Monday, June 6, 2011

Memo to a groundhog

(by Obi wan crapwagon.com 6-6-11)

I feel the need to address a matter that is so patently obvious that most Gomers have missed it completely. That is the fact that Tony George and the rest of his Hulman-George family do not support the sport of INDYCAR racing.

“Sport” in this instance refers to American open-wheel racing; the series of motor sport events comprising the remnants of the American National Championship (as created retroactively by the AAA in 1909).

There is no need to take my word for it but instead one need only look to what Tony George has said.

The press release announcing the formation of the Indy Racing League – “a new auto racing series to run in concert with the Indianapolis 500 beginning in 1996” – was subtitled: “Maintaining the Greatest Race Course in the World.”

In case that is too subtle a statement, as it seems to be for 99% of Gomers, it means that the purpose of the new auto racing series (IRL) was “maintaining” the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (i.e. “the Greatest Race Course in the World”) and its Indianapolis 500 race. Period. In simple terms, the new series exists to serve one race track, not the other way around. If there is a conflict in their respective needs, those of the race track come first.

With everything that occurred during the dozen years of war in American open-wheel racing that formation of the IRL precipitated, is it possible that Tony George and his family changed their intention?

In one of his only interviews during his short time in exile after his family ousted George as CEO of IMS and he resigned as head of the IRL, dated May 4, 2010, Tony said:

HC: What are some of your proudest accomplishments during your 20-year tenure with the Speedway and in founding the Indy Racing League in 1994?

TG: I'm proud of our leadership in investments in the safety of the sport. I am proud of the Hulman Family's commitment to community and philanthropy.

Obviously, once the decision was made to expand our racing events at the Speedway, being a part of bringing world-class events like the Brickyard 400, MotoGP and F1 USGP to fruition; but with that said, the IRL for sure. It has so much potential and it truly is who we [Hulmans] are, we can influence its direction; build it as a brand leveraging both the IMS and the 500 for which it exists.

Much has been speculated, wildly inaccurate, about how much was spent to build the IRL. I am proud that we have spent a lot less than it would have taken to buy a professional sports team in the NFL, MLB, NBA or even the NHL -- and we own the whole league.


So, at a time when Tony George had separated himself from all formal connection with the IMS and the IRL, and hence any conflicts of interest, and three years after the war in AOWR was concluded, George is clear that the purpose of the IRL (i.e. “for which it exists”) is still to “leverage both the IMS and the 500.”

In this brief quote, Tony also betrays his incongruous thinking about the operation of the sport (i.e. “the whole league”). He compares his investment in it with the purchase of “a professional sports team in the NFL, MLB, NBA or even the NHL.”

The conflict that George has never acknowledged, apparently even to himself, is that a professional sports team for the most part can be operated separately from the sport of which it is a part and for the exclusive enrichment of its owner(s) -- as contrasted with the owners of other teams in the sport -- whereas the sport must be operated (in order to succeed) for the benefit of ALL the teams and their owners. Thus, Tony maintains (by extrapolation) that a sport like major-league baseball could be successfully operated by, say, the owners of the NY Yankees and exclusively for their benefit; when obviously it cannot. The results of this sort of erroneous thinking are painfully obvious in the ruined remnants of our sport.

If any doubt remains about the exact meaning of Tony George’s words and intentions, he concluded his two-part interview with this assessment of the worth of the IRL:

There is great value in the Indy Racing League; it exists to support the institutions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 Mile race; and I am proud of its contributions to the sport.

Besides the simply stated purpose of the IRL (now ICS), note if you will its relationship to the sport: it is a contributor to the sport, not the sport itself. This is something that the Gomers have yet to realize.

Given all the Hulman-George family’s rhetoric about “maintaining” and “protecting” the IMS and the 500, it is ironic indeed that they have almost single-handled brought both to near ruin; such that it is widely believed that IMS must be sold soon in order to save it and its once-iconic 500-mile race. Now you know why.

JMO

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