Monday, July 2, 2012

Let's Make Canada "Crisis"-Free

One of the trials of being an IndyCar fan this year has been this disconnect in some of the reactions online versus the overall race weekend experience. To an extent, that's fine; we've all received emails or press releases that seem a teensy bit disconnected from the reality of the situation ("Car XX finished a strong 23rd place, and was working on  the Herculean task of passing for 22nd when there was another on-track incident involving the driver. It was the 2nd consecutive finish above 25th place for the young star"). Yet these aren't press releases I'm referencing; we're talking about part of the online contingent of fans.

There are certain movie phrases that come to mind now and again, and that have been mentioned here and there in our Saturday morning IndyCar coffee group. One of my favorites, in regards to IndyCar fans online, is the "Little Lights" frame of mind, taken from the film National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Fellow blogger and IndyCar Coffee denizen Mark Wilkinson once used it to proper effect in his blog, but I think it bears repeating here:

Talk about Christmas in July....

Every race, every development, the Little Lights mentality is utilized by some. Before the post-race euphoria has subsided, someone is online polluting feeds or forums with their insistence that the race or Series did something unforgivable. So, let's see if we can go back the last few weeks and see what the some of the reactions were online:

Justin Wilson wins, in a race that was as exciting as any we've seen in recent years, including a metric ton of passing.

General Fan Reaction: "Holy crap! Dale Coyne and Justin Wilson won on an oval! What a race!"

Little Lights Guy: "Wilson had an illegal part of his car? TAKE AWAY THE WIN."

The Andrettis successfully saved the Milwaukee Mile for at least one more year, completely reviving the fan experience. Oh, and Ryan Hunter-Reay won a pretty good race.

General Fan Reaction: "Hey, nice job saving the Mile! RHR had a great race, too."

Little Lights Guy: "The missed penalty on Scott Dixon ruined this race completely."

Ryan Hunter-Reay outbattled a host of drivers, including Marco Andretti, in a surprise-filled, excellent race. 

General Fan Reaction: "I cannot believe all those things happened. WOW, and congrats to RHR."

Little Lights Guy: "The race finished under yellow? What an incredibly horrible thing."

Now, let's be clear: some things, such as owners having major issues with Dallara parts pricing, are indeed big deals, and need to be addressed. However, running an illegal part that was considered to have little/no effect on the race is not a crisis, unless people want it to be. Penalizing Scott Dixon was bizarre, but his car was in severe mechanical distress late in the race, and he wasn't robbed of the win. Again, not really a crisis--and the sort of once-in-a-lifetime incident that was addressed, open and honestly, right after it happened.

Surely, I thought, Iowa wouldn't have any of that drama. Yet almost immediately, the griping began after Katherine Legge's spin in the closing laps. Some went so far as to suggest the odious Green/White/Checkered of NASCAR, which is probably one of the few things INDYCAR could implement that would see me picketing outside their offices and writing 15,000-word manifestos online against it.

Maybe I'm just really easygoing (you think?), but it seems to me there shouldn't be much off the track--especially the incidents as described as above--that should ruin one's enjoyment of the frankly excellent on-track product we've seen this year. Yeah, addressing issues in a positive manner is great, but it seems some fans don't give themselves time to enjoy the actual racing that's going on. And that's a shame, because it's been an awesome ride--especially these past few races.

I don't want to sound like a life coach here, but at some point in my life, I realized that a lot of the things I was worrying about were likely out of my control. And amazingly, many of the them ended up resolving themselves, shockingly independent of my position, opinion, or even existence.

That's part of the reason I'm pretty nonchalant when it comes to most issues outside the actual, meat-and-potatoes of racing. Yet I know that if Toronto or Edmonton have even a hint of something less than perfection--a questionable penalty, a non-call on blocking, even a rain delay, for heaven's sake--it will be flagged as a grave crisis. Never mind the on-track product--any mistake at all will be held up under the microscope, and grimly pronounced at a magnitude several dozen times larger than it might deserve.

Indeed, there doesn't seem to be any middle ground. There is no "minor issue"--problems are treated like a Big Deal, regardless of their actual substance. The more nervous among us go between the highest highs and lowest lows with each turn of fate. It's an instant 0 to 60, with no braking.

We're living in a generation and a world becoming more and more used to instant gratification. Analysis is instant and often close to comprehensive; expectations are the super-fan has the ability to dissect every bit of the happenings of their hobby or passion, and share their feelings on it with lightning speed. While this is great for the hardcore fans among us, it also unfortunately can an induce a sort of myopia wherein everything happening now is important, unprecedented, or seen to have a greater impact than it really does. It's part of the reason every time IndyCar gets a bad bit of news (never mind the good parts), there's no shortage of prognosticators, grimly shaking their heads at their laptop screen, coming to the snap judgement that IndyCar is doomed unto perpetuity. It has transformed some of us into skittish, shaking lap dogs, waiting for the other shoe to drop, certain that destruction lies just around the next corner.

Yes, even with the great races, IndyCar has had what might be called (were it not already copyrighted) A Series of Unfortunate Events. And I can understand the allure of being the Cassandra of IndyCar, grimly predicting the downfall of Troy with only a smattering of masochistic pleasure in being correct as the flames come. However, I thought perhaps we could try a little experiment for the Canadian swing of IndyCar races coming up. Here's a flowchart showing the current thought process for a sadly vocal amount of IndyCar fans:

Starting in Toronto, I'd like us to try the following flowchart instead:

It might just be crazy enough to work.

Cheers to our Canadian friends--IndyCar will be seeing you soon. Hopefully, we'll leave the emotional baggage at Customs.


  1. Great column, Zach. There are a lot of Negative Ned's and Nancy's out there. My favorite- I give the race a 2- only 8 passes for the lead.

    1. Zachary HoughtonJuly 2, 2012 at 8:44 AM

      Oh yes, I've seen it.

      It's a picky crowd. Or maybe I'm just easily entertained. If so, good for me. :)

  2. Very well said Zach. We just went through a great stretch of races and people still complain. The media is guilty of making a mountain out of a mole hill also. Hopefully we can just sit back and enjoy the ride

    1. Zachary HoughtonJuly 2, 2012 at 10:05 AM

      That's true. I think there's pressure to react and say something, even when something doesn't necessarily need said (or not at that level of concern/intensity). It's a byproduct of that continual demand for info, and pressure to provide in a micro-cycle.

  3. Great stuff Zach. Flow charts? You outdid yourself on this one, buddy! ;--)

    1. Zachary HoughtonJuly 2, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      I thought it may have been a bridge too far, but I went for it..

  4. False penalties, rain delays, illegal parts/cars, asphalt repair chunks, little/no passing, jacked up restarts, P2P or no P2P, blown engines, starting grid penalties, etc and on and on and on. I'll gladly accept all of those and more rather than go a weekend wishing my favorite racing series wasn't on an off week. I love IndyCar!

  5. Ken @AbuelosDeTreceJuly 2, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Great job Zach! Heaven forbid anything happening to Hinch during the race! If he doesn't win we're all DOOMED! .... just kidding.... Loved all of those races you mentioned despite any incidents. To me it has been a great first year for the new DW12!

  6. I think it's just inherent in human nature that some have to find fault at whatever they observe. Sure, it gets old at times, but I think I'd prefer the mumbling over complete indifference. At least they're watching. I find it easy enough to ignore them anyway. I'm too busy enjoying IndyCar.

    That being said, I think my Diet Pepsi from the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix concession stands could have used a bit more carbonation...

  7. And if this doesn't work just blame Canada!

  8. I love the flow chart! Also, if GWC is ever implemented in Indycar, I'll join you on the picket line.

    1. Zachary HoughtonJuly 4, 2012 at 6:18 AM

      It's a deal!