Realism Or Negativity?

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This post does have a definite racing connection, so please bear with me. Last Saturday night, I was watching as my Tennessee Vols were being completely dismantled by Missouri, by a score of 31-3. In the middle of the second quarter, I took to Twitter out of frustration. My tweets automatically go to my Facebook page. I don’t really do Facebook. If it doesn’t come from Twitter, I don’t post. My frustration tweet said “Vols laying an egg so far against Mizzou. 17-0 2nd qtr.”

A friend of mine from college saw the same relatively harmless post on Facebook and took me to task. He called me a fair-weather fan and said “Your pessimism is counter-productive and serves no purpose. We need to support the troops and Butch (Jones) and quit whining. If you keep whining, you can’t celebrate when Butch turns it around.” Does my friend think the Vols didn’t lay an egg? Their performance was horrid, regardless of the difference in talent. They completely mailed that game in.

I don’t really consider myself to be a negative fan. Instead, I consider myself a realist. I wouldn’t even go so far as to use the tired old phrase from the seventies to “call ‘em as I see ‘em”. But I certainly don’t think I stand on the rooftops and cheer “all is well”, whether it be Tennessee football or the IndyCar Series. If I were unlucky enough to have attended the Tennessee-Missouri game, I would not have booed the orange-clad players – but I probably would have complained to anyone sitting around me.

I am not above booing players – pro-players, that is. The pros are grown men being paid handsomely partially by those of us in attendance. They have earned the right to be booed. I think if you buy a ticket to an NFL game, you have the right to boo poor performance – so long as you’re not being overly obnoxious about it. I think that college players are different. Their psyche is still under development. Many are still eighteen and nineteen year-old kids. I will agree that booing a college team at the field is counter-productive.

But to give a general criticism of their performance that night from my couch through social media is fair game, in my opinion. Besides, who is going to see it other than those that follow me. They already know how cynical I can be. So did my college friend, which is one reason his response surprised me so.

It did make me wonder, however – when does being a realist cross the line from realism to negativity?

For years, I have decried the venom that is spewed over at Track Forum. If my college friend (who cannot tell the difference between a stock car and an IndyCar) wants to see what real negativity sounds like – he should go spend an hour surfing through all the bilge at that sight. He would come away thinking my innocent comment about laying an egg was downright giddiness.

Sometimes, it’s tough to be an IndyCar fan. Although the product on the track is very exciting and entertaining, the governing body can do things that will test the will of the most ardent fans out there. We all get very frustrated at some of the things they do and don’t do. Now that the offseason is here, there are no races to diffuse some of the negative energy lurking out there. With TV ratings in the toilet, no new venues on next year’s schedule, aero-kits being dangled before us for years and a revolving door at the top – everyone has a pet-peeve to grumble about. I try to remain positive, but sometimes it’s very difficult to do so.

I have had my share of rants on this site. I had one just last week revisiting the firing of Randy Bernard. I’ve gone off on the current IndyCar administration as well as the Tony George regime. I try to stay away from the subject of “the split”. You talk about something that serves no purpose? Fire up a discussion on the split. It’s mind boggling how quickly a conversation can disintegrate, when that unpleasant subject is brought up. I’ve also complained about some various announcers, so I certainly wouldn’t say I’ve been all warm and fuzzy over here.

But let’s be honest – there are some IndyCar fans that seem to love to complain. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the only reason they follow it is so they can complain about something. It seems to be what makes them tick. These are the “Legions of the Miserable” that I’ve referred to over the years. They offer no solutions, they just complain about anything and everything that is related to IndyCar. I wonder if they think if they show disapproval of the sport we care about, that it somehow makes them look more intelligent than those of us who loyally come back year after year. I compare them to those kids in high school that always considered themselves way too cool to support the school football team. I see the same thing as an adult. When the Titans moved here in Nashville, there were some fans that took an immediate dislike to them – simply because it made them look more independent than to fall in line and cheer for the local team, just because they happen to play in the city we reside in.

So where is the line drawn? When does questioning the status quo or challenging certain policies become whining and overly negative? If you don’t look at things through rose-colored glasses, are you contributing to the problems that plague IndyCar? I suppose the line is a lot thinner than I thought.

So if I have offended any IndyCar fans with my negativity, I apologize. Because whenever the powers-that-be do turn things around – I want to be able to celebrate. Seriously, though – unlike my college buddy, I think we can all discuss different viewpoints without being labeled as “Legions of the Miserable”. At least, I hope so.

George Phillips

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20 Responses to “Realism Or Negativity?”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Not that it makes any difference what I think, but here goes. We all spend far to much time thinking about, analyzing and dwelling on sports, especially football… Think about the amount of time, money and energy wasted on football alone… Meanwhile, we are only enriching team owners, players, schools and corporate sponsors.
    It’s a game played by alledged adults who in most cases are nothing more than over indulged, overgrown, overpaid children who act more like they just discovered a cure for cancer when they score a touchdown.
    It sounds like your buddy has far too much time on his hands and has seriously misplaced his priorities, while you George have placed far too much importance on one insignificant persons opinion. Maybe we should all go outside and throw the football around, go to the beach, go for a swim, go fishing, take a bike ride. We have become a nation of vicarious spectators who place far too much importance on the success or failure of people playing a game. IMHO …

  2. *Cough* Robin Miller *Cough*
    ;-)

  3. Indycar fans see a sport that has so much history, excitement and potential that it sort of drives us nuts when it doesn’t do well on the national stage. So we all have our own ideas about how to fix it and they’re all very different.

  4. Yes, the “Legions of the Miserable” are infuriating for all the reasons you mention, George, but what about the “Sunshine Squad?” That’s NOT fans who are always looking on the bright side. Good for those people. Rather the Sunshine Squad is the group that attacks anyone who dares to offer a criticism of IndyCar. They are just as infuriating as the Legions of the Miserable. Their messages are “love it or leave it” and “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Lately I and many others have taken their advice on both fronts. So while they advocate relentless positivity as a means to help IndyCar, their intolerance of criticism actually drives people from caring about the sport. It’s just not worth the hassle and angst to offer even constructive criticism any more, because you’ll be condemned as a hater or member of the Legion of the Miserable. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference, and the Sunshine Squad drives people to indifference and indifference, not hate, is what’s killing IndyCar.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I would agree that the “love it or leave it” crowd is just as bad as the “legions of the miserable”. I’m not sure they are as numerous or as much of a problem, but they are certainly just as vicious towards those who don’t cotton to their opinion.

      Frankly, I don’t find one group any harder to ignore than the other.

  5. Indycar is a little different from other sports. It would be as if Baseball was only fielding teams in 10 cities instead of 16 one year, and only 9 the next but in only 5 of the original cities. Rules were constantly changing (kind of like the NFL now that I think about it). Certain rules apply at 70% of the venues and are completely different in the other 30%.

    In Cincinnati, many of us have been pretty frustrated by how Mike Brown runs the Bengals though the years. But the structure of the sport is in place and we worry about how to build a winning team in Cincinnati. The structure is not in place in Indy car, and is constantly changing, and that causes a whole new level of frustration.

    I do get frustrated with those who say you should not complain. I thought the company man was thing of the past. CART went bankrupt twice. Do we want Indycar to do the same?

    Your comment about laying an egg was not even a complaint, just a reflection of what happened. Sometime the truth hurts I suppose.

  6. A “fair weather fan” only watches a winning team. A “fair weather fan” will jump on and off the bandwagon.

    You aren’t that. You will sit through an ass-kicking because that’s your team and even though you grumble about it, you’re still a fan.

    Did your buddy ever graduate?

  7. Bent Wickerbill nailed it right from the get go. To see an entire column based on a tweet can only signify the beginning of a long off season. A very, very long off season:(

  8. Steve Jarzombek Says:

    Yeah, I don’t get how not discussing things helps or that complaining is endemic and/or particularly bad within Indycar’s diehard fan base. It’s no different than typical sports radio talk shows when callers say team management were idiots for trading so-and-so…or that was an awful call on 3rd and 8…etc, etc, etc.

    To be perfectly frank, the big difference to me is that Indycar fans perceived to be negative most often are directing their displeasure at the management…not the “players” themselves…because they believe that series management is bringing the entire sport down. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that NFL/MLB/NBA/NHL endure that same sort of ongoing criticism…outside of extended strikes, perhaps?

    Does anybody really think that huge numbers of potential fans engage in any in-depth analysis of fan opinion on Trackforum or twitter before concluding that just maybe Indycar is not likely to be their cup of tea? I just shake my head when I see suggestions of that.

  9. Constructive or fan criticism is one thing but the vitriol that encompasses any indycar discussion is another. Much of the negativity has been so over the top, so knee-jerk, and so pervasive that some fans may be fed up and motivated to provide some balance to the detrimental posts that appear under most blog/website articles. Talk about a public relations nightmare that IMS and indycar has had to deal with year after year. Casual fans are turned off, just like many hardcore fans are, by the indycar bashing. Indycar has been encumbered for years by a concerted effort to drown out anything positive and IMS missed the boat on getting a public relations juggernaut going in social media and online to counteract that negativity.

  10. billytheskink Says:

    I had to cringe a little bit when you called yourself a “realist”, George.

    At its strict definition, “realist” is a good term to describe your views on Indycar. Your criticism is generally constructive, you are far more concerned with the health of the sport than with being “right”, and you are willing to point out Indycar’s positives on the occasion that they do pop up. That is a big reason why I’m such an avid reader of and commenter on Oilpressure.

    Unfortunately, I have seen far too many constantly and unabashedly negative people wrap themselves as “realists” to deflect those who would call them out on their negativity. It is hard for me to disassociate such people with the term, apparently so hard that I felt the need to comment on it.

    Apologies for the mini-rant, beat Auburn.

  11. Ask John Cooper what a negative fan base does to recruiting. Charles Woodson is just an example of one star player from Ohio who did not go to Ohio State because he believed the venom from the small minority and assumed Coop would be fired. So he went elsewhere. I guess we learned Ohio State should never hire a coach with a southern accent who does hit tub commercials is a bad idea.

    Saying your team is laying an egg when they are doing just that is not negative. Calling for Butch Jones job year one and trashing his incoming top ten recruiting class would be negative. There are better days ahead for the Vols. George, you ARE allowed to enjoy them.

  12. Chris Lukens Says:

    This column, and the responses, needs to be pinned or flagged or something so that it does not disappear off the bottom of the page. This is going to be a long off-season and I’m sure this subject will come up again.
    But, I really have to disagree that fans that are disappointed in the current direction of Indycar offer no solutions. We DO offer solutions, but Indycar management disregards them out of hand.
    If we disagree we are called xenophobic, know-nothings, phony fans or haters.
    Indycar IS on hard times. The lower level players, the drivers, the team engineers, mechanics, track personnel, and yes, the fans, are peddling as fast as they can, however the Management is laying an egg.
    I think what bothers me most is the idea, repeated among the Ra-RA-Choirboys, that the “powers that be,” (who ran CART into the ground, Champcar into the ground, OWRS into the ground, and are now using the same philosophy on Indycar ) know what they are doing and everything will be unicorns and sparkle ponies if we just wait long enough for the fans to wake up and see how wonderful their ideas really are.

  13. Giu Canbera Says:

    Im very happy with the current Indycar product and I’d HATE TO SEE the Old CART days back! BUT, I dont think the product is good enough to attract that so badly needed new young fan base to make the series grown again.
    At least the Global RallyCross series is trying to bring those kids into racing again… with jumps, rockstars, drift, sideways, dirt, stadium tracks…. Lets hope for them to catch those kids into racing cars and then show them that we are FAST! hehe Go IndyCar!

  14. The Lapper Says:

    If you want real bitching then check out Trackforum sometime. There are some there who can’t be happy.

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