Don’t Avoid The Obvious

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Normally, I don’t seek out controversy. I try to look at things in a positive light, while being realistic. This post focuses more on being realistic. I know many will disagree with me here, and that’s fine. Just know that I’m not purposely trying to stir things up.

By now, we’ve all seen the terrible crash that put James Hinchcliffe’s life in peril and ultimately out of the Indianapolis 500 and racing in general for the foreseeable future. After some vague updates the day that it happened, more detailed and gruesome reports began to surface on Tuesday, once we learned that Hinchcliffe was out of immediate danger.

Make no mistake – this was a serious accident and had it not been for the heroics of the Holmatro Safety Team, there may have been a totally different outcome.

While perusing social media the last few days, I’ve noticed many people begging ABC to not show the Hinchcliffe crash in their pre-race show. My question is, why not?

I don’t care for ghoulish behavior. I was repulsed when fans tried to get small pieces of debris from Dale Earnhardt’s car after he was fatally injured at Daytona in 2001. It’s even more sickening when items like that end up on eBay.

I’ve not been overly kind to ABC/ESPN over the years, but I will give them credit for making proper decisions in situations like this. After the disastrous start to the 1995 Indianapolis 500, once they realized the severity of the accident to Stan Fox – they stopped showing replays. When Greg Moore lost his life in 1999 at Fontana, the only glimpse we had of that horrifying accident was when it was shown live. It was probably pretty obvious to those doing replay that there was a good chance it could be a fatality. In the name of sensitivity and decency, they chose not to replay it at all throughout the rest of the race broadcast – even after Dr. Steve Olvey confirmed Moore’s death on the air.

I ripped former IndyCar announcer Marty Reid for years, but he handled the Wheldon fatality at the season-ending race at Las Vegas about as well as anyone could – given the circumstances. When the next season started at St. Petersburg, ABC chose not to run actual footage of the Wheldon crash. Instead, they showed still photos that conveyed the mayhem on the track without showing the gruesomeness of the crash.

But this is different. James Hinchcliffe is alive and expected to make a full recovery. He was moved out of ICU on Wednesday and is said to need no more surgical procedures. I’ve not heard anything about whether or not he’ll race again, but considering what happened Monday – I would think that is probably secondary at this point. By the time Sunday rolls around, that crash will be almost a week old. Every hard-core fan has seen the You Tube videos of the crash. I didn’t watch it because of any morbid curiosity. I watched it because I wanted to know what happened and compare it to the other crashes from last week, where the drivers walked away.

I dare say that, except for my mother, there is probably not a person reading this right now that has not seen the video. Yet, some people think that the casual fans who will tune into an IndyCar race since last May should not be allowed to watch it. I’ll be willing to bet you that every holier-than-thou person that is screaming for ABC to not show the video has watched it themselves.

Quite honestly, I’ll be shocked if ABC does not show it. I think they should. Not that they should do it as a ratings grab – even though that may be a consequence of showing it – but it is the most significant story of this month of May. James Hinchcliffe is one of the most popular drivers in the paddock. For him to be out of the race and not explain and show why, is doing a disservice to viewers that have not seen the crash.

If it isn’t shown, does that make people think it never really happened? Are the trio in the booth to just explain what happened and tell people if they want to see it to just go to You Tube? That would come across as lazy journalism.

How about we ask IMS to re-issue their Legends DVDs without video of the Eddie Sachs-Dave McDonald crash? That crash shows a gruesome fireball and another explosion when Sachs hits McDonald’s car. We all know that Sachs burned to death right there in his car on the straightaway and that McDonald died a few hours later. Should that be erased from all archival footage and never be shown again? No.

Yes, there are a few losers that like to watch races just for the crashes. But most people – even the casual fans – want to see good clean racing with no injuries. ABC/ESPN should not deny them the view that we all saw this week. Being hardcore fans does not entitle us to see something that casual fans shouldn’t also see. The fans should decide if they want to watch it or not – not have ABC decide for them. Perhaps ABC can warn them that it is coming and may be disturbing to some. If they choose not to, they can look away.

But if I am a casual fan tuning in for my one IndyCar race each year, I want to see it – not to get my kicks, but to see just how bad this was to put a driver out of the race and to see what others have been talking about. So allow the casual fans to see what we’ve all seen this week. It’s been in the mainstream news. There’s no sense in avoiding it. Show it in a tasteful manner and move on.

George Phillips

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20 Responses to “Don’t Avoid The Obvious”

  1. Of course you show the crash. No brainer. Hypocrisy runs rampant in these situations. People who personally rush to watch the video in a frame-by-frame Zapurder-like fashion are often among the those screaming “DON’T SHOW IT” the loudest. Show it once or twice in the Crashes in May package and be done with it.

  2. Doug Gardner Says:

    This is getting ridiculous with these people. We old timers have seen much worse and they have shown it over and over. Anyone who has not seen it has been living in a cave somewhere. All of these accidents this year are terrible. Let us remember all the drivers are alive and relatively well. Back in the “good old days” there were four of these accidents daily. And in the ancient times of the 60’s and 70’s racing was a 50/50 probability of maiming, burning, or ending a drivers life. It is part of racing. They never should have altered qualifying. As Tony Kanaan said ” if your car is uncomfortable slow down.” Those were the adaptations that should have been made. And not having a fast 9 and making us endure the slow 4 was ridiculous. Sorry for the rant. ABC/ESPN will handle things appropriately. Goodness, they are Disney companies.

  3. George, we have had a video up here in Indy replayed over and over on all three network TV local Newscasts: a male 7th grader (I think he’s in JR High or maybe High School) beating the crap out of a female student! Over and over for a week or more! Nobody says a word about that!

    And what about these ridiculous “crime dramas” on network TV every night? Those are HUGE with the female population and are very graphic! Not a word.

    I just don’t understand where we are headed as a country anymore, what is wrong with these people? Why do they constantly think that they know better what we should watch, what we should be exposed to and what we should think about it? I don’t get it….

  4. From my vantage point, this is history. All of these accidents should be shown, fatality or not. My first thought were the tapes of the Kennedy assassination. For years they would not show it, but after some time passed, everyone has probably seen it multiple times. It’s on TV at least every November.

    You said: “There’s no sense in avoiding it. Show it in a tasteful manner and move on.” Exactly right.

  5. sejarzo Says:

    If you are not willing to deal with the reality of crashes, don’t watch racing. And I don’t think any warning is necessary. If they did that, then ABC should run a black screen “Viewer Discretion Is Advised” warning at the beginning of and throughout the broadcast, as there is an obvious potential for the same thing, or worse, to be shown live.

  6. SkipinSC Says:

    Once upon a time, a LONG time ago I was a journalism major at Butler University. The crashes (all of them) are a part of the STORY of this month of May, just as the crashes and the horrible weather were a part of the STORY in 1973.

    After the 1973 carnage, I asked my journalism professor the obvious question: “Aren’t we engaging in ghoulish behavior by repeatedly showing Salt Walther with his feet sticking out the front of his overturned and burning race car?” His words still stay with me to this day: “That is not,” he said, “for the journalist to decide. If you fail to include the bad with the good, you’re only telling HALF of the story. That decision belongs to the reader.”

    Who are we trying to protect? Surely not children, since most children I know would, if they so desired, merely look it up on YouTube. Is this any different from showing the gruesome injuries suffered by Joe Theismann in the NFL, or Marcus Lattimore in NCAA football?

    As the old saying goes, “If it BLEEDS, it LEADS.”

  7. Ron Ford Says:

    Here’s the problem: You say you found this so-called issue “while perusing social media”. Social media is not much more than the chatter that occurs at your local bar. The accident has already been shown on network TV and elsewhere a number of times. I am sure Kate Jackson will do a fine job with the pre-race show. I am not aware of any controversy about this anywhere except for those who have the time to “peruse socal media”. What else you got?

  8. If anything Monday’s crash shows how safe the modern IndyCar is . Tony Kanaan summed it up perfectly, when he said, and I paraphrase- he was really unlucky but really lucky. Onlookers need to appreciate how courageous these men and women are, and how their physical conditioning necessitates them to not only endure a race, but survive sometimes horrific accidents. Not to discount either the heroics of the Holmatro Safety Team. If I hear again, anyone say that profusely overused cliché that drivers are not athletes, even one more time, I will get sick.

    George Its sounds to me we are of the same opinion in that , I have seen his crash 20-30 times on my own volition because I have an overriding need to know what happened. I will persevere through gruesome gore if I need to (and this crash was not) just to know the truth as to what caused it. Don’t water it down, don’t edit it, don’t express fake concern for me, I can handle it , just show me the truth. If we were all exposed to the truth every once in a while, we all might be a little better off. The idea that there are people out there that think they have my well being in mind, interfering with what they think I should, or should not see, is laughable.

    I am surprised no one has mentioned this but James Hinchcliffe hit the wall in turn 3 at almost the exact same spot on the wall as Gordon Smiley did on May 15, 1982 and if anyone chooses to compare how much safer a current IndyCar is compared to 1982 than watch it. Otherwise I would not recommend it. I have probably seen his over the years more than Hinchcliffe’s.

    As far as modern journalism is concerned, don’t get me started or this rant will continue indefinitely. I’ll put it this way; the way the non-educated media and their minions care to analyze and opine about motorsports, is true ignorance by its definition. It’s embarrassing when sportscasters (I’ll call them non-fans) attempt to tackle motorsports because their ignorance and bias immediately shows. They are absolutely clueless.

    Lets all hope for a fun and safe Indy 500.

  9. I can’t believe this is even an issue. If this incident calls for such censoring, what do those same people say about Nelson Piquet crash, or Mark Dismore, or Jeff Andretti (or Mario for that matter), or Keny Brack, or Alex Zanardi? I don’t think we need to see fatal crashes over and over again, but crashes are part of racing. And when they become a story, particularly when one of those crashes takes one of your most popular drivers out of the race, those should be covered and not shied away from. I don’t need to see Wheldon’s crash, or Gordon Smiley, or Greg Moore broadcast on TV, but when a driver survives and it is a major story, it’s fair game.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      I don’t believe this is an issue anywhere other than with the twitterazzi or possible some comments section. If you were to log on to IndyCar.com today you would find perhaps 3-4 hours of good reading. (It takes me 2 hours to watch 60 minutes) Click on one story, that leads to a few more on the sidebar, click on one of those and more will come up. None of them mention this so-called controversy. Hopefully this site is not considered social media as I do not wish to irritate George, but I consider most social media to be little more than white noise.

  10. MMA is gruesome. This is just a single car crash. Like Helio’s, Newgarden’s, and Carp’s earlier in the month. Did I miss the pools of blood? I quit social media for a reason.

  11. Lets not worry about taste… this series has little left.

    First off: Holmatro Safety team – stop with the praise. The first doctors to arrive did great work to save a life, but the first safety team members did not. Trying to pull a driver out without realizing he was pinned in by a piece of the car driven through his bowels is not heroic.
    Second: It was difficult for Dr. Olvey to address the reality, but at least he did it. At 5PM on Monday, Boles was on the radio downplaying the accident as nothing to allow him to spin the problems with qualifications. The fact is there was a conscious decision to act as if the accident Monday was substantially less serious in order to divert attention away from the serious nature of the accidents while he was on the radio. It was discussed after the accident and before going on the air… the decision was made that they didn’t want to reveal how serious Hinch was because it would hurt the series.

    By all means… get the accident some airtime, but follow it with the words “full recovery” Just make sure you silence those who are upset with the original extrication attempts. Make sure you use “no further surgeries” and say nothing about the bowel reconstruction needed to reverse the colostomy.

    • The Lapper Says:

      I read this post and It is an obtrusive, asinine opinion. To call the Holmatro Safety Team as incompetent is ridiculous. These guys are all first responders with certifications and degrees. One of them is a trauma physician and another is an orthopedic physician, 2 paramedics, 12 firefighters/EMTs and 2 registered nurses. Team personnel have an average of 20 years of experience in their respective areas. You dumb ass!

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