Does The IRL Care What Fans Think?
During the early days of the IRL, Robin Miller often referred to those blindly towing the IRL company line as “drinking the Kool-Aid”. I used this term last week with a friend of mine and he had no idea what I meant. I’ll provide a history lesson for those that don’t know. This term is in reference to the 1978 mass-suicide by the followers of the Rev. Jim Jones at Jonestown, Guyana. Rev Jones used his incredible powers of persuasion, to convince his followers to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid to send some strange sign to the rest of the world.
Obviously, Miller’s reference inferred that anyone who spoke of the Jack Miller days of the IRL in glowing terms was obviously brainwashed and was guilty of drinking the IRL Kool-Aid. As the IndyCar Series dramatically improved in the earlier part of this decade, such self-promotion was no longer necessary. This past weekend however, it seemed like the Kool-Aid was flowing freely.
I’ve been under the weather and still disappointed after Saturday’s Texas race, so excuse the rant. I was watching the Friday afternoon practice via the internet with the audio provided by the IMS Radio Network. Play-by-play host Mike King and analyst Mark Jaynes were fielding e-mail questions from viewers. A viewer wrote in asking the same question that has been asked here as well as other sites. The question was “When will the IndyCar Series allow more than one chassis manufacturer to compete?”
In the style of Baghdad Bob, they both dismissed the question and its writer as simply not understanding racing. Mike King actually said (paraphrasing) “Anyone who thinks that multiple chassis manufacturers are going to be good for the IndyCar Series, well…you just don’t have a clear understanding of racing.” Mark Jaynes went further, adding, “…The days when some people came and dominated the field are over. Every time a driver is in their pit stall, they look ahead and look behind them…they see that every driver has what they have and they know that they have as good a chance as anyone to win the race.”
Does Mr. Jaynes not realize that after six races, every race has been won by only two teams? I’ve made my case before about innovation, engineering and competition. But to say that this product they are putting on the track right now is the best it’s ever been, is ludicrous. Give the fans some credit for having some intelligence. What troubles me is the arrogance and contempt that these two show the fans of the series. Last week, I mentioned a similar gaffe by Mike King essentially berating a viewer regarding a potential race in Cleveland next year. It may or may not happen but King went off on what a ridiculous idea that was.
This sounded like two delusional old men that couldn’t bring themselves to say that things were better only four years ago. Has Tony George censored them to the point where they are to do nothing but spread propaganda? Are they not allowed to be objective at all? I have no problem with them sounding a different opinion than mine; but for a series that is basically starving for fans, belittling the few you’ve got is not such a good idea…especially when they are encouraged to ask questions.
On a lesser scale, I felt somewhat insulted Saturday night as Bob Jenkins kept reminding us how entertaining this was with the tremendous amount of passing we were witnessing. Keep in mind we would hear this, as a single car would approach another and fall back a few times, while the rest of the field would continue in single-file. This might be entertaining for Long Beach but not Texas Motor Speedway. Did Jenkins think that our memory had been removed and we would have no recollection of how Texas used to be as recently as 2005? Excuse me Bob, but I think I know good racing when I see it and this wasn’t it. Please note that I really like Bob Jenkins. I think he is one of the top three motorsports announcers out there. I just felt like he was following a script prepared by a league official.
I saw a website Sunday that blasted those of us that complained about the poor racing Saturday night. This site took the approach that the doom and gloom people should just go follow another series, and the IRL will be just as well off. This frame of mind is wrong and is a head-in-the-sand approach. The IRL needs to acknowledge there is a problem with their races and do something quickly to solve the problem. With most of the races on a niche network, they have to give the casual fan a reason to seek them out. I don’t care for ESPN’s coverage but most sports bars are already tuned to ESPN…not Versus.
There seems to be a very large disconnect between the league and its fans. The select few decision makers sit at 16th and Georgetown and decide what they want, with no apparent regard for the fans. The Kool-Aid has blurred their vision. When fans dare express an opinion different from the league, they are essentially told to run along…that the league knows better. This is Tony George’s league and he can do with it what he wants. But here’s a hint to anyone with the IRL that will listen…Not only will you not gain any new fans with this single file battle between two teams, but with the current mindset — the hardest-core fans like myself will eventually find other things to do than watch a race, much less attend one in person.