROGANT MYOPIA.

I CREDIT RANDY BERNARD FOR HIS OPEN-MINDED APPROACH IN TRYING TO SOLVE THE COUNTLESS PROBLEMS ON HIS DESK. ONE CATEGORY OF WHICH IS THE TONY GEORGE REGIME HOLDOVERS. LET ME POINT OUT THAT RONALD REAGAN DIDN’T GET AMERICA OUT OF ITS MALAISE BY RETAINING JIMMY CARTER’s STAFF.

WHICH BRINGS US TO BRIAN BARNHART. LAST SUNDAY’s DECISION TO PENALIZE HELIO CASTRONEVES AT THE END OF THE EDMONTON RACE FOR BLOCKING WAS THE LAST STRAW. WHAT HAS BARNHART EVER ACCOMPLISHED TO QUALIFY HIM TO MAKE A RULE THAT A DRIVER CAN’T BE ON THE INSIDE UNLESS TRYING TO PASS? HEY, BRIAN, YOUR RULE DOESN’T PASS THE ‘COMMON SENSE TEST.’ THIS IS AS STUPID AS WHEN JAMES HUNT TOLD MARIO ANDRETTI IN 1977, "WE DON’T PASS ON THE OUTSIDE IN FORMULA ONE.”

THIS IS THE SAME BRIAN BARNHART WHO, AMONG MANY MISSTEPS, HAS RUINED THE CLASSIC INDY 500 START BY ORDERING THE FIELD TO BE STRUNG OUT FROM HERE TO TERRE HAUTE. AND WHO DIDDLED FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS ON SPECS FOR A NEW CAR, UNTIL THE UNVEILING OF THE DELTA WING SERVED AS A KICK IN THE REAR TO GET MOVING.

I’M NOT ESPECIALLY A HELIO FAN. AS A FORMER SANCTIONING BODY OFFICIAL, I KNOW THERE IS NEVER AN EXCUSE FOR A COMPETITOR TO GRAB AN OFFICIAL. I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH A SIGNIFICANT FINE OR EVEN LOSS OF FIVE GRID POSITIONS AT MID-OHIO. BUT NOT POINTS, BECAUSE BARNHART JOBBED HELIO OUT OF 30 POINTS ON SUNDAY.

THE SERIES DESERVES EVERY BIT OF RIDICULE IT HAS RECEIVED FOR BARNHART’s CREDIBILITY-BENDING DECISION. THE PEOPLE WHO AREN’T ANGRY ARE LAUGHING AT THE STUPIDITY INVOLVED IN THIS. IT UNDERCUT MUCH OF WHAT BERNARD HAS TRIED TO FIX.

A NATIONALLY-FAMOUS SPORTS COLUMNIST ONCE TOLD ME HE WATCHED BARNHART’s CHEERLEADER ACT IN THE INDY 500 QUALIFYING LINE. HE ASKED ME TO IMAGINE THE PUBLIC SCORN A REFEREE WOULD GET IF HE CHEERED-ON QUARTERBACKS DURING THE SUPER BOWL COIN FLIP CEREMONY. THE POINT IS, THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN THE NFL. NEVER!

BARNHART’s NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO MUST GO. TECHNICAL DIRECTOR KEVIN BLANCH, WHOSE ARROGANCE REMINDS ME OF THE WORST OF THE OLD USAC DAYS, IS ANOTHER. AND A COMPANY THAT HAS BEEN REDUCING COSTS DOESN’T NEED TO EMPLOY ITS OWN BOUNCER, EITHER.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I HAVE TWO SUGGESTIONS:

1 – FED-UP FANS SHOULD E-MAIL RANDY BERNARD AND LET HIM KNOW THEY WON’T WATCH – OR BUY ANY MORE TICKETS – TO INDY CAR RACES UNTIL BARNHART IS REPLACED.

2 – AS FOR HIS FUTURE, WELL, BRIAN BARNHART WOULD BE WELL QUALIFIED TO MANAGE ANOTHER BAD JOKE – THE NASCAR PROBATION SYSTEM.

AND SPEAKING OF BAD JOKES, IT WAS EMBARRASSING TO WATCH SCOTT DIXON ACT LIKE HE WAS THE LEGITIMATE WINNER.

AUTO RACING IS IN A DEEPLY TROUBLED TIME. IT IS A TIME THAT REQUIRES GREAT LEADERSHIP. THE QUESTION IS: ARE THERE ANY SUCH LEADERS OUT THERE?

Click on this link to listen to the show (including an interesting roundtable with Dave Argabright and Mike Kerchner and some surprising comments from Joey Saldana):
http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=47029



The American Media, July 27-28, 2010: Inside Edition does a segment from inside a luxury portable bathroom, such as used at Chelsea Clinton's wedding . . . Here's a real Double Standard to Ponder: Conservative mediaites routinely criticize the New York Times (often with good reason, in my view) yet can't spit-out "New York Times Bestseller" fast enough or often enough when it suits their book-selling hype purposes. If the Times, overall, is suspect, then why isn't the validity and credibility of its Bestseller List considered equally as questionable by these very same people? What say you, Laura Ingraham? . . . Bob Kravitz, in the Indianapolis Star -- "With all the technology we have now, isn't there some way to offer fans a hand-held contraption that not only offers them the TV coverage, but adds perks like access to drivers' radio frequencies and all kinds of pertinent on-course data?" Uhh, Bob, the NASCAR Sprint FanView has been available for FOUR YEARS!

[ next post, Monday, August 16 . . . ]