A day-long series of meetings is kicking off soon in Indianapolis wherein interested parties will talk about "The State of IndyCar." Much of the day is double-secret (I think) business meetings wherein the drivers, team officials and series honchos talk about this and that, like car development, engines, safety, etc. etc.
All fine, dandy and needed. IndyCar officials have opened the last session of the day at Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis to the public and invited fans to flock. Starts at 5:30 Eastern. Get details here.
It's tempting to be snarky about these meetings (for example, drink every time someone says any form of "excited" and you'd be hammered 10 minutes into it). Snark could also roll in memory of the infamous holograms-and-pretend-DROID-voting that went on at the big 2012 Car Selection announcement.
But if we can belay the snark for a moment (it is difficult for me, I admit), let's grasp some key perspective ...
Perspective Point 1: Five years ago this meeting doesn't happen a'tall. "Vision for the coming year" was NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. IndyCar back then was a Festival of Secret Meetings and "we'll let you know when it's time for you to give us your money" attitude.
Now I love Tony George's children Lauren George (a Woman of pressdog®) and Ed Carpenter (favorite male driver!), and I DO NOT think Tony George was the Satan of Motorsports, but the man was seriously public relations impaired. Not sure if it was his own extreme introversion or what, but Tony's ongoing PR efforts were abysmal. This kind of public, fan-focused, CEO-led event just didn't happen under the George regime.
Perspective Point 2: Don't kill the good in quest of the perfect. Honestly, comparing what NASCAR does for preseason, generate media and whip-up-the-faithful stuff to what IndyCar does makes IndyCar's efforts seem embryonic. But, you gotta start somewhere. Something is better than nothing. Expecting NASCAR-ish stuff from IndyCar ... given the massive difference in fan numbers, cash flow, etc. etc. ... isn't right. If someone puts on an event and all you do is ridicule, don't be shocked if there's no event at all next year, let alone something bigger and better. This is something I need to remind myself of constantly.
Perspective Point 3: The more you make public, the more people debate, second-guess and call you stupid. Witness the recent revelations around the Leader Circle awards. Those are basically $1.2 million subsidies IndyCar hands out to teams. (Story here.) Making HOW the series determines who gets what opened IndyCar up to all kinds of debate and second-guessing. While this openness is absolutely the best way to go in the long term (I argue it's necessary for survival, let alone growth), it's also a lot less painful to just do it all in secret. So, again, props for taking the rougher road of openness here.
While Doom & Gloom is lethal to any business effort, relentless Pollyanna positivism is equally so. I try to walk between the two. I reject the idea that "if we all just get together and insist everything is AWESOME and never mention what needs to be improved, we'll return to glory!!" Because you can't improve on something when you won't allow that there are things to improve upon.
But I also reject "everything is shit no matter what is done. We're inextricably headed down the toilet!!"That kind of defeatist attitude stops you from even trying and thereby ensures failure.
So I give Randy Bernard props for coming this far with including fans -- while at the same time expect continued improvement. There is a long way to go, but turn around and look back at how far it has come.