Here are some leftover thoughts from last weekend’s Indianapolis 500:
I nearly fell over in a dead faint when the TV ratings came out and they revealed that the Indianapolis 500 had the fewest people watching it since it started being broadcast live in the U.S. in 1986. (Thanks to the late Johnny Esaw of CTV, Canadians and some people in the U.S. along the Canada-U.S. border got to watch the 500 live for 10 years before the rest of America got it.)
But a 3.7 is shocking. Absolutely shocking. What is going on? It’s the Indy 500, for God's sake. The 3.7 is down from 4.1 in 2012 and 4.3 in 2011. According to sportsmediawatch.com, 2013 marked the fifth year in a row that the 500 has been below 4.5.
So listen to what Speedway spokesman Doug Boles said:
“We’ll continue to get the message out that races at the Speedway here over the last three years have gotten more and more exciting.”
I’d suggest that kind of “messaging” ain’t workin'.
If I was the Speedway, I’d be thinking of a change in its approach, wouldn’t you?
Where these guys are missing the boat is that they think exciting racing is going to attract viewers. If that was so, don’t you think more people would have tuned in last Sunday to a race that was simply terrific, which followed an equally great race in 2012 and 2011, as Mr. Boles said?
But they didn't. So something's missing.
What IndyCar and the Indianapolis Speedway need is conflict, drama, gossip and intrigue - or a combination of all of the above. NASCAR has tradin’ paint and drivers throwing helmets; the F1 race in Monaco wasn’t over more than about a minute last Sunday before winning team Mercedes and tire supplier Pirelli were being accused of cheating.
At Indy, everybody was talking about what a really great guy Tony Kanaan is and how happy they were for him.
The drivers in IndyCar these days are all clean-behind-the-ears, corporate goody-two-shoes.
They are BORING.
They had four women in the race. Quick: name them.
Couldn't do it, could you?
But you know who Danica Patrick is, don’t you? Why? No, not because she’s a good race driver but because she took her clothes off for the camera. Never nude, she was in Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition and sprawled across the hood of a car in Maxim and everybody knew it.
People looked at her and saw a bikini. And the girl can drive, too.
When Tony Kanaan got down on his hands and knees last Sunday to kiss the yard of bricks after his big win, some other driver should have gone up behind him and kicked him in the butt and accused him of dirty driving. He should have pointed his finger at Kanaan and told him, live on ABC television, that if he ever did that again he’d clock him in that big nose of his.
So instead of headlines on Monday morning saying, “Harvick sorry he's switching teams," or “Kyle Busch stomps off in a huff again," you’d have seen, “Indy 500 winner threatened with bodily harm.”
And instead of the usual TV shot seen on every channel of yet another “big one” in a NASCAR race, you’d have seen Kanaan trying to defend himself by swinging the Borg-Warner Trophy at somebody.
Now, that would get people talking.
If the IndyCar Series is smart, they’ll hire me.
And if not me, Vince McMahon.
One more thing about TV ratings. TSN sent out the Canadian figures on Tuesday and it’s interesting that the race in the No. 1 spot was the Grand Prix of Monaco on TSN, with 252,000 viewers. The NASCAR Coke 600 on TSN was second with 210,000 and the Indy 500 on Sportsnet was third with 153,000.
Which seems about right – except that I know a lot of my friends who watched the 500 on ABC, which had side-by-side service during commercials while Sportsnet went to full-screen commercials. Maybe it didn't make a big difference, but it made a difference.
Everything – as usual – was perfect about the race. The pre-race went off without a hitch and I was particularly impressed with Jim (Gomer Pyle) Nabors, who’s been singing Back Home in Indiana since 1973. More than one person came up to me in the media centre and said they thought he’d died. They were wrong, or else the Speedway came up with a hell of a Jim Nabors impersonator.
And the race itself was thrilling, with the cars literally floating on the Speedway, they were going so fast.
But something wasn’t right about the start. Not once did they line up in the traditional 11 rows of three. They’re supposed to be in that formation by the time they get to Turn Three near the end of the second parade lap. They do this so they can parade down the front and back stretches in a salute to the fans during the pace lap. Also known as the “wave-off lap,” it’s when both audience and performers can acknowledge each other’s presence.
But they didn’t line up till the backstretch of the pace lap and were ragged and out of sinc going through Turn Four. By that time, though, they’d thrown the green and all bets were off as all 33 cars charged toward Turn One.
Maybe it’s not a big thing to some people but that’s the way it’s supposed to be and I’m a traditionalist.
Before I go, a quick change of pace. The people trying to build that speedway down in Fort Erie are running out of patience, the Fort Erie Times is reporting.
Calling the Ontario Municipal Board’s approvals process inefficient (you can say that again), the speedway’s executive director more or less said that if something positive doesn’t happen in the fairly immediate future, the project will be cancelled.
To read more, click this link to the story.