• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I REALLY DID NEED A 'LEGAL' PAD THIS WEEK

Grief and a family's deep emotions are not only understandable, but natural, following the loss of a son. With that said, Kevin Ward Jr.'s family should carefully consider the consequences of a civil action against Tony Stewart. I'm no lawyer, but given what was revealed by the district attorney regarding the illegal substance (federal and state law) found in Ward's system at a level the DA said would affect judgment, I can think of a long series of questions that would need to be asked of the family during the normal course of any legal process. They should be obvious so I won't list them here. Unless the family is going to dispute the DA's report and the state's test results, the legal part of this story should end NOW.

Two of the least impressive TV heads to yap about the Tony Stewart grand jury decision were Fox Sports 1 legal analyst Rob Becker and his NBC Sports Network counterpart, Jack Furlong.

Imagine you were a senior corporate executive of a NASCAR team sponsor -- perhaps one skeptical of the value of such a seven-or-eight figure sponsorship -- sitting at home watching your driver being interviewed in victory lane. Man, that corporate logo you paid for on the driver's uniform looks good and the national TV exposure is great. And then you see some guy in a NASCAR cap put a towel over your driver's shoulder, covering your logo, taking away that ID and effectively reducing your ROI. Would you be impressed with the self-anointed "sophisticated" and "sponsor friendly" NASCAR marketing organization?

When the late Jim Chapman ran PPG's CART series sponsorship with dignity and class, there is absolutely No Way he would have offended paying team sponsors by having or allowing a PPG-logo towel obscure another company's uniform ID. It would be the right thing to do for Sprint, Nationwide and Camping World to tell NASCAR they wish to follow Mr. Chapman's example. 

In a world where everyone has a cell phone camera, security cameras seemingly are everywhere, and TMZ is regarded as an important (and paying) news source, what I've counseled drivers both professionally and privately is more true -- and obvious -- than ever: Always assume someone is taking your picture, no matter what you're doing, anytime, anywhere. Quite something the reckless behavior of some in thinking this doesn't apply to them.


A telling sign of problems within the industry: It used to be common sense that prospective employers would ask the opinion of informed journalists before hiring someone for a PR/media relations job. And yet, at least three times this year, that wasn't done. Or, at least, the proper people weren't asked. Guilty parties include a major speedway and two series that like to consider themselves major. One person picked this way already is gone, another pretty much hasn't bothered to outreach to key media, and the third was recommended by a consultant who has no business consulting about anything media-related. Executives: Please bother to do your home work. 

Isn't it instructive -- and sad -- that the people who have no experience in, and haven't bothered to properly educate themselves about the Business of Racing, are the ones who criticize those who do and try to share that knowledge?

Considering the number of ESPN hosts who have been suspended in recent months, it is fair to ask when the senior network management who thought it was a good idea to hire these people in the first place are going to be held accountable, too.

Everyone has known for years that as long as Bernie, the FIA and team owners get their money, Formula One will race anywhere, no matter global issues or human concern. See the Middle East GPs. Now, on to Russia. At least the International Olympic Committee had the fig leaf excuse that Putin waited until after the Winter Games to extend his middle finger to the world. But what's the excuse for F1's team sponsors and manufacturers? Answer: It doesn't matter to them as long as their cash registers ring, too.

In many, many ways, including what it projects as its image vs. its business practices, NASCAR is very, very, well, I'll call it "inconsistent."


I've said for years, and repeat now, that it's impossible to be a good race fan without knowing something about the Business of Racing. So I shake my head when those callers to Sirius XM's NASCAR channel say Cup drivers should be banned from the (still) Nationwide and Truck series. Tell that to the TV networks who pay the rights fees and to the track operators who have to pay the purse. No-names don't sell in our celebrity-obsessed society, at least, not most of the time. And the days of corporations being willing to sponsor driver development programs just to be a part of NASCAR are over. TV and tracks and sponsors have to have the "names" and that's the bottom line in what too-often is a very silly debate.

It sure says a lot about the state of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Tudor United SportsCar series that so little was said about IMS not being on the 2015 schedule.

Have any series executives/officials anywhere bounced down and up and down again as much as IndyCar's Brian Barnhart and SportsCar's Mark Raffauf? Once upon a time, both were the president of their respective organizations!

What a sad commentary on our society that people can't listen or read and process the information simply as it is presented. Instead, too many hear or read based on what they want/don't want to accept based on their own biases.

Two words explain the downturn in Formula One's global TV audience: Ferrari uncompetitiveness.

Even the biggest dump on the Formula One schedule is arguably a nicer and more modern facility than just about anything you'll find in NASCAR, IndyCar, SportsCar or NHRA. Why? Bernie demands it! Maybe the rebuilt Daytona will change that.

I bet those Lewis Hamilton-Nico Rosberg technical debriefs are a million laughs!

A healthy skepticism is, well, healthy for a journalist. Cynicism is not. When the media bleeps like Jason Whitlock (yes, another ESPN trouble-maker) downplayed the significance of Derek Jeter's fabulous exit from baseball -- a game-winning walk-off bottom-of-the-ninth RBI single in his last game at Yankee Stadium and an RBI hit in his last game at Boston -- it showed (again) all that is wrong with today's Big Mouth & No Substance News Media. Whitlock and the rest simply proved to their audience that they know nothing about the historical and traditional underpinnings of baseball, the New York Yankees' franchise, Yankee Stadium, and their fans. On the other hand, Baltimore Orioles' Manager Buck Showwalter (Jeter's first Big League skipper) showed his respect by allowing Jeter to hit and not take an intentional walk last Thursday night. Ditto for the Boston Red Sox, who despite one of sports' most intense rivalries, sent Jeter out Sunday at Fenway Park with respect. Well done.

Scott Pruett comes as close as anyone I can think of to be a near-perfect IndyCar race director.

Donny Schatz is in the midst of a historically dominant STP World of Outlaws season. He scored his career-high 24th win this past weekend. Can't wait to see how many Driver of the Year votes he gets. The over/under is one.

[ more next week . . . ]