Sunday, August 26, 2012

On the Rumors of my Demise and Disinterest

I noticed a handful of mentions on twitter last week that puzzled me.  They had come after a time I hadn’t tweeted much, since I was knee deep in traveling for the daily occupation and hence they were unsolicited and anticipated. 
Apparently they ultimately had to do with a conversation that had started when another blogger had taken a hiatus from IndyCar (or was it that IndyCar took a month long hiatus from us?  Don’t remember who was driving the bus here exactly).  During the hiatus he had come to realize he missed IndyCar as much as he missed a neuro-psychotic, herpe’d girlfriend from days gone by.  Another blogger took this as a sign that IndyCar’s demise was close at hand and that the mass exodous of others from the IndyCar blogger ranks were corroborating signs for the end of times for IndyCar. 
That’s where my twitter mentions fit in.  Apparently the argument went that the bloggers that left the ranks left the sport and took up an interest in some other pastime, like competitive booger eating or some other sort of what have you. 
SO yeah, I have given up committing to anything resembling regularly scheduled posts here, but that doesn’t mean I have given up on or walked away from the sport. 
Bloggering takes a fair amount of time for most of us.  Unless you have earned a living in past days via the production of prose for wider consumption, composing and editing posts takes a while because it is not something that is second nature.  Second nature for me is crunching numbers in SAS and creating powerpoint slides about those numbers in abstract form.  No prose beyond slide titles.
A few weeks ago another blogger, noted for his anti Japanese sentiment and Polo shirts, lit up on dementia patients who interfered with his consumption of IndyCar races.  He wrote a self impaling retraction a few days later that can be read HERE.  I mention this because right now my mother is sliding into that dark abyss and It has been a time consuming penance for me as well, making it hard enough to keep up appearances at the day job let alone fitting in time for superfluous activities such as you guessed it…IndyCar blogging. 
So SEE – I walked away from blogging about IndyCar and GASP! It had nothing to do with punting on the sport and crawling into a hole as a bitter scorned person.
But the change in perspective has been a good one, and no I am not going to compare IndyCar racing to an old girlfriend ravaged by venereal disease and psychotic episodes.
I generally place IndyCar fans into three buckets, with plenty of gray areas around.
  • Tier one fans watch the 500 (for any of a number of reasons) then perhaps once or twice a season stumble upon another race somewhere. 
  • Tier two fans  follow the championship for the whole season, consuming the TV broadcasts and then perhaps some additional commentary from main stream media. 
  • Tier three fans go above and beyond, they seek out alternative sources of coverage, create blogs, follow racing personalities on twitter, stream practice sessions, know the secret formula of clicks to find IndyCar coverage on
Within that context, I consider myself to have transitioned from tier 3 back into being an engaged tier 2 fan. 
Some observations:
If you are a recent tier three fan, please be aware that all this stuff that is happening now (this is true for life in general, not just IndyCar), has happened before in some related variation and it will happen again.  For IndyCar the recycling playlist comes with a cargo plane full of baggage that is marked by polarization, fear and loathing.  If diabolical self flagellation and self flatulation are not complementary to your disposition, take a big step back – don’t get quite so involved.  Or perhaps choose your media streams carefully.  But unfortunately the core of diabolical hatred that is Track Forum has started to abscess into other forms of user generated media, blogs, comments and fan twitter feeds are becoming tainted with angst. 
If you intend to be an active commentator on the recycled playlist, be prepared that with time, since the playlist of issues is repetitive you will find yourself struggling to say anything new or different.  If you yourself fall into playlist of reruns, a stereotype will find you.  You will be “that crusty old guy in the Polo shirt and white reeboks that hates Asians” or “that creep that letches on the girl drivers” or “those people that have confused blogging with a dry dispassionate paralegal exercise” or “that crazy foul mouthed Canadian woman who hates everything but Paul Tracy”.  But most importantly, don’t let the hate become you.
The unfortunate thing is that this comes on the heels of what I would have called a Golden Time to have been a tier three fan.  Reunification, the prospect of New Cars, a New CEO who actively engaged you, the advent of social media (twitter in particular) have been replaced by power politics, retracted promises of innovation, the ratings manifestation of a decade’s worth of negligence and the stale twitter feeds of drivers who have been over coached by PR types on social media.
But as most things have equal and opposite reactions, there has been a big transformation in the quality of life for the tier two fans. 
  • Watching sluggish old tubs meant for ovals poke around on a growing share of road and street circuits have been replaced by a racy car, capable of overtaking at places where it was once unheard of.  New exotic looking cars that have a slightly erotic look as they round a hairpin and accelerate up a hill.
  • Televised races in front of massive backdrops of unpopulated aluminum have been replaced by a set of bustling event locales that at least give the on-air impression of chic and aura of importance.
  • The mighty, but underappreciated, Scottish Lion is in Winter replaced by a trio attempting to boldly go where their careers have yet to take them.  One of them an American to boot.
  • A number of fresh names that sound like they could have come from the house across the street are cutting their teeth and more often than not, the funny sounding names have resume’s as large as any check that may accompany them.
  • Justin Wilson and Dale Coyne won at Texas (repeat that a few times and let it sink in…)
  • On ovals, packs and tandems have been replaced by comers and goers.  Stalking and attacking has replaced what had become a dangerous form of synchronized swimming that culminated in last October’s darkest of days.
From my perspective, it has been a great time to step back and into the shoes of a tier two fan.  It’s an old saying, but it is hard to enjoy the forest if you are obsessing about the trees.
If not a golden age, certainly a better product than tier 2 fans have been treated to in quite a long time.  Of course, the negligence of the past has taken its toll for on this fan contingency.  Tier three fans kvetch at the evidence every Tuesday as a point something number is reported by someone somewhere.  It will take time to repopulate the tier 2 ranks. 
It is important to note this, though it might offend anyone who reads this (since all of you are tier 3).  The base of Tier 2 fans is significantly more important than the ranks of tier 3 fans.  By nature, tier 3 fans will always be a small group.  Most people look to entertainment as a pastime, not an obsession.  Those willing to invest to the point of obsession will always be in the minority. 
The base of Tier 2 fans will determine the long term health and success of the series and IMO, for the first time in a while, they are being served with a much better product and that is a point for optimism…


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