Both historically and in the movie, Chamberlain executed a maneuver that was extremely rare for the day and age; in layman’s terms, Chamberlain’s Union troops basically charged in a formation that acted as a door swinging shut on the also-exhausted Confederates. That maneuver helped save the battle, possibly the war, and by extension, the United States of America (yes, I’m a big history nerd. Stay with me here).
I’m not directly comparing INDYCAR to the American Civil War in terms of meaning or even as a pure analogy (although both certainly featured a bitter internal divide within their vastly different scopes), but I do think Chamberlain’s victory underlies an important point: when things look grim, sometimes the best thing to do is attack.
If you look at this Series around 2008-2009, there was a definitive sense of gloom, or at least a lack of overt, serious optimism. Yes, the American open wheel battle between ChampCar and the Indy Racing League had ended with a merger, but many folks didn’t seem to feel too great about it. Although there were still many good points, much of the fan base was still angry, confused, and seemingly waiting for something to change.
Since taking the helm in 2010, Randy Bernard has provided the impetus for plenty of change. Let us assess his position that cold February morning when he assumed command of what is now INDYCAR. We had a 7 year-old car, a single (albeit reliable) engine manufacturer, and more than a little concern for what might remain for American open wheel fans in a few years.
History will show when faced with this position, Randy Bernard attacked.
There's no passivity, no sense of resting on our laurels. No, not everything that's been tried has worked as intended. There have been struggles with the schedule, setbacks here and there with the new car, but the important thing remains that a flurry of directed, positive activity permeates what's going on these days.
And while much remains to do to solidify the gains made and push for new ones, INDYCAR and the IZOD IndyCar Series are entering this new season on an unprecedented upswing. Consider just a few of the items that seemed a pipe dream a few years ago:
-Full, quality car counts
-The start of an improved, viable open wheel ladder
-A new car
-Multiple engine manufacturers
-Tie-in sports programming
-Improved series financial situation
-Increasing TV ratings
-Race weekend enhancement proposals (i.e., heat races at Iowa)
Any one of those items would have seemed like a godsend just a few short years ago. We find ourselves now with a wealth of good news, victories that can sustain us and inspire us through the challenges that continue to present themselves. There's a sense that the status quo won't be good enough, and won't be accepted when there are still improvements to be made.
|It hasn't all been smiles for RB, but he's stayed in the fight.|
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)
Bernard has a great team of folks around him to help make this happen, but if the buck stops at his desk for criticism, it must follow that it should do the same for praise. And while both honest fans and professional naysayers will always find items they don’t like, we can ask ourselves the same (slightly modified) question that always pops up in an election year: are you better off now (as a racing fan) than you were 4 years ago?
The battle for stability, improved racing product, and making American open wheel racing the best it can be will go on. Growth continues, but it will remain a measured, demanding task. The good news through it all is, we’re charging, and with Randy Bernard, there’s the sense that we’re at last getting to go back on the offensive.