The Irresponsible Firing Of Randy Bernard
This was a weekend to forget. It ended as it started, with Randy Bernard being the main storyline; first on Friday afternoon and then again on Sunday night. In between, I got to endure a Friday night power failure, I saw my Vols go down to defeat (again) and I was dragged to my first Halloween party in eighteen years on Saturday night. Then on Sunday, I was present at probably the worst officiated game I’ve ever seen, as my Titans lost in overtime to the Colts and Andrew Luck (who really impressed me). While still licking my wounds on the way home from the Titans game – Susan saw on Twitter that Randy Bernard had been fired. That topped off the weekend.
There’s not a whole lot more I can say that hasn’t been said on other blogs or on Twitter, but you know I’ll try. I put out a few thoughts on my Twitter account (@Oilpressureblog) last night, so here goes…
First off, in case you were under a rock for the past few days – the Indianapolis Business Journal sent out a tweet on Friday afternoon that threw gasoline on a smoldering fire, when they announced that the INDYCAR CEO had been fired. This came just one day after Autosport had reported that an IndyCar race in Italy was a done deal. They had quotes from the Italian promoter, but nothing from IndyCar. Curt Cavin made calls to IndyCar and they said that no such announcement had been made or was forthcoming. As it turns out, the deal is either close to being done or the Italian promoter used the normally reliable Autosport as a means to try and push the deal through. Either way, Autosport ended up with egg on its face.
Some twenty-four hours later, it was The IBJ’s turn. They reported Bernard’s departure as a done deal. Jenna Fryer, of The Associated Press, contacted Randy Bernard personally. He told her if he was fired, no one had told him. Again, Curt Cavin contacted INDYCAR and he was told there was no change in Bernard’s employment status. What in the name of Edward R. Murrow is going on here? These aren’t basement bloggers trying to gain attention with some type of scoop – these are (or should say “were”) respected journalistic organizations.
Say what you will about mainstream newspapers going the way of the dinosaur. Their days are probably numbered, much to their own fault – but they still do their best to get a story right, even if they don’t get it out there first. When the IBJ story first broke, I immediately went to IndyStar.com to see what they had to say. I saw nothing. My immediate thought was that they sure were slow to the story. As it turned out, they correctly followed protocol – which is becoming a rare thing these days.
I’ve said many times that I am no journalist, I am a fan. Being a blogger has granted me media access at races, where I have met a lot of people that are considered “insiders” of this sport. I’ve actually developed some close relationships over the years with some of them – some so close that when we talk, we often discuss other things besides racing. Over time, I’ve been told a lot of things in confidence that were “off the record”. Many of these items came to pass as newsworthy items, while others turned out to be rumors. Although it was tempting to pass these things along on this site, I didn’t. First of all, I didn’t want to betray the trust of the person who had passed information along to me. Secondly, if certain things turned out to be false – I was going to look pretty foolish and destroy whatever small amount of credibility I have.
It’s a shame that some of these professional journalists cannot exhibit the same restraint. Getting it right seems to have become secondary to getting it out there quickly. Now that the IBJ story has turned out to be true, the IBJ will be puffing their chest because they had it first – regardless that they jumped the gun and reported him already fired. It’s irresponsible journalism, running amok.
Now, was I naïve enough to think that there was nothing to this latest burial of Randy Bernard? Of course not. I suspect that someone within the inner-circle of INDYCAR had the ear of The IBJ. I also suspect that this someone knew exactly what they were doing, by continually allowing information to leak. I suspect that this person hated Randy Bernard so much that they were getting a cheap thrill from watching this water torture of information slowly coming out to cause an agonizing slow death to Randy Bernard’s tenure. I further suspect that I know who this person is, but I can’t be sure. To carelessly throw his or her name out there without being sure is something The IBJ might do.
But on Sunday night, Randy Bernard’s time at IndyCar came to a swift and merciful end, and I can’t figure it out. We fans are owed an explanation. If he was found to be stealing money or trying to do business behind the board’s back, that would be different. But apparently, it’s nothing like that. He just ruffled the wrong feathers somewhere along the way and has paid the price.
As irresponsible as The IBJ acted in jumping the gun – the Board of Directors at Hulman and Company made them look downright prudent. Never before have I witnessed a more classless way of doing business than what transpired over the last couple of weeks. These weren’t the actions of savvy businesspeople. This didn’t resemble a responsible board – it had more of the earmarks of a poorly-run, small-town homeowners association and the pettiness and backstabbing of a local PTA. The way they allowed Randy Bernard to twist in the wind with pathetic non-supportive press releases is downright criminal. The word “irresponsible” keeps running through my head as I type.
Do the wants and needs of a petty few trump everything that this man has done? He worked tirelessly over the past three seasons to lay some type of a foundation that had been eroded away by the previous regime. He brought in new blood to help run this sport. With few exceptions, he greatly improved the caliber of leadership at IndyCar. Randy Bernard tried new things – not all worked, but give him an A for trying something other than methods from the past that had grown very stale.
Most of all, Randy Bernard brought the series back to the fans. That will be his greatest legacy – he made fans feel like we mattered. Not only did he encourage bloggers, he actually read the blogs himself. He interacted with fans on Twitter and Facebook, sometimes to his detriment – and he actually made sure that fans had his e-mail address. When I sat down to interview him in April of 2011, he made sure I had his cell phone number to call him anytime I wished. Did I ever take him up on it? No, but he wanted me to have it. That’s how much he valued us fans.
My fear is that with Randy Bernard on the way out, things will go back to the Iron Curtain days of IndyCar – when fans were considered nothing more than a necessary evil. The previous regime seemed to take the stance that this would be a great series if we didn’t have to deal with all of these fans around here.
I think the IMS board has greatly underestimated Randy Bernard’s popularity with the fans. Yes, his accessibility was a boost to his popularity – but if the board thinks that’s why we appreciated him, they are sadly mistaken. It is the fresh approach he took trying to revive a series that leadership at 16th and Georgetown seemed to think was just fine. I’m a traditionalist that hates change. If I thought changes needed to be made – believe me, they needed to be made.
But the board will hire some local crony to come in and re-establish the status quo. That’s assuming that they don’t sell the series to Tony George and his group. It’s obvious that what the fans want doesn’t matter to this group. They never seem to get it that without those pesky fans, there would be no series. If the IMS board continues shooting themselves in the foot, they may not have many fans left to worry about.