Robin Is Usually Right

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There are many fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series that absolutely detest the mere mention of the name Robin Miller. But for each of them, there are just as many that think he is the only true voice of IndyCar fans. I may not consider Robin Miller as the sole spokesperson for the fans, but I come a lot closer to falling into the latter camp than the former.

Before the internet, I would subscribe to copies of The Indianapolis Star during the month of May. I did that because that’s what my father did when we were growing up. As a kid in the early seventies and as a childlike adult in the early nineties, I became very familiar with Robin Miller’s writing. I always found his columns enlightening and hilarious, both at the same time.

I didn’t attend the Indianapolis 500 from 1996 through 2002. Somewhere in that timeframe, I finally relented and bought a computer; when I finally decided that this internet thing wasn’t just a fad that would be going away soon. Even though I chose to stay away from what I felt was a diluted Indianapolis 500 during that time, I still followed the sport. Once I got a computer, I quickly found that the best way of keeping up was the plethora of online articles out there – and of course, IndyStar.com and Robin Miller. I loved his Q&A that would appear far less frequent than it does now. It was rife with humorous replies as well as candid comments on where he thought this sport was headed.

Then in January 2001, Miller was fired from The Star. The official explanation was that he violated several of The Star’s ethics policies. Miller contends that Tony George had him fired due to his very critical comments towards him and his fledgling Indy Racing League. Supposedly, the only way the Speedway would allow The Star access to the grounds was if they disassociated themselves from Miller. Whether there is any truth to that story is purely conjecture, but regardless – after a thirty-three year career at The Indianapolis Star, Robin Miller was suddenly gone.

After a three-year stint at ESPN, Miller resurfaced at SPEED and SPEEDTV.com; where he is today. His brashness has never waned.

When I returned to the Speedway in 2003, I was shocked to see a T-shirt that said “Robin Miller Sucks!”. How could that be? Doesn’t everyone appreciate his candor and humor like I do? Apparently not.

Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve met a lot of people associated with IndyCar on various levels and have become close friends with a few of them. Oddly enough, I think I am one of the few in my small circle of racing friends who actually likes Robin Miller. Mentioning his name to some will provide a cascade of unflattering adjectives and strong negative opinions. My question is: why?

Although I appreciate his unfiltered approach at being brutally honest, I understand and realize that his style might rub some people the wrong way. But is it just his method of delivery or is it his message that puts people off? Personally, in this day and age of political correctness gone awry and each talking head sounding just like the other one – I find his frankness refreshing. Robin Miller calls it like he sees it.

The thing that most of his critics tend to overlook is that Robin Miller is usually right. In June of 2009, Miller started writing that Tony George’s sisters were fed up with his uncontrolled spending of the family inheritance and that they were trying to have him ousted. Miller-haters decried that Miller must be desperate for a story to come up with something as far-fetched as that. We now know the outcome.

In 2010, Miller was one of a select few media members to get a firsthand look at the DeltaWing project. Although he signed a confidentiality agreement that prevented him from leaking any details, he warned us all that it was a revolutionary concept and it would be unlike anything any of us fans had seen. We now know the outcome.

Fast-forward to early June of this year. I was on my honeymoon when I first started reading Robin Miller’s claims that Tony George was working behind the scenes to align financial backers to try and take back control of the IZOD IndyCar Series he had founded; and have Randy Bernard removed in the process. Again, the doubters tweeted about how far Miller had fallen and how his hatred of Tony George had led him to the brink of delusion to come up with such a crazy scenario. We now know the outcome.

Whether or not you approve of the way he communicates or if you agree with his opinions – it seems like even his most fervent opponents would have to agree that most of the time; in fact, almost all of the time – Robin Miller is usually right. But for whatever reason, his detractors will instead point to his shortcomings as a human being or his caustic personality. I never got the idea that Robin Miller was trying to win a popularity contest among the fans. He is just very passionate about IndyCar racing and specifically, the Indianapolis 500. It is his life and he sees it as his responsibility to point out a lot of the things he sees wrong in this sport. And as much as I love this sport – there are a lot of things that are wrong with it.

With no disrespect to Curt Cavin, Marshall Pruett or Jenna Fryer; but you get the impression that covering the IndyCar series is a job to them. It’s a job they do very well, but it is something they’re good at and it provides a decent living. There is passion in their writing, but it is still their profession. You sense that they just might have other things going on in their lives away from the track. On the other hand, you get the idea that to Robin Miller – this is his life. He lives and breathes IndyCar and it’s entirely possible that he has no life outside of IndyCar. You sense that it is that important to him that this sport succeeds, that if he has to ruffle a few feathers to get his important message out there, so be it.

Robin Miller turned sixty-three years old last October. He has been professionally covering this sport since he was nineteen – and following it personally long before that. Donald Davidson may know more about what happened at the Speedway in 1915, but no one comes close to understanding the inner-workings of the various sanctioning bodies of the sport over the past half-century as much as Robin Miller.

Like him or loathe him; swear by him or swear at him – it’s time that all fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series finally gave the man his due. Robin is usually right.

George Phillips

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22 Responses to “Robin Is Usually Right”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Love the guy, its too bad there are some so called fans out there that for whatever reason are not interested in understanding whet is really going on withthis sport… Theres no fluff with RM, just the facts…

  2. I wish NASCAR had a Robin Miller instead of the softball team that covers the sport. Frontstretch.com is the closest they got yet I am not sure if they ever get to the track.

  3. “…he sees it as his responsibility to point out a lot of the things he sees wrong in this sport. And as much as I love this sport – there are a lot of things that are wrong with it.”

    One of the main problems with this sport is people like Robin Miller trying to continually tear it down and lame bloggers like you that latch on to Miller. Why can’t you be a little more positive? Your type sickens me.

    • Holy smokes. Is this your first time to this site, Carla?

    • What else sickens you? Christmas? Puppies? RM doesn’t tear down this sport and neither does George. Sticking your head in the sand and proclaiming “all is well” has been way too common and is the biggest threat to this sport.

      Have a Merry Christmas, Carla. Humbug!

  4. To me, Robin Miller is the greatest. He enhances any telecast. His writings are humorous and always prove to be factual. On air, the guy is fantastic. If people have a problem hearing the truth, well, that’s their problem. Right, Carla?

  5. Miller is well-informed, abrasive, funny, grumpy, passionate, profane, experienced, biased and blunt. I enjoy listening to him on the NBC Sports Network broadcasts and reading his Speed columns. I don’t always agree with him (and I don’t care much for his “Mailbag” contributors) but Indycar and open-wheel fans are lucky to have him.

  6. In the past, I’ve read Robin’s work expecting AP journalistic standards (because he had represented a newspaper and now a top-line television and web outlet) but been frequently disappointed because his work seems overtly biased and sensational to the point of distraction. I am married to a former journalist and have several close friends who are still fighting the good fight despite the brutal beating newspapers (and those who work for them) have taken in the last decade.

    As you’ve noted George, however, the marrow of his stories are rarely off-track so, in the last 24 months, I’ve decided to read him as I would most bloggers (taking everything with a grain of salt and only for what it is). With this change of viewing perspective, I’ve come to not be distracted by the dramatic and biased tone he delivers and actually appreciate and enjoy it.

    I also appreciate Cavin and Fryer and Pruett and others for their consistent and conscientious journalistic work which requires much more than a single ‘unnamed source close to the situation’ to produce a story.

    Sometimes a little shift in perspective is all it takes.

  7. Miller is simply the best.

    • Mike Miller Says:

      Many people did not attend the Indy 500 from 1996 on thanks to Robin Miller’s articles. The split was bad enough on it’s own, but Robin took aim at the Indy 500 as well and he was quite effective in educating causal fans who knew nothing of a ‘split’ that they should not go to that race. He was successful.
      If Robin Miller started talking smack about NASCAR on speed, like he does IndyCar, he’d be gone in a heartbeat. There’s no Robin Miller in NASCAR or reporting on NASCAR because the France family will not allow it, which is to say they’ve gone much further than revoking press credentials. They’ve squelched all critics.
      Robin Miller also got a computer and went online. And when he made comments about TG being a drug addict and Open wheel racing a Helicopter crash away from being saved, it really is no mystery why he was canned from the Star.
      AJ Foyt called Robin “poison”.

  8. I’ve had a “love” (personified by my declaration on my old blog that Robin should be “IRL Commissioner” back in 2006) / “hate” (personified by about 3 dozen snarky things I’ve said about Robin in the last 3 years, including when he flipped out about people writing negative things about IndyCar a few months ago…when he’d apparently forgotten the 30-40% of his work that is generally in that same vein) thing with Robin over the years.

    Like DZ said above, Robin clearly works to different journalistic standards than folks like Cavin and Fryer. Those two have to corroborate info with multiple sources, just like I was taught when I wrote for my high school newspaper. Robin can clearly get a whiff of something and run for the hills. To each their own in 2012, apparently. Each has its place. Robin usually gets it right, and I do generally enjoy reading his columns (though not his “Mailbag” entries) but my main problems with him are those times when he gets a detail or two of a story and runs it (the Kanaan/Ganassi deal that Robin apparently all but totally undid himself a few years ago leaps to mind) and his tendency to bang away at the same, old tired tropes again and again and again (the “we absolutely have to have USAC guys in IndyCar!” screaming not only makes little sense, but also probably contributed to Randy Bernard’s firing in that every penny Randy spent on the USAC scolarship was probably not recouped with a single extra sold ticket to the 500 or any other IndyCar race…and I could go on). And I’d probably be able to take Robin a lot easier if he’d stop running the same old “I wish it were 1976 again, because everything since then sucks!” rants in his Mailbag. We get it. Give it a rest. You don’t have to run EVERY e-mail you get, just to keep everybody happy.

    So, what I’m saying is that Robin’s great. Except when he’s not. Or maybe I’m saying that Robin sucks. Except when he doesn’t. Whatever.

    • I did forget to mention that Robin is excellent on TV, both in his uncensored info / insider takes on things and in that he’s a largely untapped mine of unintentional comedy. I struggle with what I find funnier, his Grid Runs, when he spends 75 of his 90 seconds running and the other 15 sputtering out one question each for 3 people, or when they show him in the pre-race in a wrinkled sweatshirt and blue jeans on a stool 6 inches shorter than the suit wearing booth guys next to him. Delightful. More, please. No, seriously, more, please.

  9. billytheskink Says:

    Miller is pretty much the only paid, major-media outlet columnist this sport has got. He’s a talking head who’s usually entertaining, probably right more often than not, and certainly much more fan than journalist.

    Agree with him? Great!
    Don’t agree with him? Great!

    His role is to keep the die-hard fans engaged in the sport, and it is a role he has filled quite well over the years.

  10. james t suel Says:

    Robin Miller is the the best at what he does! What he does is tell it like it is in racing.Robin is a racer, and we are richer for his being. when hes gone we are going to be hard pressed to fill his shoes!

  11. i dont islike robin but at times his rants against tony george get very old. is he right on some things yes . his attacks on brain barnhart are also old.. he and alot old cart think that it was the bastin of great racing.at indy and a couple races at cleveland. he blames tony as the one who split open wheel racing. lets go back and remeber how cart got started and all the talent they laughed at and wouldnt even give test to. here are a couple jeff gordon and alex gurney.. so when he and others look back and remeber the good ole boys club cart was all the indy racing fans/tony george ever asked was wake up and smell the coffee and look to the reasons nascars where its at and why open wheel racing is where its at.

  12. The most important thing to Robin Miller is Robin Miller. He is a personality in the INDYCAR business. Not a journalist.

  13. I know I’m a bit behind here but I’m just now catching up with my Indycar reading…I really enjoy reading Robin’s columns and enjoy his TV work even more. After reading George’s blog, I thought I would see if Robin had a Facebook page I could “Like”. I found the page but there was no “Like” option so I decided to send a friend request. I got a response I have never seen before – “Sorry, this user already has too many friend requests”. Imagine that – Robin Miller has too many people that want to be his friend. :)

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