• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

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 . . . ]