They Have Got To Be Joking!

For the past two weeks, I’ve referenced an absurdity that was sent in to Curt Cavin’s Q&A at The Indianapolis Star. I promise I don’t scour Curt’s blog for inspiration on subject matter, but this will make three weeks in a row. Last Thursday, one of Curt’s readers wrote in asking if IMS will ever bank the north and south turns, so that fans can watch side-by-side racing all around the track like in NASCAR.

Are you kidding me? Two weeks ago, someone asked for green-white-checker finishes for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Last week, someone asked for a best-in-class scenario for track records for this current nine year-old Dallara. Now, some clown wants high-banking at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I say clown, because I’m wondering if these people are actually being serious or just trying to get their names on the internet by asking an intentionally ridiculous question. To quote the ancient philosopher, Keyshawn Johnson; “C’mon man!”

For the record, Curt gave the reader a classic answer. He said there are very few things he is sure of in life, but one of them is that the track itself will remain unchanged. It’s been that way for 100 years, which is part of the uniqueness of it. I won’t even dignify that question with a response on why the track should remain unchanged. Curt did that sufficiently.

Instead, I want to know where these questions are coming from. Is Curt having a big off-season laugh on all of us as he pulls a daily blooper out of his over-loaded inbox? Has he always been getting e-mails from cranks and he’s decided to quietly sneak them in so that we can see what being Curt is really like? Or has 2011 surfaced as The Year of the Loon?

Maybe those fickle fans that became sudden NASCAR fans a few years ago have become disenchanted and are looking around for another sport to infiltrate. We should welcome any new fans we can get, but let’s grow our own brand of new fans that like our sport the way it is. We don’t need fans wanting to bring NASCAR-like rules or rip up the pavement and bricks at IMS simply because it isn’t like NASCAR.

We’ve always been told that the only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked. At first glance, I’d be tempted to say that doesn’t apply here. But on second thought, it does. I’ve sounded off before about the arrogance of hockey fans that scoff at any outsiders asking what they believe to be stupid questions. I grew up in the south in the sixties. I never saw a (non-Olympic) hockey game on TV until the mid-seventies, and never saw a game live until I finally went to a Nashville Predators game in 2002. I’m sorry, I never knew what “icing” was and I’m still not too sure what those blue lines mean.

When my son decided to play hockey in high school, I was one of the few parents who knew nothing of this sport. Most parents were northern transplants who sneered at my lack of knowledge of their sport and looked down their nose at anyone who might be interested in becoming a fan. They seemed to only want their inbred fans that grew up with the sport and welcomed no newcomers. That attitude might explain how their already obscure sport went from ESPN to Versus after they lost a season to a labor dispute. The hockey people I dealt with on my son’s team acted as if they wanted no new fans. I think they’ve gotten their wish.

Over the last several years, I’ve taken potential new IndyCar fans with me to Indianapolis. Last season, it was Susan’s son’s girlfriend that went for the first time. I wouldn’t say that she has become a die-hard fan, but she is planning on going back this coming May. I’ve always tried to patiently answer any question that a newcomer might ask, no matter how simple it may sound. To me, a question is a sign of curiosity and interest. Anything I can do to help foster that interest might help someone become a longtime fan of the sport. They, in turn, might bring other new fans, and so on.

So, I’ll go back to my original question – are these legitimate questions that Curt has decided to showcase, or are these questions from people just trying to see if they can get what they submitted published? If you’ve listened to The Talk of Gasoline Alley with Donald Davidson each May, you know Donald does not like to talk about the controversies surrounding the turbine of the late sixties. Unfortunately, it has become great fun for callers to sneak in a question about the turbine past the screeners to see if Donald will answer it on the air. He’ll always skim over it, but politely lets callers know he doesn’t like talking about it. And so it goes. People may have realized that the more ridiculous the question, the greater the likelihood that it will get published.

Whatever the case, it has created more than one case where I was so irritated that I felt compelled to comment further on the question. Come to think of it, by devoting an entire post for the third time in three weeks to their supposed absurdity, I guess the joke is on me.

George Phillips

22 Responses to “They Have Got To Be Joking!”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    I think someone is jerking the collective bloggers chain.

    Regarding hockey’s blue line, please see icing and offsides explanations at the below site.

  2. Personally, I think it’s Curt letting loose with some odd questions.

  3. Hmmm… higher banking for open wheel cars. Yeah, that’s a great idea!!


    I think someone needs to raise the spectre of the 2001 Firestone Firehawk 600 at the Texas Motor Speedway to reveal the folly of increasing banking for open-wheel racecars. Granted, that was an extreme case, but still… I contend that little of NASCAR translates to OWR, and while that should sound obvious, it’s questions like the one about banking that shows that it’s not. It may have been an innocent question, but all innocent motives about making Indycar “look” more like NASCAR aside, it betrays an honest lack of information regarding OWR history, as well as what’s involved with speeds above what Cup cars put up.

  4. I think it’s just Cavin giving us a glimpse of some of the craziness he gets on a daily basis.

  5. I thought that question about reconfiguring IMS was pretty absurd, and kind of insulting. But, on the other hand, maybe if there are newbies asking these questions, it could be a good sign that interest in INDYCAR is growing. Maybe. I like how Curt handled it, although as much as I hate to think that IMS could change, “never say never” comes to mind here.

    As we know, the speedway HAS changed – the crushed stone was replaced with bricks, the bricks were replaced with asphalt over time, the walls were reconfigured, the SAFER barriers were put in place, etc. – all changes in the name of safety. The configuration hasn’t changed, but if a bad accident happens and politicians get involved, who knows what could happen. I hope it doesn’t ever change but there are enough selfish, history-ignorant jackasses out there that ruin things for everyone.

    • timnothhelfer Says:

      HMS was originally a scaled down version of IMS…..two re-configurations later it is a flat out track losing dates……(somebody should have taken the bust of Emerson Fittipaldi after the last IndyCar race there and saved it from the birds and the France Family!)
      BTW Millers Mailbag is unreadable because of the questions, it’s depressing.

  6. It’s the off season… maybe he’s not getting the volume of mail he normally gets.

  7. It’s just a question. Supposedly PIR is going to get a makeover. The person asking the question might not be an old man like yourself. That person could be 10 years old for all we know. It’s really not worth getting upset about. IndyCar fans are more insecure than SEC football fans. That would make a good post.

    • Oilpressure Says:

      Ouch! A double jab.

      First you call me an old man, then you call SEC football fans (like me) insecure. I’m 52 and got an early start (age 6) to going to the Indy 500. How can SEC football fans be considered insecure, when the SEC has won the National Championship five years in a row (and counting)? With that, I’ll go take my Geritol and watch replays of the 1998 Fiesta Bowl and try to remember when Tennessee was good so that I can feel good about myself again.

  8. Savage Henry Says:

    INDYCAR is working overtime to bring new fans to the sport and recapture some casual fans that it lost during the split. These questions tell me that it is working to some extent. Be careful what you wish for.

  9. Brian McKay Says:

    I didn’t vote, because I don’t know whether 1, 2, 3, or both 1 & 2. As you said, “To me, a question is a sign of curiosity and interest.” And Curt handles them well enough. And you and I (and hopefully everyone else) is PR-aware enough to avoid responding to new IndyCar viewers derisively or dismissively.
    By the way, why don’t them Indy cars come down an’ race at Daytona?

  10. Dear Mr. Cavin, will the new 2012 aero kits allow for hoods and fenders on the cars? This would greatly increase surface area, allowing for larger, easier to read sponsor logos. It could also allow the shape of the car to mimic vehicles that are currently in production–GM’s aero kits could be made to look like a Chevy Volt, for instance. And then if the sponsor were Kelloggs, it could be painted to look like a Cocopuffs box. That would make the series much more inticing to sponsors and body-kit manufacturers, and inject a lot more money into a sport that’s desperately needed.

    P.S. what do we need to do to get Rusty Wallace back in the broadcast booth?

    • billytheskink Says:

      General Mills makes Cocoa Puffs.

      Kelloggs would be a dream sponsor, though. Talk about activation.
      Plus, from 1993 to 2002, millions upon millions of Corn Flakes flags were sold at NASCAR races. People who didn’t even like Terry Labonte or Corn Flakes bought them, an unexplained phenomenon that became known as Labonte’s Law.

  11. George, on the one hand you criticize hockey fans for “sneering at your lack of knowledge of their sport”. Aren’t you doing the same thing about IndyCar fans who may be new to the sport? Have you never asked a question about a subject new to you that turned out to be a stupid question? Have you been eating grumpy flakes for breakfast?

    • Brian McKay Says:

      George didn’t sneer at one’s lack of knowledge. We don’t know if questioner “Charles” is a a new IndyCar fan, a longtime IndyCar fan, a newspaper coworker pulling Mr. Cavin’s chain…
      George is the one who mentioned the haughtiness and disdain of the hockey-moms and dads.

      May I posit that there’s a difference between asking questions to others in bleachers about penalties and scoring and asking a ‘dumb’ question in a public way so that we suspect that the asker is joking.

      “Will IMS ever bank the north and south end so we the fans can watch side-by-side racing all the way around on the last 10 to 20 laps? I hope so…”
      ‘Gee, why didn’t anyone before “Charles” think of that?’ was my reaction…

    • Oilpressure Says:


      That’s why I brought up the hockey analogy…to point out why we SHOULDN’T sneer at people asking these questions. – GP

  12. George, You just became the producer on Tv that decided to show the fan,bolting onto the field in full glory,dashing down the hash marks. You gave them some credit when they had none coming. I still love your blogs,everybody is entitled a mulligan.

  13. Christopher Leone Says:

    Ah, this made me feel better about my day. Going back to hockey – today I watched my beloved Boston Bruins defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 7-0 in a matinee.

    When I got home to see the highlights on SportsCenter, the rundown on the left side of the screen said “Panthers – Bruins.” Yes, as in the football team.

    Needless to say, I was pretty pissed. Great idiocy deserves to be called out. And unless the banking question was indeed from a 10-year-old, that was great idiocy, and it deserved to be called out.

    (As for me, I’m wondering why we don’t have our own Chase. It’s working so well for NASCAR.)

  14. George, the blue lines are like the “line of scrimmage” in football… In football, you can’t be across that line before the ball is snapped or you’re Offsides. In hockey, the offense can’t be accros the blue line before the puck goes across it or they’re Offsides.

    Having a right winger skating across-ice ten feet over the blue line before the offensive play starts is like having a tight end starting the play by standing a couple yards past the linebackers – it’d be unfair to the defense.

    Hope that helps…at least not all hockey fans are jerks. Well, if anything, we might be jerks but we don’t want to high-bank Indy !

  15. Not sure about the sources of those questions, but your article reminded me of a few things.

    1. Indycar fans, in my experience, have been a bit insular much like hockey fans. Perhaps it’s the requisite and lengthy history one must learn to become at all knowledgeable in the sport, but similar nonetheless. I’ve brought numerous uninitiated to the Indy 500 and been patient as we discuss why the race is important, etc. All talk is meaningless until their first flyover, Back Hom Again, and green flag.

    2. Indycar (like hockey) is far better experienced in person. The action can’t be replicated well enough on TV yet to give you the feeling of being there whereas football and basketball and baseball are fairly true to sitting in the stands.

    Let’s be patient with newcomers to the sport and do our very best to describe it by saying, “you just have to see it in person to understand.”

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