I hear this a lot, mostly in derogatory fashion: ‘Anyone can blog.’ It is true, and I am guilty. I always attempt to have a point within a topic that has merit, however. Those who blog even occupy mainstream sites like SI. Their ‘Fansided’ subdivision employs a youthful blogger named Matt Schafer who posted a blog about ‘the split’ and the formation of the IRL twenty years ago. Like most youthful pundits who came of age during the ‘golden age’ of cart there is no discernible or honest recognition of history. There is only cart on a pedestal and the evil IRL/TonyGeorge that destroyed it. In typical fashion Tony George is positioned as the bumbling, incompetent clown/bad guy, an opinion formulated by almost religious belief (and with as much fervor) in the utopian paradise such folks have concocted for themselves. The nonsense typically spouted inevitably contains stereotypes passed along as gospel. Ignorance truly is bliss.
As long as folks continue choosing to pick that particular scab off and dumping salt into the wound (despite the lack of any real sense it makes in 2014 twenty years down the road) it is incumbent upon those of us who actually have seen the sport evolve with our own eyes for decades that preceded even the formation of cart to inject actual reality into what has become a laughable, mostly fictional re-hash of abject stupidity in a sort of Wikipedia-like frame of willful retardation.
First, any notion, real or implied, that had the IRL not been formed cart ratings and attendance would be as good/great (depending on the level of hype) in 2014 as they were in the early 90s is utter nonsense. That particular implication is one of the primary tenets of the youthful history myopians who rarely/never consider any other part of societal evolution in their disingenuous positioning.
Second, and equally misleading, is that cart ratings ‘challenged the Super Bowl.’ In 1979, the first year cart existed, the Super Bowl got a 46.3 rating with 76.2 million viewers, and it only rose from there. An entire cart season combined may have looked presentable but this continuing lie is egregious. Another thing that occurred in 1979 was the infamous fight at the Daytona 500 between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison. That one event is widely considered the launch point for NASCAR’s national prominence. cart spent the rest of their existence looking up at NASCAR, although anyone who pays as much attention to NASCAR ratings and attendance these days as they do to those of IndyCar must now be having a chicken little field day.
Third, the notion that ‘Tony George dynamited the house that cart built’ remains utterly laughable. I believe most intelligent people can agree that Tony George was not an effective leader, much less one with the charisma needed to pull off what was intended. Worse, he was the victim of a lot of bad advice along the way. We can also agree that a desire to control the sport and much of its revenue potential through alignment with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was critical to his actions. If we assume, like most of the impressionable young bloggers, that the cart organization was superior in terms of talent, depth, equipment, business acumen, ratings, attendance, etc., and that Tony George was an incompetent fool borne of lucky sperm but with no business sense how can anyone capable of rational thought position Tony George as the mastermind of the destruction of cart? It makes no sense. That is akin to blaming a battered wife for causing the end of a marriage by filing for divorce.
In actual reality the demise of cart may have been inspired by Tony George, but the cause was not anything he did directly, including a ‘lockout.’ The root cause was rampant, repeated, ego-fueled arrogance combined with abject stupidity. cart itself forced all the milestone bad events the apologists continue whining about even today. It was not a murder. It was a suicide. Worse, individual survivors failed to learn from their own mistakes and self-destructed again. In the end it took Tony George to rescue these people from themselves at fire sale prices.
Fourth, why is the name ‘Roger Penske’ and the sponsor ‘Verizon’ misspelled in his piece? And when he refers to ‘Gene Haas’ as a potential leader of the series back then along with ‘Rodger’ Penske, Chip Ganassi, Paul Newman and Michael Andretti doesn’t he mean Carl Haas? Checking for accuracy not important? Also, just because cart picked up a few aging Formula 1 drivers having contract disputes overseas did not make cart any sort of equal. Besides, Paul is pushing up daisies, Carl is pretty close, and Michael found his ownership calling after cart.
Finally I would encourage any youthful racing fan that enjoyed cart but remains unaware of any other evolutionary phase of IndyCar to educate yourselves with facts. Not hot air. The sordid tale with which your fascination centers is far more complex than the simplistic generalization expelled into the air like farts. It takes bigger brains than what most of you possess to formulate even a basic understanding.
Also remember that it is 2014 and the world is completely different in fundamental ways than it was in 1994. The fact that IndyCar is still around serves as testament to the commitment of IMS to the sport. Take golf, for example. That is a sport that is truly dying. Television ratings have plummeted over the past few years, an average of one golf course closes every 48 hours in the United States. Over half a million casual golfers no longer play. The only bright spots in the sport seem to be out of the box ideas such as 15-inch cups to speed up the game, ‘foot-golf’ with soccer balls, or driving ranges that double as sports bars and keep score, bowling-style, of drives and where they land. IndyCar must also think outside its box, and traditionalists in racing may be as stunned as traditionalists in golf. The ‘split’ has nothing to do with the evolution of the sport today. Why not blog about something that is important or relevant and stop crying over spilled milk your guys poured onto the floor?