• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

ALLMENDINGER's NEXT MOVE

FIRST UP: A lot has been said (and written) about AJ Allmendinger's substance abuse suspension from NASCAR. There's been more than a little comment on how Allmendinger (and NASCAR) have handled the situation from a media/PR standpoint. With Allmendinger now enrolled in NASCAR's Road to Recovery program, there's one more useful and meaningful communication left: Hearing from AJA himself. Any further statements from his business manager aren't satisfactory. For Allmendinger to successfully move forward, he needs to agree to a full-scale news conference and answer all legitimate questions -- YES, THAT INCLUDES DISCLOSURE OF THE SPECIFIC BANNED SUBSTANCE found in his sample. That matters -- a LOT. THAT's WHAT MATTERS NOW IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION. And, if NASCAR doesn't agree with that or any of his other answers, the sanction must promptly have its own Q&A. For Allmendinger, that is the PR Road to Recovering his career -- I don't care what his lawyers say. Oh, and whatever Allmendinger's final fate is with Penske Racing, that word must come directly from Roger Penske himself.


The American Media, Tuesday, July 24, 2012: During a media conference call with ESPNers in advance of Indy, no one asked ESPN VP motorsports production Rich Feinberg why Tim Brewer and the Tech Garage were dropped and what, if any, production element was being added to compensate for that lost information. An obvious question. Thank goodness, though, there were several questions about Danica.


I've expressed my concern here before about Twitter "journalism." I've watched many times as, during NASCAR-required driver news conferences each weekend, media people Twitter-out "news" even as the driver is in mid-sentence. I've wondered if the person pushing the buttons realizes his/her concentration is disrupted and more important (or real) "news" is being made while he/she is distracted. The late AutoWeek publisher and editor Leon Mandel used to remind his staff on a regular basis about the vital importance of CONTEXT within a story. There is NO context in Twittering-out 140 characters in the midst of an on-going news conference. I was reminded of this last week when the White House press office barred reporters from Twitter posts until Vice President Joe Biden's Q&A session was over. Their argument: Context. Now, understand, I'm not in favor of press censorship, and the Twitter horse has left the barn and will never return, but the loss of context is a very legitimate issue and one that should be most carefully pondered within the media industry and worried about by readers.


FAST LINES (Olympics edition): The London Games' opening ceremony was at least 60 minutes too long and, at times, borderline stupid. Which means it will probably win an ESPY . . . General Electric's business prospects in England must not be as promising as in China because Matt Lauer -- in deep over his head years ago as a mouth on Robin Leach's old Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous -- didn't geyser-gush like he did four years ago over the spectacle in Beijing . . . Ryan Seacrest is the perfect posterboy for the Twitter communications age -- Capacity maxed-out at 140 characters . . . Where were Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell and/or Dario Franchitti as part of the opening show, as torch or flag bearers? I thought racing was huge in the U.K. sports psyche. On the showbiz side, ditto Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elton John.


So, the NBA is going to allow small sponsor ID on team game uniforms, apparently starting season after next. Differences in the target demographic aside, all involved in motorsports best understand this represents a new OPTION for companies when allocating advertising/marketing dollars. I would say the NHL will be next among the four major leagues to go this way, probably after it resolves its upcoming collective bargaining negotiations with the players' association.


I should have included here last week a link to the International Automotive Media Awards site for more information and a complete listing of the winners. Again, I was honored to be named "Best of Internet" and receive the gold medal for Internet commentary for this blog and "Untenable":
http://iamc-isvp.org/

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, July 22, 2012

'BEST of INTERNET'

The SpinDoctor500blog earned a special honor as "Best of Internet" in the 2011 International Automotive Media Awards, 21st annual results announced last week. For the second consecutive year, this blog won a gold medal in the category of Internet commentary. (Last year's winner was "How to Fix the IRL on Versus".) Specifically cited this time was the controversial "Untenable" posting from last October. IAMA judges take all the winners from all the Internet categories and, using a standard, select one as the overall "Best of Internet." That's a first-time honor for me and I'm most grateful.

As I've said before, "Untenable" produced more reader reaction than anything I've ever written in any media outlet. I was even asked about it by a bunch of people at last December's NASCAR Sprint Cup awards in Las Vegas. Here's a link:
http://spindoctor500blog.blogspot.com/2011/10/untenable.html

Also, the Q&A I did with Kyle Busch for the Arizona Republic last year earned a bronze medal in the newspaper interview category. That's the fourth time one of my Q&A specials has received an IAMA award.

I again thank all who make time each week to read what I post here.


Congratulations to journalist Pete Lyons, the most deserving winner of IAMA's Media Award for Lifetime Achievement. Pete's remarkable career includes covering almost all of the world's great motorsports events, for publications like AutoWeek and Autosport, and a stint as a full-time Formula One correspondent. He's the author of nine books, including three on the Can-Am, my own personal all-time favorite series. Learn more about him at http://petelyons.com/ . The nominating and voting committees for this award change annually, and I was honored to serve on the voting panel this year. This award has been given each year since 1998, with Leon Mandel, Brock Yates, Jerry Flint, Chris Economaki and David E. Davis Jr. among the past honorees.


No IndyCar at Phoenix International Raceway in 2013 but Randy Bernard says a 2014 race there is a "must." Read my Friday Arizona Republic story -- and you might be surprised at some of the financial numbers. As I've often said, you can't be a good fan these days without knowing something about the Business of Racing. This might give you a better idea why the IndyCar financial model is so difficult for so many tracks:
http://www.azcentral.com/sports/articles/2012/07/19/20120719indycar-race-phoenix-international-raceway-doubtful-2013.html


My July CompetitionPlus.com column is specific to NHRA but the point applies to everyone in the racing industry. As I write in this column, my central point boils down to common sense and good manners. Here's the link:
http://www.competitionplus.com/drag-racing/editorials/21813-michael-knight-nhra-should-still-reach-out-and-touch-someone


A FEW FOLLOW-UPS TO LAST WEEK'S POSTING: Friend Larry Henry offers that the hot/humid weather in many parts of the country helped TNT's NASCAR ratings because people stayed indoors. With the Olympics going on and ESPN coming to the plate, we'll learn more, especially if Junior remains competitive or goes into a pre-Chase swoon . . . On the made-in-China Ralph Lauren U.S. Olympic team uniforms, I should have added -- Why not American cowboy hats or baseball caps instead of French berets? . . . Speaking of clothing, since Wind Tunnel co-hosts apparently now are required to wear a sport coat, the producers better make sure they have an adequate range of sizes on the studio rack. People were laughing Out Loud during the recent show at one guy's way-Way-WAY too-big jacket. It reminded me of the time I went to lunch with a famous racer who was wearing a golf shirt and restaurant rules required a jacket. Management provided one but it was as large as a tent and the racer told me he was embarrassed and wondered what other diners thought of him given his ill-fitted attire . . . What a joke: An ESPN press release last week referred to Katie Couric as an "ABC News journalist." As explained in last week's Unconventional Wisdom, Couric's total FAILURE as anchor of the CBS Evening News and her reaction to a legitimate media question when at Indy to interview (Guess who? Not Ryan Hunter-Reay!) Danica (!) proved AGAIN KC may be a TV star, but it's an insult to REAL journalists to call her one. Oh, in this taped piece, Katie will ask Danica about sexism in racing. Cue the Drama Queen theme music.

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, July 15, 2012

THIS and THAT . . .

Regular readers here weren't surprised by last week's official announcement that the U.S. Army is ending its NASCAR team sponsorship. As I've written here more than once in the last year, it was a matter of WHEN, not IF. In a time of great national financial concern, and planned significant cuts to the military budget, political support in Washington, D.C. for taxpaper-funded racing promotion eroded. Remember this come November: Elections matter. The current administration has revealed plans to reduce the Army's troop strength levels, so of course, recruiting funds are going to go down. In a way not totally dissimilar from how the tobacco companies got out of racing because of political pressure, the Army deal is going away. (Signals are Don Schumacher Racing's NHRA sponsorship will continue, at least for now, a rare "win" for NHRA over NASCAR. The cost is lower and the demo apparently more suitable.) One question to ponder: What sponsor category will be next to feel the heat from the politically correct crowd? Fast food? Soda? Cookies? Candy? Don't laugh! I bet if McDonald's tried to promote Happy Meals on its stock car, the criticism would follow fast. And the move to get sodas out of schools -- plus what the mayor of New York City wants as far as restricting serving sizes -- well, nothing is beyond possible given the current political environment. Take note, NASCAR lobbyists and team owners.

I understand the issue of privacy and the legal implications of protecting it. But -- NASCAR needs to find a way to amend its drug testing policy to go public with the banned substance when the test comes back positive. In the court of public opinion, it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD if the positive was caused by an illegal substance or improper use of a legal medication or product. How about giving the person involved the option of signing a legal release authorizing NASCAR to reveal the specific substance?

How to explain those surprising (at least to me) up TNT NASCAR ratings? I can only think of one thing: JUNIOR! If anyone has a better explanation, please let me know.

So, how do you fans like the new Wind Tunnel format? What's been billed as a "viewer participation" show all these years has been recast more in the mold of Fox News Channel's surprise hit The Five. Dave Despain has one (or more) co-hosts (often fellow Speed Channel talking heads), and except for a few online comments or questions, that pesky "viewer participation" stuff has been shoved over to the half-hour post-show Internet extra.

Managing expectations is a little-discussed yet absolutely essential part of the job for the leader of any organization. IndyCar sure has had a lot of problems with this in the past, putting out word of "a major announcement coming" many times, only for nothing to happen or the "news" be more sparkler than skyrocket. With way-too-much talk in recent weeks (too much in terms of the reality of the situation) about a return to Michigan International Speedway and/or Road America, Randy Bernard told the press gaggle pre-Toronto those two venues were off the table for the immediate future. In my view those fan expectations should have been better managed -- actually, never allowed to get elevated in the first place. And for all the talk Randy "hopes" for 19 or more races going forward, well, I "hope" to be the first human to walk on Mars, too. See next two items.

If those who keep asking why IndyCar doesn't return to one-time CART stronghold Portland would do a little homework, they'd realize the answer. Local business/community leader (and all-around good guy) Bill Hildick, who was chairman of the Portland Rose Festival's auto racing committee (and later a candidate for CART CEO but lost out to Andrew Craig), retired many years ago. The local political environment has drastically changed (ultra-liberal "green" mentality), race co-sponsor G.I. Joe's went bankrupt and was liquidated, and a friend of mine who resides in the area and knows the local scene and facility says he doubts one gallon of paint has been put on the track since the last Champ Car event there in 2007!

How are ticket sales going for the 500-mile IndyCar season finale Sept. 15 at Fontana's Auto Club Speedway? Just wondering . . .

I understand the enthusiasm of legitimate IndyCar fans, but all the cries for more races and aero kits reminds me of Daryl Hannah's line in the movie Wall Street: Playing the role of Darien Taylor, an interior decorator, she called herself a "great spender of other people's money." It's easy to tell team owners what they should buy and how many races they should run and what tracks should host the series and what companies should be sponsors when you don't have to pay the bill!

Common sense. Attention to detail. Supervisory oversight. As I've pointed out here numerous times, those basics are all-too-often missing with sponsor managers (who, among other things, are accepting of so-called PR people who don't even come to the media center to talk to reporters.) I was reminded of this last week when the story hit that the U.S. Olympic team uniforms, provided by Ralph Lauren, were made in China. While the politicians are looking to score cheap points by blaming the company, I blame those at the U.S. Olympic Committee whose responsibilities include uniforms. Let's name the names: Who wasn't paying attention? Who signed a contract that didn't specify the uniforms be Made in America? Just like in NASCAR and other series, there was a shocking lack of common sense, attention to detail, and oversight.

Last weekend was nostalgic for me as the Philadelphia Daily News (my old paper) and Philadelphia Inquirer moved from their longtime building at 400 N. Broad St. to the old historic downtown Strawbridge's building. And, in a $ign of the Time$, the Daily News and Inquirer staffs now work in the same newsroom. When I worked at the Daily News, Philly was the most competitive newspaper city in the country, with four dailies.

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, July 08, 2012

6th ANNIVERSARY BLOG: LEADERS NEEDED

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE? NASCAR Chairman Brian France, seen speaking to media last Friday at Daytona, faces the daunting challenge of living up to the standards of his grandfather, Bill France Sr., and his father, Bill France Jr. Can he do it? (Photo courtesy of NASCAR.)


This is the sixth anniversary of this blog. As I first wrote back on July 10, 2006: "I'm one of those people who believe it's essential to keep learning and my wish is this blog will be a vehicle to stimulate thought for all of us in, or with an interest in, the industry."

I wrote then that my goal was for this to be a "Great Adventure," which is how Paul Newman described Nigel Mansell's shift from Formula One to CART in 1993. I truly believe it's impossible in this day and age to be a good race fan without knowing something about the Business (and politics) of Racing. Those are the areas we often explore here. Our readership is primarily those involved in the B of R but, certainly, all willing to learn -- and help the rest (including me) to learn -- are welcome. Those who post anonymously and make personal attacks are not.

I do continue to thank those of you who make time each week to read the words posted in this spec of cyberspace. Thank you most sincerely.

***************************************************************************
A few weeks ago I recounted, mostly from first-hand experience, the comings and goings of the various CART/Champ Car/IndyCar leaders over the years. Not surprisingly, that drew a lot of response. A reader, Will, E'd me with some questions including this very valid one: At least in IndyCar, was Tony Hulman the "last great leader?"

My answer: YES!

And that's what I feel an urgent need to call for in this sixth anniversary blog: LEADERSHIP.

As the years go by, I feel more and more blessed that I knew Mr. Hulman, the Bill Frances Sr. and Jr., Wally Parks and I'll add Bernie Ecclestone and John Bishop -- racing's last Great Leaders.

I've explained here in the past how I got to know Mr. Hulman (top left in graphic, then clockwise -- wife Mary Hulman, grandson Tony George, daughter Mari George) and how he did me an enormous favor of getting A.J. Foyt to do a one-on-one interview with me before an Indianapolis 500. That was at a time when A.J. was mad at the media and not doing interviews and I was with the Philadelphia Daily News and in fierce competition with other Philadelphia-area writers. I was at the Speedway in 1977 when Foyt became the first four-time winner and had Mr. H ride with him in the pace car for a victory lap. Hulman, of course, will forever have an honored place in history as the man who saved the Speedway from ruin in 1946 and built the 500 into an American sporting institution. When AAA withdrew its auto racing sanction, it was Tony who played a vital role in the formation of USAC as the new governing organization. His accomplishments as a leader in so many other situations simply are too numerous to recount now.

I believe the argument can legitimately be made that Hulman's death in October 1977 was as consequential to Indy-type racing as most of the things he accomplished during his 76 years. CART was formed the next year and split away from USAC. Another generation of Hulman-George family took charge of the Speedway. Tony George's high point was bringing NASCAR to the Brickyard in 1994 and those profits fueled his low point, creation of the IRL two years later. Split series led to a devastating devaluing of the Indy 500 on the U.S. sporting scene and it has yet to recover -- and won't, at least in my lifetime. Randy Bernard, brought in by the H-G family sisters when they ousted Tony for draining the bank accounts on Formula One and the IRL, provided fresh enthusiasm and new ideas but now is inching closer and closer to the ejection seat.

I only knew France Sr. slightly, but well remember the wide-spread skepticism when he put Bill Jr. in charge in 1972. All the skeptics were flat-out wrong. I will always remember Bill Jr. for what he told me during a one-on-one interview in his Daytona office a few days before the 1978 Daytona 500. After saying NASCAR would one day achieve status on a level with the major stick-and-ball sports, I asked him why he was so confident of NASCAR's future success. "Because we work at it day-after-day, week-after-week, year-after-year," was his answer-for-the-ages.

Brian France came along and created the Chase, a concept soon copied by the PGA Tour and some other sports. His style is much different from that of his grandfather and father. The ultimate success or disappointment of his tenure is not yet known. But the pressure of high expectations surely are more than virtually any executive in American sports because of his family legacy. Sister Lesa France Kennedy faces the same thing as leader of International Speedway Corp.

The Charlotte Observer got into one of the many challenges confronting the Frances: declining ticket sales. Click this link to learn more: http://www.thatsracin.com/2012/07/07/91025/nascar-ticket-revenue-in-sharp.html

Parks founded NHRA and created the playing field for the most American of all American motorsports series. Who among us hasn't felt the rush of pressing down hard on the throttle when the stoplight turns green? No, I'm not talking about illegal street racing, I mean just in the course of everyday driving. Drag racing continues to enjoy, as it has for decades, the most interesting collection of personalities in any pit area. One of the failings of current-day NHRA management has been the inability or lack of a plan to get the mainstream news media dialed in to just how much fun it is to talk to drag racers. NHRA is still the most undercovered of the U.S. racing series and, while I blame media people who look down on drag racers as too blue-collar for their tastes, I also put the majority of the responsibility on NHRA itself.

I've only met Ecclestone a few times. Say what you will about his methods and attitude, but he took Formula One's commercial rights and turned a disjointed series into a global marketing powerhouse and made himself and others far more wealthy than they likely could ever have imagined. How Bernie's current potential legal problems will sort themselves out is the most important question in all of international motorsports. What happens if/when something happens to Ecclestone, who is north of 80 years old?

Bishop founded IMSA and it zoomed past the SCCA as the top of U.S. road racing. I knew him a little and liked him. But Bishop never seemed to have the resources, or the collection of staff people, to get IMSA to where I thought it might reasonably go -- especially when Camel was the series sponsor. Sadly, U.S. sports car racing has gone the way of CART-USAC/Champ Car-IRL with two competing series that are going nowhere in terms of national attention.

When you ponder the achievements of the above leaders, and then worry about all the issues in our country and our world today, it makes you reasonably wonder if the same level of leadership even exists right now. All I can say is, whether you enjoy racing as a fan or work in industry, there had better be such leaders. And the same applies in the corporate sponsorship sector, the media, the standards-lowered public relations business and elsewhere. We must have the next T. Wayne Robertson, Shav Glick and Jim Chapman.

Put the big flashing neon signs up for all to see: LEADERS WANTED.

And needed. Now, more than ever.



Congratulations to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame's Class of 2013, announced last week: Rick Hendrick, Don Schumacher, Rusty Wallace and Dale Inman. I'm a member of the voting panel for the hall, located next to Talladega Superspeedway.

[ more next Monday . . . ]

Sunday, July 01, 2012

U.S. F1's NEW FORMULA for SUCCESS?

Problems in the Eurozone just might be good for America. At least -- strangely enough -- when it comes to Formula One.

Maybe.

The FIA said the other week it would (again) examine ways to reduce the cost of competing for the world championship. A media statement let out the word that the governing organization is engaged in "active discussions with teams regarding cost control."

You don't have to be a Financial Times subscriber to figure out that Formula One is extremely vulnerable to what some smart people think is an impending collapse of the European economy.

Bernie Ecclestone has grown very comfortable over the last couple of decades in having local, state and national governments spend taxpayer dollars to subsidize his series. Such funding both helped make mandated facility improvements and pay the rights fee to stage a Grand Prix. Given F1's worldwide TV audience and impressive roster of blue-chip corporate sponsors, politicos would justify the spending based on prestige and money brought into the local economy.
Well, these days, Greece is the word and governmental leaders are having an extremely difficult time making that case. Our Boy Bernie sensed the political earth shifting under his feet a few years ago and moved a couple of his previous dates from Europe to the Middle East, where oil money was his to be had. Of course, with that came the risk of political instability, as shown with last year's cancellation and this season's questionable running in Bahrain. I have a copy of what in the U.S. we call the prospectus for the floatation of shares in the Williams team last year. Political instability in host countries was prominetly cited as a risk to investors.

The French GP (where this form of racing began in 1906) hasn't been staged since 2008. Troubled Spain has had two in recent seasons but that's likely to change. It's difficult to imagine F1 racing without Spa but, according to some reports, that could be the case in Belgium. The recent French elections and arrival of a new president seems to have derailed a plan for France and Belgium to host in alternate years starting in 2013. Even the popular and successful Australian round has a ? attached to its future, due to cost. I remember every year I went Down Under for the CART race in Surfers Paradise, the local papers had stories questioning the subsidy provided by the state of Queensland.

And when Ferrari -- the biggest of the big spenders -- sounds the alarm, you know it's serious. The Spanish banks are troubled and Santander (I think it's the Eurozone's largest) reportedly has a contract with the Prancing Horse through 2017 and a big sponsorship with national hero driver Fernando Alonso. Plus McLaren and event signage. It's reasonable to ask just how solid the future of those deals might be. Germany, with its strong economy, is under constant pressure to lead a Eurozone rescue (what we call a "bailout") and financial reform that certainly would come with it could lead to significant cutbacks in F1 sponsorships. German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- who agreed to help Spain and Italy last week -- could indirectly become as important to F1's biz health as Ecclestone himself.

As they know even over in NASCAR (especially in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series), America has its economic issues -- that could get better or worse depending on the outcome of November's presidential and congressional elections. In comparison with non-Germany Europe, though, these shores look more like a safe haven -- even after the recent bank downgrades and stock market plunge. I bet Ecclestone must have had this thought: "Any port in a storm."

Which brings us to Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Tex., and the temporary course announced in New Jersey (with New York City as the backdrop.) The U.S. GP has been anything but a stabilizing anchor (Sebring, Watkins Glen, Long Beach, Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, Indianapolis) throughout its history. But maybe, just maybe, we're looking better to Bernie. Although he continues to (and always will) play the "game" as seen with his unwillingness to remove doubt that New York/New Jersey will actually make the 2013 schedule. Ecclestone always has his foot full-down on the "pressure" peddle and those who dare to do business with him had best accept that as a fact.

But, a few words of caution: Let's be sure to remember all the internal CotA issues that have made headlines and that rightfully will cause skepticism going forward despite a string of recent positive announcements. And if Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in Sprint Cup title contention that same race day in the NASCAR finale at Homestead, well, Austin will be nothing more than a local event on these shores. As for NY/NJ, I can only assume the organizers believe they have concessions from Ecclestone on things such as TV rights, title sponsorship, signage and/or hospitality (revenue Bernie typically claims for himself) because that's the only possible way I can see this enterprise making business sense since all involved swear no taxpayer money is involved.

Meanwhile, check out this link to see just how profitable the world championship can be:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/privateequity/9352699/CVC-accelerates-to-bumper-return-on-F1-investment.html


My friend Bob Jenkins announced in May he'll retire from TV after this IndyCar season and that, no surprise, has stirred-up speculation on who will replace him. Since I laid-out a plan here on Sept. 6, 2010 ("How to Fix the IRL on Versus") -- link here -- http://spindoctor500blog.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-to-fix-irl-on-versus.html that some general elements came to be, I'll come back with more.

The proper role of an anchor is to professionally call the action and direct "traffic" among the other announcers. He has to be willing to keep his own ego in check and allow others to have a higher profile. He has to have a sense of what the news is, the stories are, be fair, and absolutely MUST HAVE UNQUESTIONED CREDIBILITY. The name I keep hearing as the front-runner to become the New Man Upstairs would be a huge mistake because he doesn't have the above qualities. My recommendation is another friend of mine, Rick Benjamin. He can do it because Rick's pretty much done it all in race broadcasting -- he's a PROVEN pro.

I'd also spice-up the booth by pairing Paul Tracy with Tommy Kendall on a permanent basis. This just might well be the most entertaining duo since the days when Paul Page had to referee Bobby Unser and Sam Posey. Jon Beekhuis could continue with tech features and play a sort of Larry McReynolds "strategist" role outside the booth.



They did it again. Network TV is one of the few places where executives can make a $10 million mistake -- paid for ultimately by shareholders -- and get away without consequence. It took years for CBS News' executive management to be held accountable for the $15 mil-a-year-for-five-years Katie Couric disaster. Now, NBC has done it, paying off Ann Curry to that reported number as she got the boot after one bad year co-hosting the ratings-threatened Today show. (And what a self-absorbed on-air farewell she made.) Her selection as "next in line" was a mistake from Day One and is an object lesson in the arrogance of television execs. With Today the No. 1-rated morning show for decades -- and a huge moneymaker -- and the successful transition from Couric to Meredith Vierra, the bosses seemingly just figured they could put whoever in that spot and merrily roll along. The audience didn't agree. Of course, the politically correct TV columnists tripped over themselves to defend the miscast Curry, one even calling her a "scapegoat." The New York Times outdid itself, referring to her "journalistic curiosities." The correct description would have been: activist liberal agenda. And picking journalistic lightweight Savannah Guthrie as Curry's replacement looks to be yet another misjudgment.


John Roberts, the chief justice of the U.S., must have a sense of PR. I'm not an attorney (I did take some pre-law in college) but a review of his written decision in last week's Obama health care law case leads me to believe Roberts mixed in a little PR thinking with his legal opinion. To me, it had all the look of a result looking for a justification, and Roberts I think thinks one of his jobs is to maintain the High Court's supposed reputation as even-handed. I think he thought another 5-4 "conservative" decision would damage the court's standing in the court of public opinion. So Roberts, in part, made a PR decision.

And, once and for all, let's take the "spin" out of what is officially the "Affordable Health Care Act." Emphasis on "affordable." Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona released this statement after the Supreme Court's decision:

"Since the introduction of the reform bill, we have expressed our concern that many of its provisions will increase the cost of healthcare. While the law goes a long way to extend access to more people, it falls short on affordability. The next challenge for policymakers will be to address the staggering cost of healthcare."

I hope people still have enough money to buy race tickets after their premiums get jacked-up higher than Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 during a pit stop.

[ a special commentary on the sixth anniversary of this blog next Monday . . .