I watched the Texas race with usual anticipation. Artistically speaking it appealed to the crowd that hates 1.5 mile ovals and loves mostly non-oval racing and that’s fine. Nothing wrong with making the cars harder to drive by introducing gimmickry such as tires that degrade more rapidly. Graham Rahal, for example, probably deserves driver of the race simply because he managed not to stick it into the wall.
For my money, however, the hallmark of Indy Cars at Texas is close, side-by-side racing the whole way through. This is not to be stupidly confused with ‘pack racing’ that never actually consistently occurred there anyway but never stopped the road racing-centric from shrieking like little girls. Texas this year was mostly a parade that got strung out between pit stops. Between that and a shockingly lackluster performance by the announcers on ESPN on ABC it did not matter that the event was on prime time on a Saturday night. The low ratings that resulted were only exacerbated by the fact that no one saw much meaningful cross promotion on either ABC or ESPN beforehand. That type of treatment is the norm for IndyCar on those channels. On the Sports Center that followed the event, the tease strip on the left part of the screen showed something about Helio, and as it scrolled down to ‘next’ status they went to a break, came back and talked about something completely different. And the tease was gone. They are reprehensible.
There are two things that keep entering my mind with regard to television:
- Before horse racing was on NBC it was on ABC, and had reached the ratings stage in which very few cared or watched. People were calling that sport ‘dead’ as well. Once that sport jettisoned ABC for NBC, it was meaningfully promoted, ratings went way up and stayed that way. Word to the wise (and Mark Miles): Get past the sentimental attachment the family has toward the Disney folk. ESPN on ABC has neglected IndyCar to such an extreme degree that they should not even be considered. Sure they are the 800 pound gorilla, but what is the point if you are going to be ignored? I realize we will get a bump (perhaps substantial) from Turbo, which IS being promoted effectively, but Disney only distributes Dreamworks films. There is enough separation to allow the freedom to, in a manner of plain speaking, tell ESPN to f*<# off for good.
- Mark Miles ran professional tennis for years. When he began that adventure tennis had a presence and some stars, but most of the stars retired. Fast forward to now after that part of his life concluded and take a look at Tennis in terms of media. Major tournaments get good ratings. It has its own niche network. There are stars. It gets covered regularly in the popular press and on SportsCenter. It has dedicated, passionate fans. As a sport it cannot hold a candle to the relative excitement of IndyCar. It is, however, treated with immensely more respect. Not saying Miles is completely responsible for the place Tennis currently holds, but he helped build it up and knows how it is done. There is no reason why he cannot increase the stature of IndyCar in the media, which remains mostly jaded due to the events of the mid-1990s.
Curt Cavin has an interesting three-part series with Miles in the Star at the moment, but he is still not saying much specific. He is still having a honeymoon, but time is short.