Negativity Is Not Always A Bad Thing

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Without agonizing any further about the increasing dearth of IndyCar blogs, I’ve been a little perplexed over some of the hand-wringing that has gone on in the comment sections, not so much on this site, but on others. But where it seems to be most prevalent is in social media – more specifically, Twitter and Facebook.

It seems it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be objective when it comes to making comments regarding the Verizon IndyCar Series. One camp claims that if you dare say anything critical of Mark Miles and the decisions he has or has not made; you are being negative and your presence is no longer wanted. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those that are spewing venom out of every pore at anything related to IndyCar, simply because…they can.

I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle, but oddly enough – I have been accused of being at both extremes. There are those that have said I’m a charter member of the sunshine brigade, meaning I’m essentially a shill for IndyCar. Others claim that I should simply clam up instead of voicing my concern over something that concerns me regarding the direction the series is taking. In other words, I’ve joined the Legions of the Miserable.

It’s not just me. There are others out there blogging or simply voicing what I consider a reasonable opinion on social media that are getting trounced by the gutter-snipes of the internet. It used to be that I would just simply laugh it off if someone left a comment or sent me an e-mail accusing me of either extreme, but after seeing what others have endured lately – it’s no wonder that many have decided to give up their blogs. Sometimes you wonder if it’s all worth it.

Our good friend Pressdog, who I believe coined the phrase “Never engage the crazies”, had a post on Facebook last weekend. In the dialogue of the comment section, he made an excellent point on this very subject by asking; “Would it be better to have 25 blogs actively commenting on IndyCar, even if they were often "negative" or 5 predominantly positive blogs commenting on IndyCar? I’d vote for the 25. Indifference is the enemy, not "negativity." MANY others would vote for the 5, and they’re getting their wish." Bingo! Talk about hitting the nail on the head!

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it gives a voice to many that previously would not have had a voice. The terrible thing about the internet is that it gives a voice to many that previously would not have had a voice.

One thing that makes this country of ours so great is that we are allowed to voice our opinion. Right or wrong, we all have an opinion. Mine probably differs from a lot of yours, but the commenters on this sight tend to be more civil and reasonable for whatever reason. Dissenting opinions are fine and actually encouraged at this site. There have been a few times (very few) that I have said things here and been shown a different way of thinking that demonstrated that I was wrong. A perfect example was my strong stance that the IndyCar season should end by Labor Day. After listening to arguments on the other side, I’ve come to change that stance.

But it seems that civility is becoming the exception and not the norm. Hostility seems to be running rampant on both sides. Quite honestly, I’m not sure who is driving more fans away – those that are extremely negative, or the self-righteous, ultra-positive bunch that wants to censor any criticism of the series, whatsoever. After reading some of the blind optimism of some of the Do-Good Nation; I almost lean towards siding with those that are accused of being overly negative. At least their complaints generally have some merit.

I’ve always been amused by those that brag about being so open-minded and tolerant. They are the ones that generally turn out to be only tolerant of those that agree with their point of view. It seems that those with the overly rosy perspective don’t want to hear anyone complain of anything that Mark Miles, Derrick Walker or anyone in a position with power at IndyCar may have done or said. In a Gestapo-like fashion, any dissenters are quickly attacked on social media and written off as a malcontent and ordered to go away if they can say nothing nice.

Someone much wiser than I am once pointed out to me that “Unfortunately, many (IndyCar fans) have responded to the “Love or Leave It” ultimatum by choosing to leave it”. That is unfortunate. As much as “we” love this sport, there are very few of “us” around anymore. We are a dwindling lot. Why on earth would anyone who claims to care so much about this sport, even give the impression that they wanted a fan to leave? It’s asinine.

Most know that I am a Tennessee Vols fan. The Vols have been terrible lately. I sometimes post cynical and critical comments on Twitter during games when they are in the midst of a lopsided loss. A college friend of mine never fails to chastise me for being negative and tells me that I’m no fan and that I should go be a fan of another team if I can’t say something nice about the Vols. Seriously? The big problem would be if I said nothing at all.

That’s where our friend Pressdog hit the nail on the head when he said that indifference is the enemy, not negativity. My wife, Susan, is a much deeper thinker than I am. She always said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference (she was not talking about me, by the way). I thought that was an odd statement the first time I heard it, but the more I thought about it – the more sense it made.

It’s the same in following a team or a sport. If fans are griping about the way things are going, it’s a sign that they care. It’s when they stop complaining when you really need to worry. The Tennessee Titans are facing that right now. Five years ago when they started losing, fans were up in arms calling talk shows and lighting up internet message boards. Nowadays, it seems the fan base here has moved on and become so apathetic about the Titans that they have been almost pushed to the back burner. They cannot give tickets away right now. I know, because we are going to the game this weekend against the Texans, for some strange reason.

Silencing what fan base is left is not what the Verizon IndyCar Series needs. All that does is tick off most of the few remaining fans out there. All that will remain are those that silenced the people that cared enough to speak out and those that were apathetic to begin with.

When I see the flamethrowers on Track Forum, Facebook and Twitter that are extremists on both sides, it makes me grateful for the followers at Oilpressure.com. This site is not the most elaborate, nor does it even come close to having the most followers out there. But what it does have is a loyal and reasonable group of readers that are level-headed and have the ability to discuss things in a civilized manner. We don’t always agree here, but there are no grudges. We know how to agree to disagree one day, because we know we are likely to find ourselves on the same side of another issue a week later.

But as Pressdog warned us last week, when fans become indifferent and apathetic – that’s when it’s really time to worry.

George Phillips

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27 Responses to “Negativity Is Not Always A Bad Thing”

  1. Brian McKay in Florida Says:

    Good follow-up of your last blog post.

  2. It is not that the fans have become indifferent to IndyCar – It’s that IndyCar has become indifferent to the fans.

    • DZ-groundedeffects Says:

      I’ve struggled with a statement like this for many years. I’ve felt both happy and shafted as a fan at times.

      Ultimately I fall into the camp that believes regardless of what or how Indycar goes about its business, a significant and representative group of the fanbase should have a seat at the table of Indycar for meetings at least three times per year. In an ideal scenario, the fans are WANTED and actively engaged there.

      The top-down, take-what-we-give-you approach may have worked in some sports and in a bygone era, but obviously not in Indycar. If Indycar showed outwardly that they cared enough to WANT to actively listen, I truly believe they’d be surprised at how much good would come from it.

      The opposite of love IS indifference. When the league consistently shows fans and the public their indifference by working silently in what is perceived as a backroom/exclusionary manner with regard to the sport and fans, volumes are spoken in that silence.

      • The irony here is that MANY smart businesses pay lots and lots of money to try and encourage customers to let them know how they are doing, and negative feedback is actually sought, because it gives the smart company an idea of where they need to improve. PLUS, if a customer complains and he or she gets a response and satisfaction from said company, lots of studies show they become MORE loyal. But then again I said “smart businesses” … there I go again!!

  3. I think many Indycar followers are like me in that they understand what Indycar used to be and have their own ideas of how best to return it to relevance and/or greatness. We see the great potential of Indycar so we tend to overly criticize or overly champion every little change. Sometimes I think we enjoy the criticism as much or more than we do the actual competition and are more interested in mini-managing the series, solving the puzzle of it’s popularity, than actually watching the races.

    The folks that confound me are the people who have developed such a hatred of the series (and/or T. George or the entire Hulman family, I guess) that they’ll take advantage of any glitch or problem with the series to gleefully predict it’s well-deserved failure. They’re like the aging high-school dropout who still hangs out with high-schoolers and constantly complains about how much school sucks.

  4. There was a time when you could get away from who George has now characterized here as the “gutter-snipes of the internet” by just moving to the other end of the bar. These days you can do the same by just stepping away from your phone.

  5. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s easier to take fire from the ultra-crazy always-pissed negative people, because you can say “these people are just haters” and you know haters are going to hate no matter what, so you just stop paying attention to them. But when your a fan, and trying to give your honest opinion, pro and con, on topics as they come up, in the spirit of contributing to improvement, it’s more difficult to dismiss the Love it or Leave It, Polly Positives, because they’re line of attack is often “YOU’RE COMMENTS ARE RUINING INDYCAR!!” So then, because you’re a fan, you feel guilt …”Holy crap, I’m killing IndyCar!” which is pretty much the very last thing you want to do, because as George said, if you didn’t care about it or wanted it to die, you’d just ignore it and not spend all the time and energy coming up with what you thought were reasoned opinions about whatever. I can tell you, as a blog person, the Hyper Positive are more discouraging than the hyper-negative, for the reasons mentioned above. George is also right that 23 opinions that praise IndyCar are overlooked and the four that criticize it are seized on as evidence of your “negativity” and haterism, and suddenly you’re a bitter, bad, attention-seeking, asshole, never mind the 23 prior opinions that were filled with praise and adoration. So, at some point, it’s like “You know what? I try to be helpful and all I get is kicked in the nuts for anything that’s even slightly critical of IndyCar, so why bother?”

    • “holy crap, I’m killing Indycar!” (funny, dog.) curious–do you feel like you get the same sort of responses whenever you are critical of Nascar, or is it just an Indycar thing?

      • I haven’t gotten much response when critical of NASCAR. I think it has a lot to do with the NASCAR fan base being so HUGE. Plus, with the big dogs of real media commenting on and being critical of NASCAR, a little blog doesn’t draw much fire. There are bigger targets to be angry at, I guess.

        • billytheskink Says:

          NASCAR also gives fans a lot more on-track action and driver-focused stories to talk about, simply by having more races and more drivers than Indycar.

          As much as that, though, I think, that NASCAR fans believe that the series is bigger than its problems, so things will work themselves out. Outside of the 500, it seems that Indycar fans are not so sure that its problems aren’t bigger than the series.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    Reasoned negativity is a necessity, even if it is not intended to be constructive, as it demands evaluation and (possibly or hopefully) action from what it is directed at.

    Genuine Indycar fans, however, should be expected to provide constructive reasons for their negativity. It is hard to call someone a fan if they want to see the competition and the sport suffer (like much of the Crapwagon/YFDS/CCFanatics crowd that redcar mentions above).

    George and most folks who comment on Oilpressure do an excellent job putting reasoning behind any complaints they may have.

  7. I’ve long believed that the Indy car fan base is the most fickle and malcontented fan base in American sports. There are people still pissed off that USAC lost control in 1978. There’s another group of CART fans who won’t support the sport as long as IMS is in charge, and there are folks that bought into the original IRL “vision” who are bailed because the series morphed into CART-Lite. I really don’t care who runs the show. I’d just like to have decent looking and sounding cars and a schedule that doesn’t quit in August. I wish it was that simple for everyone.

  8. Honest constructive conversation about IndyCar is interesting. Discussion about the tone or intent of of agendas in IndyCar is tedious and boring. Since there is so much of the latter and not much of the former, I have increasingly disengaged most forms of social media concerning IndyCar be they blogs or twitter. I have to assume others feel the same way, which leads to a dearth of followers or page views which further translates into fewer blogs as more and more dissappear. The market gets what it wants, and it is really tired of this us versus them tone and discussion. If we want more blogs then the content in them them needs to change.

    as for IndyCar? Deliver more races in Q1 so we all have on track action to talk about. Not this crap.

  9. Reasoning is hard to come by these days. If a site commands it and demonstrates it consistently it tends to attract it in return. That is what I see here.I have never read Track Forum and maybe there is a good reason for that. Another site I wish I would have known about is More Front Wing. I never knew it existed until it was mentioned here. I first found this site by accident really. I just stumbled across it one day searching for racing websites. There is a website called Alltop.com, all I did was type in “IndyCar ” and that is how I came across Oilpressure.com. Anyway I have been a regular reader ever since. This and Robin Millers mailbag are my go to places for information on IndyCar racing.

    If the fan base is dwindling like some here say I think it behoves everyone all to write intelligently. Spewing hate is not going to solve anything but brutal honesty might be a more effective way to shuttle the message to the top. Wether or not the top brass reads what fans spew out, the most effective criticism or praise needs to be conducted civilly. Personally when I start reading something from a troll or a hater I just turn off. I don’t even hear the message I just shut down. It might be time to think about what message you want the top to hear and if written articulately enough maybe they will listen. If there are really as few fans as some say than that gives more power to the ones that remain fans. Something to think about.

  10. once again i think it goes back to one thing many years ago now. you can cant let the inmates run the asslyum. and thatsjust was wat cart was the inmates running the asslyum. one unforgettable leader was john frasco. one thing ill give nascar you know who rules and who makes the rules. love or hate tony george any of us who were told there ideas werent welcome would have reacted the same way. so all the past cart people should join the rest of the world and understand cart and champ car are dead and support wat we have instead of always ripping it and tearing it down. wat sponser or person would really want to get involved in it? say wat you want about usac they at least had a balanced schudule and races that had set race dates! oh for the good old days!!!

  11. I agree that negativity is not a bad thing. I think the politically correct term is constructive criticism. We all see the problems in Indycar, and some see more problems than others. But it definitely is moving in the wrong direction. Especially if the rumors are true and ownership is doing all it can to sabotage the races at Milwaulkee and Iowa. Better to speak up now rather than leave when the oval races are gone. It is indifference that will kill any sport series.

  12. So far as I can tell there is no shortage of negativity and the voicing of those negative opinions. I came to be a fan of the sport recently (after being an Indy 500 only viewer) in 2011 after a trip to see the 2011 race. Subsequently attended the next 2 Baltimore Grands Prix and the 2012 Indy 500. I was hooked and so was my wife.

    What struck me as I began to follow the sport on twitter, Facebook, blogs and Racer was just how negative the fanbase is – or – how vocal the pockets of negativity are.

    We just finished a season that came down to the final race to determine who of 3 drivers would be the champion…had 10+ different race winners…good storylines and battles…and yet check into Robin Miller’s Mailbag or the article comments on Racer and no one is talking about any of that.

    It’s all about old timers yelling at the kids to get off of their lawn…

    “I remember going to the 1962 500 with my Dad, and his dad and we sat in turn 3…we watch Klem Kadiddlehopper in the Katydid Special loose his brakes and he slowed down the car with his feet like Fred Flintstone – that was driving! Not like today’s pampered…”

    …Or how the Boston Consulting Group doesn’t know what the fans know and that the NFL is not a competitor to IndyCar and that the car is a “crapwagon” and that there aren’t enough American drivers and that Sage Karam and Conor Daly not having rides is criminal and that it’s unfortunate that Karam’s name doesn’t sound more American and there isn’t enough horsepower and why aren’t COTA and Road America on the schedule and why doesn’t Conor Daly have a ride and it’s time for Ryan Briscoe to move to sports cars so that Conor Daly/Sage Karam can have a ride and pay drivers are the devil.

    Look, I wasn’t a fan back in the USAC days. I wasn’t following the sport at the time of the split so I have no dog in that fight but the fact that so many people are still talking about 1997 isn’t healthy. The inability to let go of the past is not helping the series move forward. I am not saying silencing the negative voices but balance them with some positive ones.

  13. “In this world there are two kinds of people — optimists and pessimists. The pessimists are better informed.” – Clair Luce

  14. George, you have hit the nail right on the head. I blogged for five years and put a lot of time and effort into the quality and hopefully I was insightful and entertaining. But if you question or criticize, especially on Twitter, you will be subjected to abuse, divisiveness, and (in the case of a few notable IndyCar fans on Twitter) constant “douchebaggery”.

    Because of that, I’ve had enough. I have no interest in trying to entertain anyone or share across social media. I read tweets but never venture forth. The world does not need my opinion about racing and I don’t need every benign tweet to start an argument with someone. IndyCar fans are for the most part a great group of folks and I enjoy their company at races more than any other live sporting contest (and I go to all of them). There is a small percentage who use their social media voices to bully others who do not agree. Usually this is done in the name of “support” for the series. If what you do to “support” a series drives like-minded, reasonable people away, you should re-think the way your notions of “support”. IndyCar needs every bit of support it can get to thrive (not just survive, but thrive). Most race broadcasts outside the 500 are drawing in the 400,000 to 500,000 range. NASCAR is bringing in 10 times that number for a race broadcast. So, to the “fans” who want only good news, and want to drive away all other dissonant voices, I’d suggest you look at the TV ratings, the schedule, the sponsors, and then decide whether a tweet is really the issue.

  15. Being negative or positive isn’t as important as being informed, rational and sensible in whatever you comment on.

  16. I’d rather sit at a bar with a beer and discuss this like adults. Before
    “Social Media” came along you could talk about racing with friends without trying to make your opinion the only correct one in the bar.
    Now you need to make everybody see that you are correct in your opinion. But it is just a personal belief. Yours, Right or Wrong, it’s still your side of the story. That’s what was the fun part of being at the races. Hearing everyone’s story about what they saw that afternoon. What driver did what, Who’s car was the fastest, and Who made the dumb ass move of the day.

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