• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, September 07, 2014

MORE NOTES FROM MY LEGAL PAD

Since my lists go page-after-page, and since many of the previous responses were interesting, here are some more notes from my legal pad:

What in the bleep happened to the quality of racing at Richmond? Last weekend didn't help sell a single ticket for any Chase event. Was it Goodyear's new tire combination? If so, and if NASCAR wasn't on top of the tire situation (again), well . . . what say you, Mr. "Side-by-Side Racing" Brian France?

Given who his sponsor is, and remembering that Brad Keselowski admitted he was "buzzed" during post-Cup interviews two years ago at Homestead, Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett best be careful when describing Brad K's lackluster 2013 season as a post-championship "hangover." 

Back in the late 1990s, ESPN pulled motorsports-know-nothing Rece Davis out of who-knows-where? to host the weekend editions of rpm2night. The 1998 CART season opened at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and on the Thursday afternoon there, I was in the paddock area talking with a half-dozen of the series' Biggest Name drivers. Someone noticed Davis off in the distance and that triggered a bunch of comments from said drivers. I'll be polite and say they had minimally high regard for him. A couple of minutes later Davis started walking toward our group and the drivers quickly scattered in several directions on their motorbikes, leaving me to talk with him. I'll never forgot that Davis was so out-of-touch with reality that he told me how "welcoming" all the drivers had been to him. (Hey, Rece, that's called PR!) This memory came back to me while in the garage area before the IndyCar season finale at Auto Club Speedway. NBCSN has at least one talking head that's regarded by this generation of competitors (some of whom were at Homestead in '98) the same way Davis was. If NBCSN production boss Sam Flood were to spend any meaningful time in honest discussion with IndyCar drivers, he would know that.

I about fell out of the driver's seat on my trip to Fontana when I heard a SiriusXM NASCAR channel host say NASCAR "doesn't make decisions based on PR." What! Please tell me an example of a decision the sanction hasn't made in recent years that didn't involve PR!

Under the philosophy and leadership of NASCAR's conjured-up Integrated Marketing (Non) Communications theory, more and more statements from the sanction include these words: "NASCAR will not comment on . . . "

Look no further than Atlanta's victory lane to see one reason why Hendrick Motorsports is NASCAR's most successful team. There we saw Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all together congratulating Kasey Kahne on his victory. Trust me, folks, this doesn't happen within a lot of other organizations.

Absolutely no one should be surprised Beaux Barfield is no longer IndyCar's race director. Numerous people who have worked directly with him for the last three years have expressed to me, well, I'll call it their "concerns" about his attitude, arrogance and inconsistency. I experienced it once myself. Barfield's status was strongly signaled to me last May at Indy and that was before the bogus red flag near the end (pre-determined by him and excused post-fact by SAFER repairs.) And have no doubt Jon Beekhuis wants the job.

The Big IMSA staff shakeup, with two races still to run this season, proves how stunningly wrong Jim France, Ed Bennett and Scott Atherton got it in putting their Year 1 merged-series program and organization together. There have been officiating, operational, marketing and communications problems right from the first race Rolex 24. Race control blew the call on a class winner at Daytona and the top PR guy -- highly hyped to me by NASCAR IM(N)C -- lasted exactly one race. So who will call France, Bennett and Atherton on the carpet?

I don't care if a beer company is a team's sponsor, the team PR rep should not be drinking beer on the victory podium. It's his/her job to coordinate and stage good PR photos showing the driver, owner and crew enjoying the product, not to publicly knock down a can himself.

The IndyCar championship stage ceremony at Fontana was one of the worst organized I've seen in decades of experience. I stood off on the side and watched almost the entire thing. For example, time was wasted as the Chevrolet group came up and then off the podium three times for photos. Why wasn't it planned well enough to do once? And thus help get Will Power, etc. into the media center sooner for journalists already battling impossible late Saturday night deadlines. Another issue for CEO Mark Miles to fix.

Here are seven words any ticket buyer hates to hear in pre-race driver interviews: "It's going to be hard to pass."

And here's the driver cliche I'm tired of hearing: "The crew has been working hard." If someone isn't working hard, he/she shouldn't be on the payroll.

It's obvious to me ESPN is about out of ideas how to present it's NHRA event coverage. The same old clips and soundbites are put out there every year about the U.S. Nationals. "It's Indy!" We get it. Move on.

We're coming up on what I consider to be sport's most self-important and overblown (with the possible exception of NASCAR's All-Star race) event, golf's Ryder Cup. Let's see: The team members must be custom outfitted for expensive designer uniforms for the opening ceremony, practice rounds, each match, closing ceremony, off-course media and leisure time and social events. Ditto for their significant others. How about this for an idea? Redirect that time, money and effort into grass-roots programs to counter golf's declining participation rate.

I might scream the next time I hear a TV or radio pundit tell us: "It's going to be interesting."
Really? Wow, what great insight!

I've noted before that politics and government often showcase PR's best spinners and image-makers. But not lately. As if the Carney Barker's lack of credibility as White House press secretary wasn't a big enough disgrace . . . well . . . if you want to see how not to do it, watch any briefing from State Department spokeswomen Jen Psaki or Marie Harf. Their presentations make what any Kardashian has to say seem intellictual. My friend and PR legend Jim Chapman was a Democrat and a committed liberal, but I have no doubt he'd be embarrassed by these inept and amateurish performances.

[ more next week . . . ]