Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

May 20, 2010

SPECIAL EDITION Part II: ESPN Responds Regarding Their Indy Car Treatment in May

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:52 pm

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of American open-wheel racing and this was an opportunity — 14,000 words of opportunity as it turns out — to create an historical document to chronicle that time.”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 I am all for creation of some historical document to chronicle an important evolutionary phase.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

-Randy Bernard

-Why Foyt’s ABC team is improving

-Helio’s realistic quest for four or more

-Davey Hamilton

-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.

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7 Comments »

  1. Defender, please get serious…apart from five women potentially making the field (although only Danica, with her superior equipment and her past experience at the 500 has any serious chance), how in the world would any casual fan or the general public care about a story deaiing with ‘new chassis possibilities’? We need a new chassis for real for this story to develop and have any relevance…the fact that you would offer stories about Sarah Fisher, who holds the distinction as the most overrated lady driver in this series, about Davey Hamilton, who we welcome back and wish the best although he is and always has been a mediocre racer, about AJ Foyt’s second rate team that will again fall out of the money or about Helio tarnishing the legacy of Foyt, Unser, Sr., and Mears by possibiliy winning a 4th 500 against watered down competition and with a car far superior to the rest of the field (save Ganassi’s team) manifestly indicates that there are no real story lines again this year and that this once proud race and the entire IRL series has fallen on hard times…we can hope and pray that Randy Bernard and TG’s mom and sister work to restore the 500 to its proper place but unless and until there are some significant shifts, we can continue to watch as NASCAR, even with its sagging attendance numbers, lagging TV numbers and pathetic racing, dominates the headlines and captures America’s interest…

    Comment by Neil Rubin — May 20, 2010 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

  2. Five women trying to make the race? Third paragraph in this column: http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/racing/indycar/columns/story?columnist=oreovicz_john&id=5183938

    New chassis possibilities? Check.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/racing/indycar/columns/story?columnist=oreovicz_john&id=4890502

    (Here’s one about engines, for good measure.)
    http://espn.go.com/rpm/blog/_/name/oreovicz_john/id/5138257/honda-antsy-get-going-engine

    How about that Sarah Fisher Racing?
    http://espn.go.com/rpm/blog/_/name/oreovicz_john/id/4986804/rahal-drive-fisher-car-two-races

    Randy Bernard checked in
    http://espn.go.com/rpm/blog/_/name/oreovicz_john/id/5027339/exciting-times-ahead-indycar-series

    Gotta admit we haven’t done much on Foyt, but then he’s mad at me again.

    Helio’s realistic quest for four or more? How about this one … from the day after LAST year’s Indy 500?
    http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/racing/indycar/columns/story?columnist=blount_terry&id=4205457

    Gotta get around to Davey Hamilton but this week we liked Vitor Meira.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/racing/indycar/columns/story?columnist=mcgee_ryan&id=5200215

    So all I really gather is you don’t like stories on the split. Or at least not in the Month of May. Sorry, but first 500 without Tony George in a generation is a big story.

    And I will be there, as usual. Come say hello. Ed will be there, too.

    Editor’s Note: Hope to see you there. I’m wandering about every day the place is open. As previously stated, the split is old news. I get your point about the absence of Tony George somehow being news, but that is not what I’m reading in that needless four part series. I am reading recycled ‘split’ garbage for the fifteenth straight year in May. I have read this same stuff hundreds of times in every month of the year. If Ed is the best motorsports writer out there, why not something original? I have seen Tony George walking around this month. Perhaps one of the writers could interview him.

    Also, how do you feel about former cart employee John Oreovicz suggesting some sort of official apology for Tony George’s actions back in January? I do not believe that was anywhere close to professional either.

    Thanks for the links. If you could address my other concerns over time I would definitely be appreciative.

    Comment by K. Lee Davis — May 20, 2010 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  3. If the claim is that those isolated and scattered paragraphs and columns listed in those links above balances out the (according to K. Lee Davis in his previous comment) 14,000 words bringing up basically all of American Open Wheel’s dirty laundry from 1990 to 2007, then I’m going to have to disagree. How about even 1,000 words about how we’re into our third post-mergification month of May? I’m even willing to concede a 14:1 word ratio on that topic.

    Those linked paragraphs and columns came over the course of the last year. Those 14,000 words of laundry are being dumped in the middle of the table right before Qualifying Weekend and Race Weekend. Which is going to have a bigger potential effect on viewership on the 30th: 6,000 words (my estimate) coming over the preceeding 12 months or 14,000 coming over the preceeding 11 days? Why should any non-aware sports fan who would stumble over that series then be intrigued into watching what happens on Pole Day, Bump Day or Race Day (which, I’d like to point out, ESPN should have a vested interest in)? If anything that makes that clear appears in Part 3 or Part 4, then I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

    The Defender (who I have my issues with, to be sure) is entirely correct on this take. We’ve all read probably 90% of what Ed Hinton has written in those first two columns (however well they were written, and I think they were quite well written), and we’ve all read it multiple times by his and many other peoples’ hand over the years. To my mind, this summary was not necessary, and the timing was unfortunate, at best, and devious, at worst. Can I make a suggestion? If this “four part series” is meant to be a definitive look back at a dark time in the sport’s history, then how’s about you take next May off from same topic? Can May 2011 be devoted to a look forward toward a new, more prosperous century at the Speedway?

    Comment by The Speedgeek — May 20, 2010 @ 8:47 pm | Reply

  4. Speedgeek, I would imagine we will start looking forward — as we already have on numerous occasions — nearly every day the rest of this month and well into next year.

    Again, the time for a story like this is when people will read it. For Indy racing, that is the Month of May. And I think fans such as yourself and the Defender greatly overestimate what the general American public, much less the average race fan, really understands about the past 20 years. This is a chance to educate them, to document how the sport got here.

    And if anyone can show me where it’s ever been done — all in one take — I will have learned something. We and everyone else have written plenty about the split, but never documented in one package with as thorough a re-telling as we can muster. Ed has literally written half a book here. With the power of the Web, we don’t have to shop it to a publisher, we can bring it to a mass audience. And then when we can move on and I expect we will. But if even 10 percent of what is written is new to you, well, that’s pretty good. Plenty of it was new to me and I’ve followed the sport (and watched the races, and read the blog and bought the books) for years.

    This is a pivotal 500. For the first time in my life I am genuinely concerned for its future as an open-wheel race. Whose fault is that? Maybe no one’s.

    And as you will learn as this series unfolds, there is a great deal ailing American open-wheel racing that is neither side’s fault.

    Editor’s Note: Not to speak for Speedgeek (he is very capable of that himself) but again, with all due respect, the general public has been force fed this nonsense EVERY MAY for FIFTEEN YEARS. To do so again in this fashion is offensive. If Hinton has a book, write and publish it in an appropriate forum. It’s OVER. Mr. Davis, you are COMPLETELY off base on this one. You are doing a disservice not only to the sport in general, but also to its competitors and fans. Your casual dismissal of everything else in favor of something that has been repeatedly beaten beyond death is completely reprehensible.

    Comment by K. Lee Davis — May 20, 2010 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

  5. Mr. Davis, with all due respect, I’ve been a fan decades longer than ESPN has been around. Trust me, the Hinton stuff is history. Please for the good of the sport stop dragging it out. It is counterproductive to the current goings on. Try being positive and supportive of Indycar racing for a change. You probably don’t know how ICS fans have grown to detest ESPN for repeating this once again. Trust me, the only people who get a kick out of the way ESPN turns its back on Indycar racing are the bitter cart/champcar fans, who themselves have a never ending hatred for Tony George. Get the hell over it already. Also, you might watch how Versus does their telecasts. Watch and learn.

    Comment by Race Fan — May 21, 2010 @ 12:38 am | Reply

  6. I’ve pretty much had it with ESPN/ABC and their attitude toward the IICS. Their coverage is second rate, beginning with their announce team of Marty Reid, who makes little secret of the fact that he’d rather be covering NASCAR’s Nationwide series.

    Their failed use of Rusty Wallace as an “expert commentator” was a travesty and offended almost everyone I know who is a fan of Indy and open-wheel racing in general. It’s almost as bad as DW trying to sell everyone that the SAFER barrier was a NASCAR invention.

    Don’t get me wrong, I watch NASCAR as well, but please don’t try and tell me that their coverage is even handed.

    I really miss the days of Paul Page, Bobby Unser, and even the somewhat pompous Sam Posey. At least with Versus, there are people broadcasting the races who care.

    I do understand that there is some need to express the changes that have taken place with the ouster of Tony George, but how about at the same time noting a few of the positive changes his reign had on the Speedway.

    And, I am seriously tired of everyone beating up on Tony for standing up to a group of somewhat arrogant car owners who had a limitless supply of “other people’s money.”

    We all know what happened when the “other people’s money” dried up. Those owners either returned to the IRL, or “went down with the ship” of CCWS.

    Defender, you and I share a mind about most of this. I think it might be time for the Speedway to consider dumping the “House of Mouse” when the next contract comes up. They seem to want the “crown jewel” but don’t want much else.

    I think I’ll start a little drinking game for this year’s race. Every time someone mentions the “split” everyone take a shot. I doubt if much of anyone at the party will be conscious for the NASCAR race later that evening.

    Comment by SkipinSC — May 21, 2010 @ 2:11 pm | Reply


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