Many times, it’s common to hear fans complain that it’s hard to be a fan of the Verizon IndyCar Series. Granted, the powers-that-be often fail to give us hope that they have much of a clue as to what is really going on. But compared to my other passion, football – it’s really very easy to be an IndyCar fan.
Without getting any further into the Ray Rice/Adrian Peterson-type scenarios, let’s just focus on the two sports themselves. As a football fan, you are either a winner or a loser each week. Either your team is victorious and you beam with pride all week as if you had something to do with the victory, or else you hide your head in shame as you suffer along with the team you support. There is no middle ground. You either leave the venue (or couch) happy or disgusted.
Lately, my football experiences have been more of the latter. As a fan of the Tennessee Vols and Tennessee Titans; it has been more famine than feast. The Vols are currently 3-4, but 0-4 in the Southeastern Conference. Included in those losses is a loss at home to a hapless Florida team. The three wins are over creampuffs. Saturday night saw my Vols hold their own against Ole Miss for the first twenty-five minutes, only to give up thirty-four points in the final thirty-five minutes to get trounced 34-3.
The Titans are even worse. They sleepwalked their way through a very uninspiring 19-17 loss to a terrible Redskins team that was only 1-5 heading into yesterday’s game.
For the past several years it’s been tough to be a football fan in the Volunteer State. The Vols and Titans combined, have been through seven head coaches since 2008 – and there is no sign that either team is headed out of the wilderness.
There are no moral victories in football – none. It’s win or lose. Nothing else matters. When your teams lose most of the time, it’s demoralizing.
It’s a lot easier being an IndyCar fan. In motorsports, drivers will tell you that finishing second is the first loser, but I disagree. You can’t tell me that Juan Montoya really thinks he had a bad season because he finished fourth in the championship in his first season in any type of open-wheel cars in nearly a decade.
In racing, we all have our drivers and we set different goals for them headed into each race. I am a fan of Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves. Those are the two I want to see battling for the lead each week. Whichever one wins, is fine by me. But I also have drivers that I really like, but I realize they currently really have no shot of regularly winning races week-in and week-out under normal circumstances. Those would be Jack Hawksworth, Mikhail Aleshin and Pippa Mann. I’m not saying those drivers can’t win in this series, but given their current circumstances it would not be expected. If they just have a top-ten showing, I’m just as glad as if Tony Kanaan had won.
There are some drivers who are on the cusp of winning their first race, but have not closed the deal. Put Nashville native Josef Newgarden in that category.
Then there are those who haven’t won lately, but I would be happy to see any of them back in victory lane. Those would include James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Ryan Briscoe and Justin Wilson.
There are very few drivers that I actually root against on a regular basis. I’ve never been a huge fan of Sébastien Bourdais, but I was very happy for him when he won in Toronto this past season. I’m not a huge fan of Marco Andretti or Graham Rahal, but I’ll cheer the next time either of them win.
I remember my first race back at the Indianapolis 500 as an adult after a twenty-year absence. The year was 1992 and the grid was lined up in front of us on that frigid morning. When Mary Fendrich Hulman gave the command to start engines, thirty-two of them fired. The car of John Paul, Jr. did not. As the field pulled away, his car sat silent. With no other cars in sight, the Buick V-6 finally came to life. As his car quickly pulled away, everyone along the front straightaway cheered loudly. Did that mean that everyone there was pulling for John Paul, Jr. to win the race? No, but he was a decided underdog and everyone wanted to see him get his shot.
For those that were in the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium yesterday to watch the Colts shutout the Bengals – did anyone think that the Bengals should at least be given a chance to score? Of course, not. Why? Because that’s the nature of football, that’s why. As much as I like football, it brings out the worst in us.
Over the last decade or so, I’ve mellowed some while watching football. Perhaps my time with Susan has had that influence on me. Prior to that however, as a student at Tennessee and even as a young adult – the stories of my displays after a loss are legendary. Although my driver does not always win, I’ve never witnessed a race that ruined my day like a football game does. On the flip side however, I’ve been much more elated after my driver has won than I ever have been after a big football win. (i.e. Tony Kanaan winning the 2013 Indianapolis 500).
As I’ve (slightly) matured, I’ve learned not to allow whatever a bunch of nineteen year-old kids or some overpaid prima donnas do or don’t do – to ruin my weekend. Life’s too short. Five minutes after the Titans choked away the game yesterday, I had moved on to other activities. I’ve not yet reached the point where I’ll miss watching a Vols or Titans game on television, but I no longer let what happens bother me. It’s a good thing, because they both lose a lot.
Instead, I’ve learned to enjoy watching racing – whether it’s in-person or on television. I’m just as invested in it as football, but I have a lot more opportunities to come away feeling satisfied. To me, the at-the-track experience is much better than going to a college or NFL game. The fans are friendlier, the participants are friendlier and the venues actually seem happy you came.
So, yes – I will be right there in the middle of people griping about various decisions and inactions of the governing body of IndyCar. But as far as what I watch on weekends, it’s a lot easier to be an IndyCar fan.