Hello, peeps. 7:23 a.m. Central on a Saturday and here I am. Likely the NASCAR gliterati in Las Vegas, where it is 5:23 a.m., won't be up for five more hours (except, of course, for Bob Pockrass, who will have five stories posted by then).
Ah, that curious ritual of NASCAR Championship Celebration. Huge and fascinating. The media's roll in it is also fascinating. And, of course, more self-flagellation re: IndyCar. Let's be fascinated together ... DARK ROAST, ye BASTARDS.
Vegas, Baby -- So every year soon after the NASCAR season ends, people posse up in Las Vegas for a week long party culminating in the "After Lap" and an awards banquet. And by people I mean media people who can get a plane ticket and hotel room paid for by the boss and a good number of fans and some drivers. But not all drivers. It is way out in VEGAS after all, and if you didn't finish very high in the points and don't like a gala, there's not that much incentive to LearJet it out there.
So, OK, number one, some people want to bolt Vegas and go back to New York where it was for a long time OR take the show to Charlotte, home of all things NASCAR. Here's the Charlotte newspaper opining thusly. I read another that said moving it to Charlotte would encourage more drivers to participate. But Pete Pistone says leave it in VEGASSSS because that's more fan friendly, which is why it moved there (read it here). I'm always about the fans, so go with the venue that is most fan friendly. I think the show draws a lot of fans to Vegas, so there you go. And Vegas is easier and less expensive to get to and stay at than NYC, so that's the cherry on top. I know the show draws a lot of media to Vegas, and in the age of twitter, that's fascinating to watch.
Media in Formal Wear -- So the media jet to Vegas. It's black tie, which means The Media get to (have to, more like) dress up in tuxedos and sparkly dresses (as applicable). Very festive.
I follow these NASCAR media people on Twitter: Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer), The Mixer (@BobPockrass), Jeff Gluck (@Jeff_gluck), Pete Pistone (which I always read as Pist One) (@PPistone), Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN), Nate Ryan (@NateRyan), Dustin Long (@dustinlong), Holly Cain (@_HollyCain), Shannon Spake (@SSpakeESPN), Women of pressdog® Jamie Little (@JamieLittleESPN) and Nicole Brisoe (@RB_Mrs) and Iowa boy (who betrayed us for Florida) Jeff Olson (@JeffOlson77). I kid Jeff! I'm a kidder. Come on, he knows I'm kidding him.
So some of them are in Vegas, for sure Jenna, Pockrass and Gluck were out there last night, and I got a steady stream of banquet tweets. Sometimes when you follow that many NASCAR media on Twitter and something big is going on, your Twitter feed can become an echo chamber, with five different media people tweeting roughly the same thing simultaneously. Not a complaint, just an observation. They all tweet these things to the people who follow them because the people who follow them expect them to tweet these things, if that makes any sense. And sometimes they all tweet about the same thing. Price you pay for following bunches. No big thang, really. I can kind of tell how BIG something is by the number of echos. Kind of like Twitter sonar.
Not a lot of echoing going on this weekend, but some. One thing that struck me was the media participation in these events. They don't just cover, they participate. Not a criticism of the media, but more of an observation and definitely a shout out to NASCAR. When the media that covers you enjoys it and feels like they are part of the festivities, well, that's PR gold right there. Media relations at it's best. You're part of the posse! I don't see that in IndyCar (again, for good or ill, depending on your point of view).
If you want tons of news and inside stuff and peeks into personalities as a fan, then having the media be participants is a good thing. This Tweet from Jenna Fryer at about 2 a.m. Vegas time: "That. Just. Happened. Ain't no party like a Penske party. Especially when RP DOES SHOTS!!!!!!!!!!" That's as inside as it gets, I'd say.
So you're all like, "Media too close to the sources!!!" Maybe. Maybe not. Depends. Fine line to walk. Before you whip rocks at Jenna (not that she can't take some rocks whipped at her), check out this story: Penske Offers Tony Stewart Indianapolis 500 Ride (filed at 1 a.m. Eastern). I'd say Jenna's relationships with Roger Penske and Tony Stewart greatly contributed to that story, which sprang from something Penske said at last night's NASCAR awards banquet. Jenna was there, heard the speech, cornered Roger later, pulled out some quotes she had earlier, put together a nice story that includes a tasty RP quote comparing getting NASCAR and IndyCar to work together to getting Democrats and Republicans to do the same.
I don't have a ton of trouble with The Media hobnobbing at the Penske Party or doing shots with Keselowski or whatever. Honestly that has happened forever in The Media, which I used to be a do-it-for-a-living member of. As long as said hobnobbing doesn't constrain them from being critical of said teams when appropriate. In the "good old days" there was probably actually more "participation." I learned pretty quickly in my 9-year career as a newspaper reporter that the Puritan standards outlined in journalism school were more aspirational than actual. Overall I think the NASCAR real media does a fine job of walking the line. Another wrinkle -- as a journalist how much you involve yourself in those things is something you can decide that will impact your reputation and credibility with readers. Readers are the ultimate decision makers of if you are too tight (you go easy on your buddies!) or not tight enough (you don't get jack squat beyond the news releases). So each journalist has to make his or her own call. I tended to opt for being less tight with everyone as a media full timer, but now look at me -- right there in the buffet line as a blogger, so it's a glass houses kind of deal.
LOOK AT ME!! -- If we're being honest, and I always am here with my homeys, there's a bit of an undercurrent of narcissism that runs through some (a minority and by no means all) of these Twitter-connected media types. "Narcissism" comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome Greek youth who fell in love with his own reflection. Some big whiffs of self love all over Twitter (not just with the media members), which is actually quite understandable given the medium.
It's so easy to just tweet out whatever comes through your mind -- "Having a ham sandwich" -- that the follower can take that as "wow, I guess Bill figures we love him so much we want to be informed as to his sandwich selection."
So maybe it's the nature of the Twitter beast. But I do know it's easy to look at your follower count, which can be several times the population of your hometown, and start to think "I MUST REALLY BE THE SHIT!!! 5300 people are following my every word!!" Hence the trend of last year (not so prevalent today) of grubbing for more followers, which I never understood (and yet dipped my toe into very occasionally).
Sometimes the rationale is more followers means more traffic for your blog, which means ... you feel like your blog matters more, maybe. Definitely doesn't mean more money for you as a blogger. Traffic = money on Web sites, but in order to make a living off a site you need about 1 million visitors A DAY. So going from 1000 followers to 1500 on Twitter ... mostly that just gives you a warm fuzzy.The traffic to my blog (an average of 600 page views per day) generates about $300 a year in Google Ad Sense payments, which figures out to be about $1 for every hour I spend on it and pays for site hosting and about half a trip to a race track. My blog rewards me in other ways, primarily via entertaining myself and through interaction with people who comment here.
BUT, a lot of my traffic does come from Twitter followers. So when I catch myself having those kinds of "I must be awesome" thoughts, honestly, I look in the mirror and laugh at myself. Luckily I have a sane wife and two teenage daughters to help me realize I am sooooo not "the shit." Plus when you get 5300-some followers, you start to feel pressure to entertain and not lose any and keep building ... for some reason. Perhaps it has to do with my tangled, goofy, yet-undiagnosed mental condition. Again, ask my wife and kids. As my sister says, "I ain't right in the head." I actually have my Tweet Deck set so that I can't see my or anyone else's Twitter follower count in my timeline to prevent myself from getting freaked out about gaining or losing followers, or doing something stupid like judging others based only on their follower count.
Actually, now that I ponder it with ya, the self aggrandizement that we all are susceptible too and some fall into more than others adds to some of the entertainment the Twitter. I catch myself chortling at some of the "look at how cool I am!!" posts. Again, no one is pure, including me (insert Danica Patrick name drop here).
I will say Bob Pockrass is perhaps the least narcissistic media person that I follow on all of Twitter. You should follow Bob for NASCAR news. He's hyper-fan-focused and very humble and unassuming in real life. He may even be a fellow introvert. And the guy is relentless in turning out the stories. Highly recommend him for your NASCAR news that's fan focused and devoid of "LOOK AT ME!" schwerve.
ANYWHO, back to the awards banquet. It's a series of speeches. Brad Keselowski fired off one that The Mixer (the aforementioned Mr. Pockrass) captures here. The "After Lap" on Thursday night sounded a lot like a big frat party. Not a criticism. It's supposed to be that. It's major "good old boy (and girl)" brand reinforcement. I'm not hip to watching that, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Top Five moments in Jeff Gluck's opinion here (complete with video deleted due to NASCAR copyright infringement. NAUGHTY JEFF.)
Apparently, based again on Twitter, a lot of fans watched these things on TV and attended and found them highly entertaining. Good for them. As an introvert, the idea of public performing and hi jinx makes me want to curl up in a ball alone in the underground liar. Even watching others do it makes me uncomfortable. If I won the Sprint Cup title, I'd ask to appear by video or get so liquored up before the show that I'd be an embarrassment.
Steph's Deep Dive & Tony's Moment of Personal Clarity-- God bless Steph Wallcraft of MoreFrontWing.com. Not a molecule of sarcasm here. (My grandma's voice) Well, bless her heart. (end grandma's voice). She's DEEP DIVING over there at MFW. She's giving the comprehensive, multi-part "ideas for IndyCar." Major effort and energy. I honestly salute her, because 1) I admire how much she's contributing to IndyCar and 2) she hasn't yet become a tired, bitter husk of a fan (insert me looking in the mirror her). If you haven't read Steph's stuff, rush rights over there and read it. The Intro is here. Steph captures a passionate attempt to be helpful and "part of the solution" that we all share at times.
Also, bless Tony Johns' little heart for his honesty over at RacingPress.com this week. Tony seems to have come to the conclusion that it's really not the fans' job to fix stuff. Read it here. Tony explores the idea of becoming too invested in a sport (not just IndyCar, the treatise applies to any sport).
Tony and Steph have nicely provided the poles which I oscillate between. I went through the same process with the NFL. I was once a HUGE Minnesota Vikings fan, but then it came to a point there the cost of fandom (in angst, etc.) outweighed the benefit. So I bailed on the Vikings as a hard-core fan and pulled back from the NFL as a football fan, and now just take in a quarter here and there without a ton of investment. And I'm a happier, less stressed person.
Lot of people going through some introspection re: their dedication to IndyCar. Lot of other people commenting on said introspection ... not getting it, agreeing, disagreeing, mocking ... all fair game. If you're in that place, you'll probably find both Tony's and Steph's efforts interesting.
Bottom line for me is increasingly to see myself as a consumer of what I like and a non-consumer of what I don't, and taking the approach of walking away from things I don't enjoy and toward things I do, in life and sports. I do agree with Tony that this kind of attitude is greatly liberating, because I no longer worry or feel compelled to "fix" things. Offer suggestions, sure, but then let it go at that.
HEY, better go. Sorry if I repeat myself on the IndyCar angst. I don't mean to. I really treat this as kind of a chatty letter to the posse, so take it for what it's worth. And follow my advice when it comes to entertainment: If you enjoy it, great. If not, walk away. BOOM.
Have a good weekend. pdog ... out.