I Call Your Bluff

After the big Randy Bernard announcement last night, I received a tweet that went a little something like this: “Thoughts on today’s events?”

So for the tens of people who care to hear what I have to say, thanks for being here. From the beginning of this website, I’ve played it safe. Despite the numerous innuendos and a plethora of charmingly-inappropriate comments, I think I’ve done more asking for opinions than giving them.

It was all about the entertainment. But this… THIS… is serious.

Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers… okay, our fathers… got their IndyCar news from the newspaper. They sat quietly in their houses and when a story broke from 16th & Georgetown, they read it. Then they set down their paper and pondered quietly to themselves. Perhaps they called a friend to discuss.

Today is a whole ‘nother ball game. Where did YOU get the RB news last night? Twitter? Facebook? The IndyCar website? No matter what channel it reached you through, it was most likely surrounded by the opinions of hundreds of other fans. The “presented without comment” method is no longer an option.

Such is the age of social media, where it only takes one person to scream “THE SKY IS FALLING” as they share the story, and everyone else just covers their head and waits for the inevitable disaster.

It’s quite obvious that I’m a fan of social media, however the mob mentality is a ridiculously vicious downside.

If you’ve gotten this far into the post, you’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned how I feel about Randy Bernard leaving IndyCar. And if you keep reading, you won’t find that opinion here either. It doesn’t matter what I think about the situation because this is bigger than that. It’s about the sport and its future.

I know why the fans love Randy. He listened to new ideas and he gave people a direct line of communication. For that and several other reasons, I can see why there’s so much fan support.

With that said, is it possible to be optimistic that an even bigger fan favorite might be next in line? Is it possible that other parts of the IndyCar community (drivers, teams and even the fans) can be part of leading a positive charge into a new era? Is it possible that the success of this sport might not rest solely on the shoulders of the IndyCar PR department?

Here’s a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.”

It was entertaining to watch the abundance of ‘screw this, I’m done being a fan’ responses last night. It’s equally as entertaining to see all those people still posting on twitter today. Now I’ve been known to push the #TeamPositivity charge pretty hard, and don’t get me wrong, I completely understand everyone’s frustration. It’s confusing, it’s unexplained and it don’t seem to make no damn sense.

But for those of you who say you’re done, mark my words: I call your bluff.

You’re not done. You’re not leaving the sport. And here’s why: You love it and you want to see what happens. Whether Randy’s replacement is amazeballs or whether it’s a Milka-esque disaster, you want to see it. You might pretend to look away, but you’ll still have one eye on the web and one finger scrolling through twitter.

It’s drama. And it’s the same stuff that fuels the rivalries (on and off the track) that you like to read about. Yes, the racing is the best in the world. But the “show” that surrounds the racing is just as interesting in its own right. Think about it: There’s no racing in the off-season, but you tune in to the silly season stories, don’t you? Do you completely tune out IndyCar from Sunday night to the following Sunday morning? Nope. It’s the stories and the drama that feed your desire to know, ‘What’s going on?!

Why do I know this? Because I am a die-hard fan. Just like you, like your father, and our forefathers too. I love this sport and want to see it return to the forefront of motorsports. Am I sitting here, just like you, wondering WHY all this is happening? Absolutely. But I know one more thing:

People know stuff. They’re not saying it right now and there are probably very few of them who are completely in the know, but every minute we spend on negative speculation is a minute of happiness we’ll never get back.

17 responses to “I Call Your Bluff

  • Greg Galer

    You are the best!

  • Tom Marshall

    Excellent column. If those who say they’re done were truly done, they wouldn’t feel the need to say they were done. 🙂

  • The Chrome Horn (@thechromehorn33)

    Race Girl:

    I respectfully disagree with your post. Sure, some of the anger is the product of raw emotion, and social media, gives everyone a platform.

    But continuing to arrogantly disregard the paying customer is exactly what got IndyCar into this mess. They’ve lost fans every year since 1996, and seem to just not care, which is a blatant disregard for those who make living from, and follow the sport.

    Now, like you I’m a die hard and will probably be on the ship until the bittler end. But, for example my father, who got me interested in Indy car racing, checked out long ago. I had pit passes to Baltimore this year, and he told me he had to cut the grass.

    IndyCar can’t keep doing this. They can’t just keep turning people off, or there will be no one before long.


  • Don

    Like I said lastnight. Its compareable to the NFL earlier this year with the replacement refs fiasco. Everyone protested earlier in the season they wont watch unless the regular refs came back. They still watched. We had Seattlegate, no one was going to watch they said. Regular refs came back those people still watched, mistakes were made with the regular refs early on. People complained & they still watched. Its a never ending soap opera circle.
    Look at WWE people hate John Cena, and if he wins we will riot. Yet week in and week out they still watch in hopes that he loses.

    Same with Indycar they (Myself included) will still watch. Im upset we lost Bernard, and as you put it why abandon all of the accomplishments? Certain accomplishments if they are lost, we may NEVER get back. ~cough~ ~cough~ Milwaukee Mile

  • Badger75

    I agree with you that many of today’s irate fans will be back when the racing resumes and the calendar turns to May. Unfortunately teams, promoters and drivers are hunting for sponsors today. Why would any corporation invest in the series if they read any fan reactions or news of he last month?

  • jwrichte09 (@jwrichte09)

    First of all, as always, you rock. Second of all I couldn’t agree more. Everyone assumes they know why/what/who was the cause for Randy’s departure but we probably will never know the full story.

    As for the sport, I still love it and will continue to follow every minute of it. Randy or no Randy I will still be at multiple races this season. I’m excited to see who the new CEO is, and yet I still wish Randy all the best in his new adventure!

    Mostly I am looking forward to getting back to racing and putting all of this behind us. Is it March yet? No, well at least there’s a winter tweetup between now and then!

  • Patrick Head

    I am one of those fans that will watch and ATTEND IndyCar races as long as they are available. While interested, and sometimes even fired up by all the ownership drama, I really don’t get all that concerned about. Also, no matter how much seemingly everyone is screaming about transparency … well … this is a family owned business. There is NO requirement for transparency. It might be well advised at times, but then again maybe not, and like you I’m pretty sure there is a plan. We just have to wait a bit for the answers. We are not owed them.

    Making the fans happy is of course good business, but revealing all the finances and internal workings of the business is really just normal. The NFL doesn’t reveal everything discussed in their meetings. Not by a long shot. NASCAR certainly doesn’t.

    I’m really just not sure what all the outrage is about. And, personally, since I don’t know what is REALLY happening, then I’ll withhold most judgement about who is or isn’t an idiot, etc.

  • DZ (@groundedeffects)

    Sorry Monica! Love what you do and have done for the fans and sport, but I’ve been through this too many times only to see the thing come out the other side all funky and twisted and a less desirable product than before.

    When you hear people saying ‘they’re done’, they’re being emotional and they’re being honest, it’s not for some twisted form of internet entertainment. It’s honest feedback. The fans of this sport that remained prior to Friday clearly all have a passion for the sport. There are voices of support and also voices of people who now see no reason to continue giving to it with increasing difficulty in supporting it.

    Neither voice is of lesser value.

  • sejarzo

    Will I watch? Yes. Will I take pains as I have in the past to arrange my schedule such that I see all the races? No. Will I travel to attend races in the future? Probably not, other than pole weekend at IMS.

    I’m 54. I remember the days of meaningful technical innovation, real differences between cars (not aero kit concepts thrown together for show) and a different sort of racing that resulted from that. The current iteration is lacking on the technical side, and I know that I am not alone in that opinion. It’s doubtlessly entertaining, but not as entertaining as it was in the past…it seems more watered down, more manufactured. Sure, the root cause is the economy, but that’s a reason for the status quo, not a solution for the future.

    Unlike Patrick, I’m pretty sure that there is not yet a plan. The way RB’s departure was handled and the today’s news that provided more detail re TG’s attempt to buy the series and separate it from H&Co/IMS suggests that major dissension continues to exist within the Hulman-George family regarding the firm’s future. And make no mistake about it…the board is there to advise, the big decisions remain in the hands of the owners in shareholder voting. The board serves at the behest of the shareholders.

    The involvement of The Boston Group suggests to me that outside board members understand that they need more support in trying to forge a realistic path forward. Outside directors are typically pushing on a rope when trying to get contentious family shareholders to unify in a single direction, and having yet another voice to back them up is often the only possible solution.

  • Ron Ford

    Thanks for your perspective Monica. Yes, most of us will still watch. Pretty hard to turn away from a train wreck.

  • Bri

    I agree wholeheartedly, but we all know I’m not going anywhere. See you in St Pete!

  • The Speedgeek

    Yeah, sorry, Monica. Like DZ up above there, I wholeheartedly appreciate all that you do for the IndyCar world, but I completely disagree with you on this topic.

    Yes, there have been countless changes in the front offices of IndyCar/IRL/ChampCar/CART/USAC/AAA/whatever over the years (heck, I remember exactly where I was standing when I heard that Andrew Craig had been ousted…in a hotel room in Savannah, GA during an SCCA National weekend; point being that I’d been waiting for him to get chucked out for months by then, so I all but did a little happy dance at the news). However, what we’ve had in Randy Bernard these last 32 months is a leader who voiced loudly and often that he was there in service of the fans. That has never been the case in my 20+ years as a fan of IndyCar. For years, the fact that IndyCar/CART was a Major League Sport and appeared on all broadcast or basic cable channels, the attitude of the CEO didn’t totally matter. The sport coasted along from success to success, with its cast of superduperstars and technically sophisticated cars, and whoever was manning the tiller didn’t make a whit of difference (unless the guy said something egregiously stupid…Joe Heitzler). Then, everything changed. Not just in Open Wheel racing and the overall world of racing, but in the world as a whole. In the 21st century, just simply existing isn’t enough to draw a crowd anymore. There are a million things to do that didn’t exist even 5 years ago. Nowadays, you have to get out in front and drum up a crowd, and dedicate yourself to serving those folks once they’re there. Randy Bernard has been the only guy who’s done that, and the fruits of his labor can be seen throughout the 2012 season (awesome racing with a brand new car with 100% brand new engines, at a time when the teams insisted that they could not afford such a thing…never minding that the cost of the new stuff was only marginally more expensive to run than the old stuff and the improvement in racing should have attracted sponsorship that would have offset the increase in cost several times over) and in the 2013 schedule (return of the Triple Crown, at least 14-15 events that appear to be on strong, sustainable financial footing, plus room to grow in the future). Randy’s reward? Out on his ass. And the few remaining fans’ rewards? Who freaking knows (and I’m not convinced that the IMS board knows exactly what’s next either, though I’d love to be proven wrong)?

    That’s the freaking shame here, and that is why this “drama” is different from any other normal silly season or mid-season drama that I’ve experienced in my time as a fan. I’ve gotten older, and my life is filling up with other things: wife, kids, ever increasing job responsibilities, time demands from 1,000 different places, even…gasp!…other hobbies and interests. I don’t think I’m alone in that. There comes a time when this tiresome wash/rinse/repeat of following up greatness with pointless squandering of goodwill and potential becomes too much even for the hardest of hard cores. The baby steps toward that end that I’d basically been pretending that I wasn’t taking (watching less races live, less time on Twitter, less time on blogs, less time just simply daydreaming about hanging out in the paddock or at trackside) have become full on strides for me. I’m not gone yet, but the distance between me and the door is getting a little shorter every day. Something tells me that I’m not alone in that, either.

  • Gurney Eagle

    I think you will be proven to be right, Monica. We had a similar dustup here in Indianapolis this spring with the release of Peyton Manning. Many expressions of righteous indignation, threats of season-ticket cancellation, etc., etc. Yet here we are six months later and all home games have sold out and the irreplaceable Mr. Manning has been replaced. Too bad Bernard didn’t have this kind of support when he was on the job.

  • Declan

    Look at all those fans who stayed to follow all the “drama” from 1996 to 2008! Oh, yes right, they vanished. They stopped caring, they stopped attending, they stopped watching to the point that ESPN and the Networks didn’t care enough to bid for the full TV rights. They stopped buying tickets for pole day at Indy (look at the pre-split crowds for pole day and look now). You used some quotes in your piece, so here is another, from George Santayana, just for you. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    If you don’t understand that this level of weapons grade stupidity will erode the fan base, then you are not old enough to remember this, the first time round or you are rather misguided eternal optimist.

    In summary, here is how I will stop caring. I’ll schedule family time instead of ensuring that I get to watch the races live. I’ll DVR them all but will watch them if I get the chance, the races will be no longer “appointment to view”. Ultimately, I will be one of the many millions who will be lost to the sport because they simply don’t have a powerful enough reason to care.

    If I have the choice between a spec series parade with two manufacturers and multiple factories fighting it out in the ALMS/Grand Am, I will chose the latter because my time is finite.

  • Johnny Aitch

    You’re right, Monica: I’m not leaving. Like most Indy car fans, I left a LONG time ago. In case you haven’t noticed, nobody cares anymore. A couple hundred at Trackforum and place-fans who come out to Indy to get drunk and/or be seen are all that’s left.

    Try all you want, but your PR spin isn’t good enough to ignore that.

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