It’s Actually Easy To Be An IndyCar Fan

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Many times, it’s common to hear fans complain that it’s hard to be a fan of the Verizon IndyCar Series. Granted, the powers-that-be often fail to give us hope that they have much of a clue as to what is really going on. But compared to my other passion, football – it’s really very easy to be an IndyCar fan.

Without getting any further into the Ray Rice/Adrian Peterson-type scenarios, let’s just focus on the two sports themselves. As a football fan, you are either a winner or a loser each week. Either your team is victorious and you beam with pride all week as if you had something to do with the victory, or else you hide your head in shame as you suffer along with the team you support. There is no middle ground. You either leave the venue (or couch) happy or disgusted.

Lately, my football experiences have been more of the latter. As a fan of the Tennessee Vols and Tennessee Titans; it has been more famine than feast. The Vols are currently 3-4, but 0-4 in the Southeastern Conference. Included in those losses is a loss at home to a hapless Florida team. The three wins are over creampuffs. Saturday night saw my Vols hold their own against Ole Miss for the first twenty-five minutes, only to give up thirty-four points in the final thirty-five minutes to get trounced 34-3.

The Titans are even worse. They sleepwalked their way through a very uninspiring 19-17 loss to a terrible Redskins team that was only 1-5 heading into yesterday’s game.

For the past several years it’s been tough to be a football fan in the Volunteer State. The Vols and Titans combined, have been through seven head coaches since 2008 – and there is no sign that either team is headed out of the wilderness.

There are no moral victories in football – none. It’s win or lose. Nothing else matters. When your teams lose most of the time, it’s demoralizing.

It’s a lot easier being an IndyCar fan. In motorsports, drivers will tell you that finishing second is the first loser, but I disagree. You can’t tell me that Juan Montoya really thinks he had a bad season because he finished fourth in the championship in his first season in any type of open-wheel cars in nearly a decade.

In racing, we all have our drivers and we set different goals for them headed into each race. I am a fan of Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves. Those are the two I want to see battling for the lead each week. Whichever one wins, is fine by me. But I also have drivers that I really like, but I realize they currently really have no shot of regularly winning races week-in and week-out under normal circumstances. Those would be Jack Hawksworth, Mikhail Aleshin and Pippa Mann. I’m not saying those drivers can’t win in this series, but given their current circumstances it would not be expected. If they just have a top-ten showing, I’m just as glad as if Tony Kanaan had won.

There are some drivers who are on the cusp of winning their first race, but have not closed the deal. Put Nashville native Josef Newgarden in that category.

Then there are those who haven’t won lately, but I would be happy to see any of them back in victory lane. Those would include James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, Ryan Briscoe and Justin Wilson.

There are very few drivers that I actually root against on a regular basis. I’ve never been a huge fan of Sébastien Bourdais, but I was very happy for him when he won in Toronto this past season. I’m not a huge fan of Marco Andretti or Graham Rahal, but I’ll cheer the next time either of them win.

I remember my first race back at the Indianapolis 500 as an adult after a twenty-year absence. The year was 1992 and the grid was lined up in front of us on that frigid morning. When Mary Fendrich Hulman gave the command to start engines, thirty-two of them fired. The car of John Paul, Jr. did not. As the field pulled away, his car sat silent. With no other cars in sight, the Buick V-6 finally came to life. As his car quickly pulled away, everyone along the front straightaway cheered loudly. Did that mean that everyone there was pulling for John Paul, Jr. to win the race? No, but he was a decided underdog and everyone wanted to see him get his shot.

For those that were in the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium yesterday to watch the Colts shutout the Bengals – did anyone think that the Bengals should at least be given a chance to score? Of course, not. Why? Because that’s the nature of football, that’s why. As much as I like football, it brings out the worst in us.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve mellowed some while watching football. Perhaps my time with Susan has had that influence on me. Prior to that however, as a student at Tennessee and even as a young adult – the stories of my displays after a loss are legendary. Although my driver does not always win, I’ve never witnessed a race that ruined my day like a football game does. On the flip side however, I’ve been much more elated after my driver has won than I ever have been after a big football win. (i.e. Tony Kanaan winning the 2013 Indianapolis 500).

As I’ve (slightly) matured, I’ve learned not to allow whatever a bunch of nineteen year-old kids or some overpaid prima donnas do or don’t do – to ruin my weekend. Life’s too short. Five minutes after the Titans choked away the game yesterday, I had moved on to other activities. I’ve not yet reached the point where I’ll miss watching a Vols or Titans game on television, but I no longer let what happens bother me. It’s a good thing, because they both lose a lot.

Instead, I’ve learned to enjoy watching racing – whether it’s in-person or on television. I’m just as invested in it as football, but I have a lot more opportunities to come away feeling satisfied. To me, the at-the-track experience is much better than going to a college or NFL game. The fans are friendlier, the participants are friendlier and the venues actually seem happy you came.

So, yes – I will be right there in the middle of people griping about various decisions and inactions of the governing body of IndyCar. But as far as what I watch on weekends, it’s a lot easier to be an IndyCar fan.

George Phillips

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16 Responses to “It’s Actually Easy To Be An IndyCar Fan”

  1. Easier? Yes. As passionate about IndyCar as football? Not really. I no longer have any qualms about using the DVR on an IndyCar (or NASCAR) race, something I would NEVER do, for a football game, even one that did not involve the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, or Purdue Boilermakers.

  2. Is it “easy”? No, even though I share George’s view that nearly every driver is likable, those boneheaded decisions by the powers-that-be over the past 20 years can’t be ignored. Is it “easier” than being a fan of other major stick-and-ball sports? Oh hell yes…because I don’t pay attention to any of the others now. Pro sports are a bunch of ridiculously overpaid crybabies (team owners being even worse than the players) and the NBA is full of thugs. The lack of true “student athletes” in most college sports has me completely turned off now. I went to a tailgater last weekend that my roommate at Purdue put on before the MSU game, and when everybody else headed to the stadium, I headed to my car.

  3. I used to live or die with the NFL and MLB. A big loss for the Bengals or Reds would ruin my day. Until it finally hit me that the professional players, getting paid to play, didn’t care as much about them winning as I did. That and others things led to me following them 1% of the time I used to and I know longer waste my Sundays watching football.

    I have been an Indycar fan since I was 10 and became a Nascar fan when the Brickyard 400 first came to Indianapolis and I was given first shot at tickets as an Indy 500 season ticket holder. The nice thing about racing is I don’t live or die with the result. I can actually enjoy it more. Now I do have drivers I strongly dislike and would rather see not win. But I have a lot of drivers I do like.

    Seeing Lousy Keselowski win at Talladega was a disappointment as I never support a Penski driver. That is even though I like some of the Penski drivers in Indycar (I can’t say that for Nascar). But I don’t live or die based on the result.

    Part of it is just getting older and realizing that, compared to everything going on in the world, professional sports is really not that important. I can just relax, take in the race, and hope my drivers finish first.

    What does make being an Indy Car fan hard is the terrible management of the series the last few years. They do seem to be 100% wrong in most of their decisions.

  4. I wouldn’t say I’m more passionate about motorports or about team sports. I’m passionate in a different way in those sports. Probably nothing in motorports can beat the feeling of my favourite hockey or soccer team winning a championship but as a sport, I’m more passionate about motorsports. I watch motorsports more because of the racing and not so much because of the competitors. On the other hand, I watch teams sports because of my favourite team.

    What’s easy in motorsports is you get to know about most of the drivers whereas in team sports there are so many players that it’s way harder to get to know all of them.

  5. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    Interesting points all. Personally, I’m similar in that I tend to compartmentalize whatever sport I’m watching. I played as many sports as I could as a kid and appreciate them differently for what they are, and only spending time with the ones I appreciate most.

    I also share your distaste for sports that tend to bring out the worst in us. Indycar was getting that way for me frankly and, while I still have serious misgivings about the direction of the series, I’ve come to realize there is truly precious little time for each of us and I’ve taken time to re-evaluate of what is true importance in my life. Futile and naive attempts to affect positive change in Indycar was not one of them.

    As my wife will attest, I’ve never spent less time watching/attending sporting events in my adult life than I do now. Sports, on a good day, can be a lovely distraction from the hum-drum of daily life, but daily life IS the true game. I’m working more at being an active player in that game and watching it less. For me that sentiment has its roots in Indycar, specifically following the loss of Dan Wheldon among others.

  6. I don’t think I could express my viewpoint on this subject this morning better than DZ-groundedeffects did above, particularly his last paragraph. After 20+ years of being on the waiting list for Packer season tickets I am among the 70,000plus fans still waiting. So I am pretty much reduced to watching the games on TV. However, if my children or grandchildren asked me to step away from the TV to play a little backyard football with them, I am reachin’ for the ol’ pigskin.

  7. Sounds like you have different standards for enjoyment for racing and football, and find one (racing standard) easier to live with than the other. Adapt your racing standard to football (a running back has a 150-yard game, feel good for him even in a loss, etc.) and maybe you’ll enjoy football more. I agree with many of the thoughts above, including that I’ve found pulling back from sports has actually made them more enjoyable and that pro and major college sports are awash in cash, and increasingly about cash, which taints them both for me. It’s been ages since I watched an entire NFL game start to finish, for example. I’ll watch 15 minutes of NBA or major league baseball and marvel at the athletic ability, then move on to other entertainment. And I no longer feel that if I don’t watch every lap of every IndyCar race (or, gasp, skip some entirely) and proselytize as to the holiness thereof that I’m taking a pee on God and Country. I watched much of the NASCAR race yesterday, got a thrill out of Danica leading late, jeered when Keselowski won, but was on to other stuff within a few hours of the checkered. As others have said so well, life it too short to get all bunch up about any sporting event.

  8. I voted other because the races are not easy to find if you want to watch them from Germany where I live.

  9. billytheskink Says:

    Being an Indycar fan these days is almost like being a fan of two different yet symbiotic sports, the on-track racing and the off-track business/politics.

    Personal opinions will vary, of course, but I would generally agree that being an Indycar fan is easy, in regards to the on track sport. The drivers that you root for, or drivers that you generally like, will typically give you something to cheer about several times over the course of a season.

    As for being a fan of Indycar’s off-track sport, however, I think anyone who reads this site knows how easy and fun that is. Not easy, for any first time readers.

    Being a Graham Rahal fan… that is an exercise in sports-longsuffering nearly on par with rooting for the Cleveland Browns.

  10. I realize I am in the minority but if a choice has to be made I will be watching racing. Each weekend, as I flip channels looking for something to watch instead of just the Colts, I curse the IndyCar season ending so early. I am a fan because it is so dang easy to cheer for the drivers and because shiny things going really fast makes me smile.

    • “Shiny things going really fast” Well put Jim. I would only add………shiny, loud things going really fast.

  11. Sports are all about expectations and I always believe in moral victories:

    Expectations at a race are to have a good time and be entertained. That is a low standard–which is good. I love Motorsports because I am a happy person even when the drivers I root against win. Only officiating (or a tragedy) can ruin a race.

    Expectations for the Ohio State Buckeyes are to not only win every game, but to win by several touchdowns. God forbid we lose. Perhaps I am mellowing as well. “The loss of 2014,” I was able to keep my miserablness inside. I went out of my way to congratulate every VaTech fan I could on my way out of the ‘Shoe this year. After all, VaTech will not win a bigger game the next two decades.

    Expectations for the Cleveland Browns? There are none that are positive. The standard is so low that any win is a nice surprise. A loss? No worries, how is my fantasy team doing?

  12. Doug gardner Says:

    Easier I guess. Much easier if you exclude our Colts here in Indy. They are a bunch of good guys. Owner a little off kilter but who is a fan of the owner? Same with the Indy 500. Greatest place on Earth, Greatest Race etc… The owners and rulers not so much. Being here in Indy skews the view of Indycar racing which is part of Indycar’s problem expanding to the masses again. The series is controlled by those that control IMS. I truely think the just see the rest of the series as a necessary evil, but really could care less about it. Sad but true.

  13. I said “other”, because I find it harder to be an Indycar fan than to be a fan of ball sports, but not because of the sanctioning body. Any place where people – especially guys – gather, it is only a matter of time before I hear the words “So, what did you think of that game?”, leaving me to wonder which sport we are now talking about. Whatever sport it is, it is bound to be one that is covered extensively by the media, that we all know the top athletes of, and that we all learned how to play in high school gym class. But if I ask someone what they think of the prospects of an Indycar driver who has won a race or two this year are for next season, I am met with a blank look and the sound of crickets. As far as racing has come in exposure over the past few decades, it still feels like I am a fan of an underground sport. Despite how many fans it has, is seems like no one else knows a thing about it.

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