The Media Should Always Be Prepared

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After watching Friday’s practice session on IndyCar.com, I’ve come to the unsettling conclusion that one of the weakest pieces in the IndyCar puzzle is the main anchor of the IMS Radio Network — Mike King. First of all, I believe Mike King to be a decent man. He is an adequate play-by-play announcer (or would that be lap-by-lap?). The deficiency in his role however, is the appearance of either a lack of preparation or a simple lack of knowledge of this sport. I’m not sure which is worse.

With today’s different media outlets, it’s debatable how vital a radio announcer really is. It’s doubtful that a radio announcer is pivotal in luring new fans to the IRL. In the days of Sid Collins, radio was king. There was no live TV and the radio was the only link to the race. Still, all IndyCar races are carried on satellite radio, a handful of over-the-air stations and the internet; so the role of play-by-play announcer is still the voice of the series. You want someone to handle the job in a professional manner. That is my problem with Mike King.

I once heard Robin Miller describe listening to Mike King as hearing someone drag their nails on a chalkboard. When I heard that, I thought it was a little harsh. At that time, my only real exposure to King was hearing his call on a voiceover to some race replay clips. His voice was a little annoying as he would raise it several octaves while shouting over the most insignificant action on the track, but by and large I considered him somewhat benign.

Over the last couple of years however, annoyance has given way to frustration. I really don’t have a problem with his delivery. His race calls are pretty good and convey excitement. It is the content (or lack thereof) that he is spewing over the airwaves, where I become frustrated. Before, I’ve bemoaned how King is so obvious in his towing the company line. I certainly understand that he is not going to trash the league. They are, in fact, the ones that sign his paycheck. But a little objectivity from him every now and then would be very refreshing.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times how condescending King can be while reading e-mails from listeners. He has taken more than one listener to task, simply because HE thought the listener had e-mailed a stupid question.

That’s a little ironic considering it was Mr. King that was coming across as either uninformed or totally unprepared on several occasions Friday. Fortunately for King, he has Davey Hamilton at his side to cover for him. During Friday’s practice, the rookies had been on track for about forty-five minutes. I had already noticed that Robert Doornbos was carrying McDonald’s on his sidepods, as the cameras followed him around for many laps. When a listener e-mailed a question regarding that, King told the listener that he was confusing the car with Graham Rahal. Again, Davey Hamilton had to correct him. At that point, Kevin Lee came to the rescue to explain to the listener that Doornbos was, in fact carrying McDonald’s decals — but his paintjob was still pretty much the same.

Later on, an e-mailer wrote asking about the condition of the crewmember that Danica Patrick had hit the week before at Iowa. King abruptly blurted out he had no idea what the listener was talking about, as if the listener was confused. Again, Hamilton had to go through the embarrassing exercise of filling King in on the details, on-air. One of the pit announcers then gave an update on the crewmember as King sat dumbfounded over the air.

A few weeks back, I cited the time when someone e-mailed a question regarding the possibility of a race in Cleveland. Rumors of a Cleveland oval/road course double-header had been in the news for a couple of weeks. He acted as if he had never heard of it. I hope he was acting, if not – it showed how out of touch he is with his product.

Maybe I’m making way too much of this, and King is just an easy target of my frustration with the race we saw this weekend. Granted, these are not national telecasts and probably very few people listen to these other than a few of us die-hards. Then again, if he is talking to the die-hards, it makes sense that he would be better prepared.

This is his job. He is a professional and this is his profession. A sales professional is expected to know his or her product, inside and out. If they are caught unprepared by not knowing a key aspect of their product, their credibility is completely diminished. Why should we expect any less of Mr. King? For a series that is struggling right now, they need to strengthen every possible area. This is a weak link in the chain.

I may be wrong, but I believe that the IMS Radio Network is Mike King’s only job. If that’s the case, his lack of preparation is inexplicable. Why do most of us who follow this sport, know more about it than the paid professional? I don’t expect him to be Donald Davidson, but I would think he should spend a good portion of his time reading up on the happenings of this sport – just so he could at least SOUND like he knows what he is talking about.

A few races back, I heard analyst Mark Jaynes ask Mike King on-air if he ever read any of the IndyCar bloggers. King’s response was that he didn’t because they were all so negative, and it simply wasn’t worth his time. Granted, there are a few “hate” sites out there; but most of the ones that are linked to this site are packed with news and worthwhile opinions from the most important people to this series – the fans. It might do Mr. King some good to take the time to read a few of them, lest he comes off as sounding totally unprepared and completely uninformed in his chosen profession.

George Phillips

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4 Responses to “The Media Should Always Be Prepared”

  1. I was in the stands listening to this as well and the lack of knowledge of Doornbos’s paint scheme when the cars are right there in front of you on pit road seemed very odd to me and got me paying closer attention to what he was saying from that point forward. It’s bad enough that the local media knows nothing of IndyCar. The people in the booth need to have their fingers on the pulse at all times. Good blog.

  2. You bring up some great points. In recent years, I’ve counted on the podcast of the IMS Weekly to catch up on the weekend. This year, I’ve moved to listening to King & Crew over the Webcast race because a) I don’t currently have Versus and b) I’ve heard the Versus coverage ain’t that great. Race Fan 2.0, as I call it, is Webcast + radio VO + Twitter feed.

    However, I see where King has some deficiencies. For someone on the inside, you’d expect a little more, I suppose. I’m not ready to totally trash him yet. However, I will listen with a more discerning ear to future programs.

    Thanks for a great posting!

  3. Franchittilitter Says:

    Wow, Steve, I don’t know where you heard that the Versus coverage hasn’t been good, but you need to check it out for yourself. It has been excellent. I’ve learned much more about racing this year than ever before from their super-informative telecasts. They make ABC/ESPN look like amateur hour.

    It’s a shame you don’t have Versus, damn cable companies. Mike King is ok but I pretty much agree with George. If you listen to the IRL Podcasts, he really does soft-pedal around criticizing the IRL. I do like him though, but he needs to get his head in the game.

  4. Jerry Cruz Says:

    I have to agree with George on Mike King. The latest podcast was a shame that he did not know how many top 5’s he had this year. He does a good job but sometimes he goes blank…it also happens to Davey Hamilton, so he is not alone. On the Versus coverage I have to say (write) it is the best coverage of IndyCar ever except we don’t have Paul Page. The education on IndyCar is superior and I have learned a lot!
    You have to get Versus…

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