Note: I (along with about a million others, it seems) originally attributed Cat's in the Cradle to Cat Stevens. I was, in fact, Harry Chapin. See comments below.
Why is it that every time I hear about the “exceptionally promising” future of IndyCar I hear Cat Stevens Harry Chapin in my head? Specifically “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Cue the chorus:
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you coming home dad, I don't know when,
But we'll get together then
You know we'll have a good time then
Stevens’ Chapin's song is a cautionary tale about the dangers of a father not making time for his young son and then as the song progresses the son has no time for his elderly father. It’s always “we’ll get together soon,” but “soon” never arrives.
Because IndyCar, it seems, is always telling us it's on the verge of awesomeness. Soon … it’s gonna be awesome. When Danica leaves and we promote the other drivers well, we’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a good time then. When the new car (DW-12) gets here, that’ll be a game changer. The purchase of Versus network by Comcast/NBC had a lot of positive potential. And when NBC gets the rights to NASCAR in 2015, well then, THAT has a TON of potential. Most recently, when the 2015 schedule gets here, you know we’ll have a good time then, dad; we’re going to have a good time then. Or the Euro tour. Or the Indianapolis GP. Or the aerokits.
IndyCar’s motto is a neck-and-neck battle between “Be Patient” and “Wait for it ….”
I do give props to IndyCar’s current leader Mark Miles for making some moves. Even though IndyCar traded in the shoot-from-the-hip change gun slinger CEO Randy Bernard for the seemingly glacially paced Miles, Miles is now making some changes. He’s not been afraid to grab the sacred cow (month of May) by the horns. And there has been some intriguing/good (depending on your point of view) news … if you live in Indianapolis and are fans of road races outside the U.S.
And, for IndyCar’s super fans (about 250,000), the racing has been fantastic. I don’t denigrate that view at all. I’m sure they can rattle off many aspects of 2013 that were glorious in their eyes. I'm sincerely pleased that they are pleased. The problem is 250,000 fans who care about IndyCar outside of the Indianapolis 500 -- and that number as measured by TV ratings has been statistically flat or even regressed for several years now -- is just not enough. The super fans' main argument is if only the rest of the world could see how great it is, fans would flock. So the debate invariably (and fatigingly) devolves again to Improve the Product vs. Better Marketing. In IndyCar, even the debates never change from year to year.
Miles’ understandable desire to ramp up revenues has translated into a more Indianapolis-centric IndyCar than ever, what with pouring $100 million in state cash into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and scheduling an IndyCar race on the IMS road course for early May. It’s clear that IMS is the big money maker for the league, so it’s understandable to try and “maximize revenue” from there. I would probably do the same thing in his place. But if you live outside easy driving range of Indy … ah … they have plans in 2014 for … um …. Wait until next year.
But, there’s always 2015. You know we’ll have a good time then. While the 2014 schedule is pretty much status quo with maybe even some regression, 2015 schedule, now THAT will be something. Probably. Pretty sure. Lots of potential for being great. Just continue to tune in, buy tickets and stuff, and be patient.
I seem to think every year is a sink-or-swim year for IndyCar, and then throughout every year I see its head go under water frequently only to bob back up again as the league treads water and shows “things will get better soon” to the slowly decreasing number of us watching from the shore. For years, maybe decades, the Indy 500 has been the life preserver for the bobbing IndyCar. It gets enough revenue and attention to float the whole season, so you can understand why Miles is trying to enhance the IMS floatation device.
And full, sincere, credit to IndyCar’s loyal fans, who are doing everything they can think of to try throw the league something that floats. Their advocacy and investment of time and attention is quite admirable, and it helps somewhat, but it ultimately it's just not enough. IndyCar has to swim on its own, someday.
If you’re a fan of IndyCar oval racing, well, there’s always next year. We hope. Ovals like Chicagoland and Kansas would welcome IndyCar back, but not for full sanctioning fee price. IndyCar doesn’t have the money to cut them a deal (or so the thinking goes) so they head for greener pastures at overseas road courses. Maybe that's just IndyCar's niche: non-ovals. Hey, if that business plan works, I say go for it. But is it? And if so, will it work? Hit "replay" on the decades-old Oval vs. Non-Oval debate.
The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon …