You can’t unsqueeze toothpaste…

I had some downtime before my show Saturday night, and since I’ve been asked by a few people “what I think” and “where I stand” post implosion, I figured I’d write down a few thoughts now that I’ve had a few days, well a week actually, to digest.
I wrote a little more before bed last night, and just amended the end a few minutes ago after a day blissfully offline.

While I was poking around twitter earlier, I discovered a bunch of my peers also posted similar “recaps” (apparently we all came to the surface at the same time following last weeks “Deep Dive”)(*snort*) I haven’t read any yet so as not to alter my course or have anyone influence my own first response (I promise to read them all now)
So apologies if this is a rehash of someone else’s post or inadvertently comes across as a rebuttal of some sort (like last weeks weirdness) I am curious to see if we’re all on the same page, or if I’m charting my own weird course…
Anyway… read on.

So here we are, a week later. The deed is done.
There’s no turning back, and IndyCar can’t unbreak what it already broke.

So it’s time for them to get out the super glue (repair the relationship with the current fan base) or just buy new shit (find a new group of fans to market to who don’t know about or care about the history of the sport)

Oh before I forget, on the off chance that you’ve been living in a cave this week and missed it, the absolute BEST recap of all the shenanigans that have happened both last season and last week, a tip of the cap to the incomparable Marshall Pruett

Judging by some of the comments and quotes floating about in there and elsewhere, it’s clear that some in the rank and file still just. don’t. get. it.

I would be remiss were I not to also share my pal Robin’s scathing reaction

Together, Marshall and Robin, as the Good Cop/Bad Cop of Speed’s coverage of the series, have provided information, humour, hubris, conversation, and a sounding board. We are lucky to have both of them working so hard on our behalf.

So, back to the topic at hand… Where do I stand at this point?

Well, like I said before, the ball’s IndyCar’s court now. Provided things don’t further sour, like, for example, should any other key players be shown the door, or should the WRONG person be put in a position of power (though I get the impression that Belskus has no expedient plans to fill the CEO seat with anything other than his own ass for the foreseeable future) I’m not going anywhere… yet.
I’m in wait and see mode. Judging by conversations I’ve had with friends, colleagues, fans and some folks associated with some sponsors, there are a lot of us sitting in the “wait and see” section.

Speaking of courts, or rather “courting”… As both a fan and as media, I want them to court me.
In fact, I need them to woo me.
Show me that they’re worthy of my reciprocal love and attention.
Convince me that they really love me. No placating me or patting my head and shooing me away so they can sweep this all under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen. (Nice try Mr. Belskus… that was a lovely collection of “words” and sound-bytes, but it really didn’t say much)

That’s right. I’m older, wiser, and have been made a fool of… again.
Once bitten, twice shy.
My “unconditional love” comes with some conditions moving forward.

Let me break it down for you.

Teams: You want my continued support and attention? You want me to concentrate on the racing? Then put the best drivers in the seats, with the best equipment under them. Don’t be dicks. Don’t be cheque cashers. Don’t squabble and plan coups in back hallways or darkened war rooms. Stop whining about everything. Put 100% of your time, money and effort into providing the best possible entertainment/product on track. I find it hilarious that the ones with the most means pissed and moaned the most this year. You know who didn’t whine, ONCE?! Simona DeSilvestro and HVM racing. They just went out there every week, against insurmountable odds, and gave 100%. Guess what? Fan’s love them and support them 100%. See how that works?

Drivers: So your nose is out of joint because we like Randy Bernard?
Think there was some “magic plan” behind it?
Nope. No magic.
Want to know the big secret? Here it is:
Get off your scooter. Step outside of your transporter. Get out from behind your wall of protective PR people. Take your fucking sunglasses off. Get off your phone. Stop for a minute and chat. (Not for an hour, just a minute or two) Really listen to what is being said to you. Look up and make eye contact when you sign an autograph. Take a millisecond to connect.
Some of you are really good at this.
Some of you… not so much.

Randy ran the fricken series, but he stopped, made eye contact, and genuinely connected EVERY time I saw him at the track or at an event. Hell, he greeted me by name. That is impressive.

You seem to have no problem being personable with media or sponsors. Well, guess what? Fans are both media and sponsors, just on a less obvious level.
They broadcast your message, promote you and the series, and every time they buy a piece of swag with your likeness, name or number on it, they are both promoting and sponsoring you. Something to keep in mind the next time you blow off the kid who stood at your transporter for an hour to get a glimpse of his hero to instead go give a big fake toothy grin in a photo op with a bunch of guys from company X who are only there because it’s a company write off. They won’t be at the track next year, but that kid will. Only next season, he’ll be outside of the transporter of the driver that said hello and signed his hero card.

Oh, and further to that, where the hell are you? Most of you have dropped off the planet. Yes, it’s the off season, and yes, you probably had some sort of “keep silent” marching orders from your team with everything going on (I DON’T agree with that in the least fwiw… If you agreed with the decision, say so. If you didn’t, say so. I’ll respect you more for having an opinion of your own, even if it vastly differs from mine, than if you just hide meekly in the shadows and let everyone else carry out your dirty work)

All that said, guess what? We’re still out here! Don’t want us belly-aching about the bullshit, or talking about Randy? Well, engage with us then! Give us something else to talk about. You don’t need to fill us in on the minute details of your daily routine, but hey, check in once a week on twitter and reply to some fans. Write a blog once a month and post on your team website. What are you doing during the off season to prepare for next year? What did you think of 2012? What are your goals for 2013? Why should I be in the stands in St. Petersburg in March of 2013? More importantly, why should I cheer for you over someone else?
Convince me!

Tracks: Give me bang for my buck! Give me a reason to throw my shit in a suitcase, rent a car or buy a plane ticket, rent a hotel room for a weekend or longer, and come to your event. It’s easy to get the hometown crowd out to your event (or at least it should be, but that’s clearly a work in progress at a lot of places) But the goal for EVERY venue should be to entice people from out of town to your event. Work with the locals. Work with the tourism board. Work with the hotels. Work with the sponsors (series & teams) Strike deals. Pass them on to us. The trick isn’t to bilk us out of our hard earned money by jacking the prices of everything for the week the race is in your city (we pick up on this ya know, and then we stop coming. *cough* Edmonton *cough* ) Want us to come to the track when the gates open and stay till they close? Make it easy for us to get there. Make sure that the on-track action is varied and non-stop. Make sure that there are plenty of food and drink options (at reasonable prices) Want us to play along with your social media initiatives at the track? Provide complimentary internet access within the grounds and then engage with the actual fans on site (and off site) Some tracks do all of this and it’s fabulous.
Some tracks don’t, and those events pale in comparison.
(Detroit GP scores an A++ from me both from a fan standpoint and a media standpoint)

Sidebar: IndyCar you need to find the best event out there that provides all of the above, then use that as the example to bring all of the events up to that basic minimum standard, and then allow them to improve upon that every year.

Sponsors: ACTIVATE! We want to support you. We want to use, find, buy, and promote your product to thank you for supporting the series/drivers. So… ACTIVATE. Don’t just stick a logo on a car and call it a day. Get on twitter with us. Hire someone to actually follow the series and your sponsored driver on your behalf for the season. Highlight the driver in your ad’s, on your Facebook page, on your website. Make your customers aware of your driver/team. Set up at the track and sell/promote your wares. I remember getting packets of Simple Green samples at the track in the Champ Car years, hell I even bought a Simple Green diecast (again at the track at the Simple Green stand) They activated. I jumped on board. No brainer.

IndyCar: *sigh*… so many things… it’s hard to know where to start.
First of all, stop treating us like were sheep. Stop assuming that we’re just gonna forgive and forget and move forward like nothing happened because “we always do”.
Cause guess what we DON’T always show up again.
That assumption will come back to bite everyone, yourselves included, in the ass eventually.

With every subsequent misstep the number of “lifelong” fans diminishes. If this is not important to you, then continue to chart your confusing course. If this is important to you, then take your heads out of … the sand.

Yes, without a doubt the on track action this year was fabulous. Not one person has disputed that. But a lot of us had to go to a lot of effort and expense to enjoy it. We did this because we were confident the series was finally, after years of stagnation, moving in the right direction, so we were willing to jump through some extra hoops and put up with a little BS, because someone was working very hard on our behalf.

Well, you got rid of that someone, so as of right now, we’re balancing precariously on the fence between giving a fuck, or giving up completely, and we could easily jump off on either side, depending on your next move.

So please, have a little respect for us, and stop telling us to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”, cause that curtain was pulled back, and the weak little man has been revealed in all his glory.

Stop telling us that it doesn’t matter what happens off track and that “politics can’t spoil IndyCar” (really Mario? Really?? Newsflash: They can spoil IndyCar. How do we know that? BECAUSE THEY ALREADY DID! Been there, done that, bought the really expensive t-shirt for all the teams and events that don’t exist anymore!)

Stop telling us what to think, how to feel and to “just move on” and be appreciative of all you offer us.
Think of it this way. We, you and me, have just gone through an ugly break up. Allow me a bit of time to get a little drunk, do a little retail therapy, have a rebound relationship, and maybe, if you’re lucky, realize after a cooling off period that you’re “the one” and come back to you.

Most importantly, stop trying to blame US (fans/media) for your shortfalls.

You want us to talk positively about the series, drivers, teams, tracks, racing?
Simple. Give us something positive to talk about.

Post diatribe add-on:

The reason I’m even considering “taking you back” right now ?
All of the hard work this man —> @RBINDYCAR , put in

Yesterday (Saturday) Randy did what Randy does best.
He reached out to us.
On our level.
No pretense, no condescension. No excuses. No grand gesture.
He simply booted up his twitter account to let us know he was still out there and that he wasn’t going anywhere. He thanked us for our support and kind words over the last couple of days, and then, in a truly classy move, he did the other thing he’s really good at, he rallied the troops.

Not in a “sucking up because I was told to” way.
Not in a “Let’s make them feel guilty and stupid” way.
Just in that genuine Randy way.
No doubt about it, he is a fan.
He came in green, but he grew to love the sport and it’s players, and it’s venues and it’s fans.
One conversation with the man told you all of that.
One look through the stream of responses tells you all you need to know about his impact on the sport and why.

One response to “You can’t unsqueeze toothpaste…

  1. Michael Mittman

    My sentiments exactly. Unfortunately for me, I can’t put them into words like you can!

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