Curt Or Robin: Why Choose?

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Open-wheel fans are in for a treat tonight. Robin Miller is to be a guest on Trackside With Cavin & Kevin, tonight on 1070 The Fan – WFNI in Indianapolis at 7:00 Central (8:00 in Indianapolis). Even if you are not a regular listener to this show (which is really a must for die-hard IndyCar fans), you don’t want to miss tonight’s show.

I can remember Robin Miller’s name when I was a kid. My father always subscribed to The Indianapolis Star by mail during the month of May, when I was growing up. Robin Miller was already writing for The Star during the late 1960’s and I remember reading his articles. His writing style was not much different then, than it is now. When Curt Cavin joined The Star full-time in 1987, Robin Miller was already a twenty year veteran.

I’m not going to pretend to know what their working relationship was like, but I suspect it was a lot better than most people think. Still, when Miller was fired from The Star for various reasons in 2001 – he seemed to harbor a public grudge against Cavin. I sometimes wonder if that’s just some of the Robin Miller persona that he is trying to perpetuate, or maybe there really are some hard feelings. For his part, Curt Cavin has always maintained the high road and  speaks of Robin Miller with total respect, and credits Miller for being his mentor in the early stages of his career.

Their writing styles and personalities are completely different. Both have developed a strong following over the years. One thing I’ve never understood, however, is the fact that there seems to be some unwritten rule that says you cannot be fans of both. You must choose sides. Why?

This isn’t Cubs-Cardinals or Foyt-Andretti. These are two well-informed and respected journalists that sometimes have different viewpoints, but present their ideas in very unique methods. Curt Cavin comes across as level-headed and presents his thoughts in a very logical and soft-spoken manner. Robin Miller can be brash and extremely vocal, but with equal parts passion and humor. I think I’m one of the few people that actually likes reading both of them.

I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or what. I’m only nine years younger than Miller and about five years older than Cavin – so I can relate to both. I appreciate Robin Miller’s love for the sixties at Indianapolis. I was there as a (young) fan and he was there covering it. But Curt Cavin grew up in Indiana as well, and has a deep respect for open-wheel racing. Cavin’s reporting is a little more objective, probably because he didn’t grow up a racing fan. He is a basketball guy, first and foremost. He has been involved with open-wheel racing on a professional level since 1985 and has developed a deep respect for the sport as he has honed his craft over the years – he just doesn’t go overboard with his emotions, as Robin Miller sometimes does. Both styles have their place.

Curt Cavin is a gentleman. I don’t know if that is the first word that I would come up with to describe Robin Miller, but in my one chance meeting with him, he was very nice to me. In 2003, at the IndyCar race here in Nashville – my son and I managed to slip into Victory Lane to watch Gil de Ferran celebrate his first win since Indianapolis. As the place cleared while they took the obligatory photos, I heard a familiar voice behind me. It was Robin Miller and his ESPN cohort Marlo Klain. No one there recognized either one of them. I turned around and started talking to both of them and they were both very friendly and talkative.

I have since heard that Robin has no use for bloggers, so even though he was sitting just four rows directly behind me in the media center at Indianapolis this past May – I didn’t go up to speak to him. That was probably a mistake on my part. I think if you were to have a few beers with him, one on one in a bar – the conversation would be priceless. The stories he could tell about the characters he has known in racing over the years, could fill ten books.

Robin Miller started the “Mailbag” concept at The Star by taking e-mail questions from readers and answering them (hopefully) about once a week. Although Curt Cavin didn’t invent the Q&A that is on The Star’s website now, he put his own spin on it by posting answers to questions almost every weekday and sometimes on weekends. After a stint at ESPN.com, Miller has taken the “Mailbag” to his current employer, SPEEDTV.com, and still generally posts answers about once a week.

Robin’s readers are a little more sharp-tongued than Curt’s. Perhaps the questions he and Curt choose to answer may be most reflective of their own personalities, but both have very knowledgeable readers.

Curt is perceived as being slow to a story at times, but he is hindered by his newspaper’s insistence that he go through the proper channels of verifying sources and stories before spreading rumors based on hearsay. Robin isn’t forced to adhere to such standards. Sometimes he has been the first with a story; while other times he has been dead wrong.

But I’m still floored with the Track Forum mentality that says you have to choose sides. The old CART/Champ Car camp seems to prefer Robin, while Curt is seen as an IRL guy. Ironically, in the early days of the split – Curt’s nickname was CART Cavin due to his perceived favoritism towards CART. I like both and can appreciate each one for their unique styles. They both have something to offer and I refuse to buy into the theory that you have to choose.

So as we head into tonight’s show, what can we expect? Fireworks? Ten years of pent-up frustration unleashed between two old co-workers? Hardly. It’s fun to think about and it will drum up some ratings, but I think it will be quite civil.

In fact, I think they will both put their gloves down and have a very open and informative discussion about the state of affairs in the IZOD IndyCar Series – like last night’s curious announcement of a twin-bill at Texas next year. Despite the differences in their personalities, the two men share a lot of the same opinions. For one, they both hold new CEO Randy Bernard in very high regard. They both also seem bullish on IZOD’s influence on the series. Although Curt is much more diplomatic about it, the two also have long-term concerns over the Versus deal. Both understand the need to have races on a mainstream outlet in order to grow the sport.

I don’t know if Robin will be in the studio, or if he’ll be on the phone. If he is in the studio, I’d like to watch Kevin Lee be the traffic cop. But this is usually a civil and well-behaved show and I don’t anticipate anything getting out of hand. But I can promise this…I will be listening intently over the internet tonight, and I suggest you do the same. Whatever tone the show takes tonight, I’m sure it’s going to be good.

*Note – For those that are technologically challenged, you can listen to tonight’s show by clicking here and then click on the red link that says “Click Here to listen LIVE to 1070 The Fan!”

George Phillips

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27 Responses to “Curt Or Robin: Why Choose?”

  1. In the 70s and 80s I got to know Robin fairly well as I covered a lot of auto racing as a free lance photographer for the Indy newspapers and Associated Press. I have always enjoyed his writing and his knowledge. He does have an outspoken edge that, I suspect, had something to do with his departure from the Star.
    I also look forward to reading Curt’s work. I have met him on occasion.
    I like to read them both and am happy that each has made his place in the media. I share a passion for Indy Car racing with each of them and I feel both are an important part of the history, present and future of the sport.
    George, you have done a good job of describing each. As I have said before, I look forward to reading what you have to say also.

  2. With regards to Miller and bloggers, I’m reminded of a quote I overheard at Richmond last season:

    “That guy writes some funny shit.”
    – Robin Miller on our fearless leader, pressdog.

  3. I greatly appreciate both of them for what they contribute to the sport we love. They give us more than Oreo, and they don’t depress me as much as Kirby.

  4. I like Miller and Cavin, both. However, if I were to choose who to have a lunch with it would be Miller. Not to take anything away from Curt, but Robin is more fun and his tastes are very similar to mine. Ribs, Steak, Tenderloin Sandwiches, beer, huge potato fries, Fried Chicken, ect.. and the conversation would be rip-roaring fun.

  5. Robin has always been very pleasant to me. He gladly did an interview for Planet-IRL and has told me a couple times to give him a call anytime to chat or do my interviews. I haven’t found him to be combative or disrespectful towards blogs at all.

  6. George: Robin has stated that he is NOT a drinker of alcohol… his big vise is gambling :idea: So your beer experience would be over a large plate of bar food & large glasses of Coca-Cola :)

  7. George, I don’t think it’s just a trackforum thing- I feel it extends to the ICN forum as well. And really, it’s lame. They each have their style, each appeal to people for different reasons, and draw different types of people. To that end, I see it as nothing but beneficial.

  8. At his offering, Robin has helped me in my IndyCar writing, editing posts & generally telling me when I’m being a dipshit. Particularly when I venture into the terrifying realm of making “real” racing points. A seasoned journalist mentoring a stupid blogger such as myself? That’s worth something.

  9. I respect Robin Miller as a writer and as a commentator with decades of open-wheel experience. But Miller’s Mailbag is nothing but a sounding-board for Miller clones trying to out-do one another in their negative criticism of Indycar in it’s present incarnation.

  10. I like them both equally. I look forward to their Q&A everyweek. Both have very distinctive styles which give different perspectives. If I was to have a complaint about either it would be that Robin Miller sometimes focuses to much on the negative by publishing stuff like the “rant of the week” and how Cavin always seems to publish questions from the same people day in day out. However these are minor things and I appreciate the job they do!

  11. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Robin Miller is the Dennis Miller of open wheel racing reportage….

  12. Nice article, I wish more people thought like you. I think were pretty lucky to have 2 writers who care about the sport. Btw thou I think your wrong as I’ve seen Miller do several interviews with bloggers and he seems to give some love to the p-dog. I think he’s like most people when it comes to blogs. When something stands out and is done on a regular basis very well you take notice. Which is why OP, P-dog, and Pagoda are in my favorites bar.

  13. I enjoy both of Robin’s and Curt’s work in their own separate ways, but I’ve got little use for Robin’s weekly Q&A. The fact that he’s willing to perpetuate the same old “everything’s terrible! CART was awesome! I hate this series!” sentiment by running 3,000 word “rant of the week” competitors has gone beyond tiresome. I’ve always enjoyed his “tell it exactly how it is” style, to the point where I sucked up to him extensively in my early blog posts, but the devolution of his Q&A from a good place for rumors and info to a relentless beating of a long dead horse has taken him down a notch below Curt, at least in my eyes. This isn’t to say that I don’t still respect him as clearly one of the top two IndyCar journalists (along with Cavin, who I think is fantastic in his even headed analysis), but Robin could stand to start editing his mailbag a little more closely.

  14. I don’t agree with everything Miller says (ya really) nor Cavin or you for that matter. The reason I read is because it provokes thought (Hobbson). It is all very wonderful stuff that keeps me up with the Izod Indycar Series. Robin was writing about open wheel and giving inside perspective when all I could get was fluff on the corporate website. Cavin gives measured perspective and inside, behind the pit wall info as well. Everyone (P-dog, Meshbeer, Haiku Tuesday) brings something to the table or I don’t subscribe to thier RSS feed. Who are those people? I don’t know. I dropped ‘em and moved on. Some are heavy hitters but I can only read so much per week and I know what I need. One thing I WILL say – no mention of Kevin Lee? Ying to the yang? He is informed, easy on my ears and has energy (I don’t agree with everything he says either). I guess my point is (if you didn’t figure it out by now) it’s all good…or I don’t read/subscribe to the pod cast. So haters should hate and I do what I do.

  15. Not to slam Curt Cavin… but Gordon Kirby, John Oreovicz, & Jonathan Ingram shape my OW views much more than Curt does. Robin Miller is also on that list BTW.

  16. George,
    I was referring to the comments not the author. Also I noticed that my “I dropped ‘em” comment seamed to refer to the people mentioned rather than people that don’t bring something to the table. My bad english on my day off. No worries, I kinda like the way it came out anyway. (funny)
    I hope all of the above (and you) keep doing what your doing and even better (more beans) and I hope that readers/listeners will still have thier own opinion and the haters will still hate (I respect anyone with that kind of passion even if it’s for opera). And I will still do what I do…

  17. The mailbag concept is great because it’s a quick read with a variety of topics. Unless Miller does it. The questions he selects are novels. Rediculas. His answers are beyond short and provide little insight. His opinions are negative and redundant. He hates milka. He wants more American drivers. We get it. Buddy rice is a world class driver. That’s just funny. Miller seems to hate the sport and I just hate his work.

  18. As long as that tool Oreo isn’t on, then its OK with me.

    Oreo is a stereotypical, formula car road racing loving, oval/NASCAR hating snob. Wish he’d go the route of most of the other formula car road racing series he loves so much and go away.

  19. james t suel Says:

    I LIKE BOTH MEN. I TEND TO AGREE MORE WITH ROBIN MILLER, BUT ALSO ENJOY CURT. IVE BEEN AROUND OPEN WHEEL RACING FOR 50 YEARS, MAYBE THATS WHY I SEE THINGS MORE LIKE MILLER.

  20. Thesmartestguyintheroom Says:

    I tend to favor Curt Cavin because his reporting is more neutral and proper than Robin Miller’s.

    Robin Miller-like Gordon Kirby-is an agenda journalist. I especially get tired or “Miller’s Mailbag” which is the same “IndyCar is horrible, CART was wonderful, this driver needs to be in the series, that track needs to be in the series” mantra every week. It’s mostly a group of misanthropic malcontents who have found a syncophant in Robin Miller. That’s why I don’t really make much of an effort to read his work.

    • Every jouralist has an “agenda”, Miller’s Mailbag isn’t Robin Miller… its no bloody different than any local newspaper with a Letters to the Editor section :idea:

      You have made up your mind on Miller, so when he breaks a story like Tony George being forced out… you roll your eyes & consider it tabloid or RM delivering a recycled “agenda”. Facts now show he scooped his fellow OW scribes :!:

  21. After listening to the show on podcast, I have to admit–Miller is great on the radio. Agree with him or not, he’s very entertaining to listen to.

    • Agree… he was the best part of the show. If Trackside was offered in a video podcast then perhaps Plowman & Ms. Indiana would bump Robin Miller :)

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