A Fan’s Right To Comment

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This past Monday night was very interesting. I had not been home long when I received an e-mail from someone who took issue with the post I had on Monday regarding what I perceived as a lack of activity from Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles. Since the person chose to e-mail instead of commenting on the site, they obviously chose to remain private, so I will honor that privacy.

The e-mail was actually very well-written and thought-out and made some good points – some agreeing with my assessment of Miles and others totally defending him. The e-mail had a mostly civil tone, but near the beginning – it asked “What gives you the right to comment on someone else’s pressure-packed job performance?”

After I read through the e-mail, the person quickly settled down and I really didn’t think much about it. Until…

Another thing that made Monday night memorable was that the Titans hired a new coach. They surprised a lot of people across the country by hiring Ken Whisenhunt, when the general perception everywhere was that he was almost certainly headed to the Detroit Lions. Almost.

I had sort of settled in for the night when I went to the website of our local paper, The Tennessean, to read the article about Whisenhunt’s hiring. After reading the initial article, I noticed there were already twenty-three comments. I decided to check the comments to see if most were as excited as I was about the hiring.

The first comment I saw said “Who?” The second comment said “Way to go Titans. Picked up another loser. This team can’t do anything right. The third comment said “Never heard of him”.

The first thing that ran through my mind was that if these idiots were this ignorant, they had no right to comment. I am assuming if they sought out the article and felt the need to comment, then they must be football fans, right? Well, any football fan would know that Ken Whisenhunt led the lowly Arizona Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance after the 2008 season and narrowly lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23.

I certainly don’t expect my eighty-nine year-old mother to know who Whisenhunt is. My wife, Susan, had never heard of him either. But they don’t profess to be football fans, nor do they go to football related articles to comment in a public forum.

After I went to bed Monday night, I was thinking about the two incidents of the evening and mentally debated if there was any correlation. I had gotten outraged because someone had tossed out their opinion when it was clear that had no credibility and had no idea what they were talking about. Yet, a couple of hours earlier – I had wondered why someone could have gotten similarly outraged at my comments, when I perceived myself to be so right.

Obviously, in this country – everyone has the right to their opinion and to express it. But others have the right to argue and ridicule you if they don’t agree. The internet has given a voice to many that would otherwise never be heard. I put myself in that category. Whenever anyone takes to any public forum to spout their opinions, they open themselves up for criticism. I learned that a long time ago and have endured my share of arrows over the years. But I knew that came with the territory.

That’s why I appreciated the mostly civilized tone of the e-mail I received. I responded in a similar tone and we pretty much agreed to disagree. But the question kept ringing through my head…”What gives you the right…?” Well, other thn the US Constitution giving me that right, I admitted to myself that fans should have a responsibility to uphold before taking to the public forums of the internet. It’s called “investing time into the sport”.

These trolls who claim to be football fans undermined their own credibility by exposing their ignorance as to who Ken Whisenhunt was. The scary thing is that these may actually be season ticket holders. Having a wad of cash and attending a lot of games does not make you a true fan. Study the sport. Follow it. Learn it. Be a sponge and absorb everything about it. Invest time into it.

Not to brag (but I suppose I am), but I think I’ve invested a lot of time into the sport of IndyCar racing. I attended my first Indianapolis 500 almost fifty years ago. For decades, I have lived and breathed this sport. Before the days of the internet, I spent hours gazing over the few IndyCar magazines I could get my hands on. Each year, I memorized the latest program from that year’s Indianapolis 500.

One little nugget I’m not sure I’ve revealed here is that I submitted my resume to CART in early 1995, for no position in particular. Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call at home one night from Randy Dzierzawski, who was essentially CART CEO Andrew Craig’s right-hand man. I interviewed for a marketing position with CART at IMS the Saturday before the race. Needless to say, I did not get the job, but I was honored just the same.

Since 2009, I have been allowed a small peek behind the curtain through this blog. I know my place – I am not a journalist and don’t pretend to be one. I am a fan who utilizes this relatively new tool to talk about IndyCar, the things I love about it and some of the things that I disagree with. I think over the years, I’ve studied this sport and paid attention to the business side enough that I think I have a fairly well-formed opinion, even if it does not coincide with others.

So, unlike the Titans fans who had no clue who the losing coach was in the Super Bowl following the 2008 season; I think I have a pretty good grasp on IndyCar enough to give me the right to comment. Their not knowing who Ken Whisenhunt was, is like my not knowing who Vitor Meira was (he finished second in the 2008 Indianapolis 500 – similar to finishing second in that year’s Super Bowl). That also goes for readers of this site. I suppose I’m bragging again, but those that comment on this site seems to be some of the most civil and knowledgeable IndyCar fans out there.

So, please excuse my rant. The thought-provoking e-mail and the clueless comments from the Titans got my mind rolling down the same path on both subjects – fans comments. I guess this was a roundabout way of my justifying why I feel I have the right to comment on how underwhelming I find the Mark Miles era at IndyCar, while the Titans fans did not.

Regardless – We fans are getting frustrated. Mark Miles has been on the job for more than a year. The honeymoon is over. It’s time for him to show the fans that he’s got some ideas – any ideas. Show us some sort of plan and implement it. If it doesn’t work, try something else. But sitting inside the bunker does nothing but frustrate fans, while moss grows on you.

So there!

George Phillips

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15 Responses to “A Fan’s Right To Comment”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    I agree with your overall (Monday assessment) and I believe that Miles under the direction of what is left of the Hulman family are generally doing nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic… With all of their current race holdings in and out of IC and what is clearly an above average marketing and partnering team, I am hoping that Andretti Autosport group or the like will eventually purchase the IMS along with the entire IC league…

  2. Mike Silver Says:

    I agreed with your post on Monday. Public perception makes that column accurate. You have every right to state your opinion as does the reader who disagreed with you. The new ideas coming from 16th and Georgetown are not moving forward, they are treading water, basically what Bent Wickerbill said.

  3. Doug Gardner Says:

    You are correct in your assessment of Mark Miles and Hulman Co. This is the issue that will always derail Indycar. From a Indianapolis prospective. The vast majority don’t car about the series. Hulman Co. does not care about the series. They car about their cash cow and only it. The series to them is a necessary evil to propagate the Indy 500. Just hope they get a balance soon.

  4. I guess we have every right to express our opinions because, gee, I don’t know…it’s like the first amendment to the Constitution or something. (But if you want to drive yourself bonkers, read the “comments” to just about any article on anything in any newpaper or digital site. Except this one of course.)

    In reply to Bent, Michael Andretti is giving Penske and Ganassi a run for their money, not only on the track, but in terms of marketing his team and the series.

    And as for the Titans, it’s my opinion that they got a good coach. But as a Colts fan, I hope he’s not that good…

  5. We live in such a “politically correct” world that if you state something that goes against the prevailing culture you get clobbered. Best example is to go out to Yahoo comments on any article of a political or cultural nature. People diagree on a lot of things. If you are going to participate in things like these, you should be civil. If you call someone an idiot for their comment, you are not like likely to convince them otherwise. When someone makes it personal, I realize I’ve already won the debate.

    My opinion is the current management of Indycar has done virtually nothing right. Discussions of overseas racing is nuts. Its helping your neighbor while your own house is burning down. What they are doing to the month of May defies logic. Hurting the one strong thing they have – the Indy 500. For the first time since 1978 I am considering not going up on Pole Day. Did they ever confirm those proposed changes? Or was that another speaking out of turn?

  6. Articulate, well reasoned discourse is a disappearing species in this internet age. That’s what makes little havens like Oilpressure so nice. We can still be civilized, and express opinions with each other.

  7. Simon Garfunkel Says:

    Wow! There’s a name out of the past- Randy Dzierzawski. He may have been the biggest slimeball in CART in the 90’s. What a prick!

  8. billytheskink Says:

    My rule of thumb has always been, if you don’t know the difference between Gordon Johncock and Ronnie Johncox then do not act like you have an informed opinion about Indycar. If the topic is NASCAR, I like to substitute the delightfully rhyming names of Dick Trickle and Rich Bickle for the two above.
    This is not a hard-and-fast rule, really it is just another way of saying “Be informed before you criticize.” It will not stop the uninformed from having an opinion (nothing will), but it will let you know who is not worth paying attention to.

    And on the other hand, there are some Indycar fans who think you need to know the difference between Howdy Wilcox and Howdy Wilcox in order to have an opinion…

  9. Interesting. My philosophy has always been I’m free to comment, you’re free to comment, I’m free to think your comments are dumb or brilliant, or ignore them all together, and you’re free to do all of that too. It’s a Festival of Freedoms. As for “what gives you the right?” … If you invest time or money into a sport, that makes you sort of a figurative shareholder in said sport in my view, which gives you the “right” to comment. I don’t believe there’s any minimum duration of fanhood needed to have the “right” to comment. Sometimes the best ideas/comments come from very new fans. But it’s more a freedom to comment than a right to comment.

  10. About the only places I will leave a comment is on this site and that of a guy named Bill in Iowa. Almost anywhere else on any topic the comment section quickly becomes a descent into hell and you feel the need for a shower after reading some of the comments. In addition, even though I am retired I have a life offline.

    As for Mark Miles, without meaning to get George stirred up, I will simply say………WHO?

  11. Required reading … Robin Miller’s 15 January Mailbag.

    Initial article adds insight to the ‘silence’ that we agree is damaging INDYCAR.

  12. From your comments, it sounds to me like your emailer is taking you to task for criticizing someone’s performance in a difficult job. Which I feel is a ridiculous accusation. Having a difficult job does not make one immune to criticism, even from those who do not or cannot perform that job. Open a newspaper, read a news site, listen to the radio, watch TV, etc, and you’ll see someone criticizing athletes, businessmen, and politicians. And I’m pretty sure my boss wouldn’t accept “it was too hard” as an excuse for not completing an assignment.

    FWIW, I’ve been reading new stories about sports cars, NASCAR, and Formula 1 since the first of the year. All I’ve heard on the Indycar front was yesterday’s Andretti unveilings.

  13. Paul Wheeler Says:

    I think there is a combination of your poll answers is correct so I chose “other”. I am an IndyCar fan as time allows. I have commented on blog spots, but did some extra homework as a “gut check.” I recognize stupidity for what it is worth. George on the other hand has every right to say what he feels is correct.

  14. Mark Miles is far from doing nothing as evidenced by the additional may race.

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