While I hold and express very strong views about this topic based on 51 straight years of being a fan and 38 years in the field of broadcasting, I sincerely appreciate and value the words and responses of people affected by my words. One such person is K. Lee Davis, who is the Motorsports Editor at ESPN.com. This person has my thanks and gratitude for providing something other than my take.
“Ed and I discussed how to go about this series for well over a year. Ultimately we decided the best way to tell it was just to lay it out there. I, as Ed’s editor, felt that there has never been a full accounting of the past 20 years of American open-wheel racing and this was an opportunity — 14,000 words of opportunity as it turns out — to create an historical document to chronicle that time.”
With all due respect, under what rock have you and Ed been cloistered for twenty years? The popular press has focused with laser precision on split-related nonsense EVERY SINGLE MAY since 1996. The exact same recycled material gets trotted out with virtually the same script each and every year right down to dated observations that scalpers do not get to rape ticket buyers to the same degree they did in 1994. I am all for creation of some historical document to chronicle an important evolutionary phase. I even applaud Ed Hinton’s attempts at balance in this latest repackaging. But why the middle of May? How in your wildest imaginations can either of you figure that same old story remains compelling or untold in any meaningful way after having had it force fed by the same writers annually each May for fifteen straight years, particularly when so many genuinely compelling but mostly ignored storylines exist every year? Why this one again? When was the last time either you or Ed set foot inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
Will ESPN.com do a four-part series on how a strike that cancelled an NHL season years ago inflicted catastrophic damage to that league during their upcoming Stanley Cup Finals? When the NBA Finals are played will there be a four-part series on general thuggery in the NBA and how the league has not been the same since Magic/Larry or Michael Jordan retired? Will we be subject to an in-depth analysis on steroid use in baseball over the past couple of decades or how Pete Rose bet on games during coverage of this year’s World Series? Perhaps we will get treated to a four-part series on 1987 NFL replacement games during Super Bowl week. Oddly, I have never seen a four-part series about sagging attendance and ratings, much less moonshine running or Bill France enforcing early mostly subjective NASCAR rules with a loaded firearm during the weeks leading up to the Daytona 500 in February.
I believe you and Ed should have more in depth discussion about prospective topics. Here are a few I can offer off the top of my head:
-Five women trying to make the race
-New chassis possibilities
-The bootstrap manner in which Sarah Fisher is successfully operating a team
-Why Foyt’s ABC team is improving
-Helio’s realistic quest for four or more
-More of 100 years of history than just sixteen years of occupancy by a failed owner group and their unhappiness with the man who changed their course.
As I walk past each garage this May, compelling stories about what is inside each one easily emerge. If you want to invent muck to rake, why not come up with something like how the new gimmicky, non-traditional qualifying format could easily get someone seriously injured or killed?
What is the point of ANYTHING related to ‘the split’ AGAIN this year? Even the IMS bailout of the remnants of the boycotters by Tony George is a few years in the past. Passing off anything split-related as relevant, no matter how well written, is unoriginal, irresponsible, sleazy and lazy.
“As for Ed or myself or anyone else associated with motorsports coverage at ESPN.com, we don’t dislike George, the IndyCar Series or American open-wheel racing. In fact we all grew up watching it (at least on tape delay) and are supporters of the sport. Ed as a “NASCAR” writer? Educate yourself, please. He’s a motorsports journalist, and many believe the best there’s ever been. Was in Ed in Charlotte in 1999? No he was not, as you will find out later in the series, so get your facts straight there, too. We have an obligation to report on Indy racing honestly and fairly and I think we have done that time after time.”
My opinion based on the red headed bastard stepchild status of Indy Car over the past dozen years is that ESPN continues to actively try and kill the Indy Car brand as it openly fawns over NASCAR. It has been marginalized in coverage over the air and on the web site (one look at the home page is all it takes–I even proved a few years ago that Indy Car was not featured equally in racing web pages), presentation of the product on the air and on the Web by ESPN on ABC is atrocious, and a four part series on something as dated and irrelevant as the split AGAIN this May validates my point. ESPN’s coverage and treatment of Indy Car since the late 1990s is as far from ‘honest’ and ‘fair’ as any media organization can possibly get. Most of the stories I have read by Ed Hinton are focused on NASCAR, past or present. I have never written anything about whether Ed Hinton was in Charlotte or not in 1999. I thought his treatment of the Indy Car accident there in Sports Illustrated was slimy, as did many others.
“As for the timing of this series, it is the Month of May and the Indianapolis 500 is still an important event on the sports calendar. There’s no better time to tell this story — in the middle of the Centennial Era — than right now, the first 500 without Tony George at the helm in two decades. Next year we will have the 100th annivaersary of the first 500-Mile race to celebrate and that will hopefully be a better time for the series and sport.”
The ‘story’ you feel compelled to tell is recycled, pointless horse shit. Nothing more. No new ground is being broken. This historical record you seem to believe is so urgent can be written and recorded at any time. No one except a small group of cheesy writers and a handful of disenfranchised fans who carry grudges even care. Move forward. Leave the TMZ-style coverage to less reputable entities. You should confine your work to reporting about the sport, not continuing to destroy it.
It is May in Indianapolis. The sooner you get on board with what that is really all about the more professional your efforts to cover it will become.