Quite honestly, I have very little to offer the IndyCar community. Very little. Nobody disputes this. And in terms of constructive, intelligent, non-fictional insights that might help further & grow the sport — I have even less. Which is to say, I have none.
Until now, that is. When my jarring, almost-pathetic unfamiliarity with IndyCar can finally be used as an asset. As a weapon for good. Like a poison-tipped throwing-star.
Because with great unfamiliarity comes great power: the power of uncluttered, unimpassioned perception … the power to view IndyCar from an outsider’s perspective. Which make no mistake, I still am — despite efforts to the contrary. For you see, up until very recently, my life was spent fervently turning the channel AWAY from the unexpected IndyCar telecast … not tuning into it. Not that I’m proud of this. Nor ashamed. I’m not anything… except about to boost IndyCar’s television ratings by roughly 4,500%.
Listen here, VERSUS. And listen good. This isn’t exaggerated, nor is it sugar-coated. This is the unvarnished truth:
Unless they’re already a steely-eyed race fan, NOBODY will just stumble across one of your IndyCar telecasts this summer and instantly become captivated with the product. They just won’t. That’s the reality of the situation … and I’ve got a 2,000 cubic ton wheelbarrow full of 0.4 television ratings to prove it. It’s a cynical world outside these walls — a world in which I used to live. Where I just flew in from, actually. I know these people. I know their customs. I know their habits. I know their prejudices & preconceptions. I know their mindsets. I know them all too well, in fact.
And I know that these IndyCar-doubters will need something MORE than extended pre-race shows and Jon Beekhuis to capture their attention. They’ll need MORE than cutting-edge telemetry graphics and in-depth qualification broadcasts. Because those shiny new additions — while admirable on your part — will only enhance the telecast for the seasoned & savvy die-hards; they will in NO FEASIBLE WAY entice the newcomer to watch.
No, these people will certainly need something else. Something revolutionary to the sport. Something that makes the otherwise unknown (and therefore uninteresting) on-track action seem secondary. Secondary to the drama and the intrigue and — most of all — the personalities of the product. What these people need is this:
A weekly, documentary-style television show chronicling the behind-the-scenes happenings of the IndyCar drivers and their teams as they prepare for each race. For it’s a concept that would undoubtedly reel in those who know nothing of the sport. Feel free to thank me with folding money.
Oh, what’s that?? You’re questioning me, are you? You’re skeptical of the immense potential of this? Very well then. Allow me to throw out a hypothetical for you.
Imagine a crab-fishing contest up in the cold, desolate Bering Sea. You know nothing of crab-fishing, obviously, nor do you particularly care to. You know the practice exists, sure. But nothing else. Now, would the thought of watching a televised crab-fishing contest seem appealing? No. Certainly not. Not unless you consider a back-alley tracheotomy appealing.
And yet, as you know, that’s the insanely compelling, award-winning Discovery Channel show, “The Deadliest Catch.” A captivating show not because of the crab-fishing contest … but in spite of it. The riveting qualities of the format aren’t necessarily related to the competition … but in everything that goes into it — the day-to-day intrigue of the personalities and the conflicts and the strategizing and the tantalizing potential for someone to get concussed by a 500-pound steel cage. Oh, it’s glorious. Simply glorious. And again, it’s riveting television. Even to those who know nothing of crab-fishing (read: 99.99999999999999938% of the population).
Along those same lines, do you know of anything less interesting than an NFL preseason training camp??? Of course you don’t. Because that would be impossible, and making someone watch it would seem to be abuse of some sort. They’re just loaded with repetitive drills and achingly dry film-sessions and all kinds of mind-numbing boredom totally unfit for television. So I ask you, what sane, gainfully employed person would watch such tripe???
The series follows a select National Football League team through its training camp and provides an in-depth perspective of the team’s preparation for the upcoming season. The series is described as one of the fastest turnaround reality series in television history. The series covers the team’s preparations for the upcoming season and provides viewers with team inside jokes and pranks, players’ family matters, and position battles. The series especially focuses on rookies’ adjustments to the NFL, usually with the team’s highest draft selection and an undrafted or journeyman that looks to make the team.
It is, quite possibly, the most fascinating sports show ever produced. And I say this confidently, for many reasons. None bigger than the fact that my wife — the most ardent anti-footballer alive — TiVo’s “Hard Knocks” religiously and demands complete silence when watching it. Not because she’s into the finer points of route-running or zone-blitzing or the like, which actually permiate the show. Quite the opposite. It’s because she’s fascinated by the human side of it all. The arguments. The hazing. The emotion. The raunchy lockerroom jokes. The drama of who gets cut, and who become millionaires. She wants to see what cars the players drive and who vomits on the field. She wants to see a shirtless Tony Romo, I fear. The list goes on and on and on, while — incidentally — never once coming remotely close to anything considered “football-related.”
And yet, like some crazed Plano-area superfan, she watched EVERY SINGLE ONE of the Cowboy’s preseason games this year … almost as if she HAD to. As if it were HER team. Like she was somehow apart of it all (because, in a sense, she was). It was almost as if she’d invested so much of herself into the team already, she HAD to see it through.
Which, as you can surmise, pretty much serves as the foundation of my argument here today.
Listen, VERSUS. This isn’t infeasible. Just stick 5 or 6 Hi-Def cameras into the most interesting, compelling back-room corners of IndyCar — the corners we’ve never before seen — and keep them there. Let the film roll. Stop for nothing. Edit later. Capture every argument, every bit of tomfoolery, every act of perseverance, every strategy, every team meeting, every fist-fight, and everything in between. Capture the human side of this sport, and everything that goes into it. Get Kanaan and Viso and Danica and Penske and Foyt and — goddamnit — even Arute into America’s homes every Wednesday night at 9:00, for example. Show the inner workings of this traveling carnival we call IndyCar, and show it unfiltered. And then throw in a kick-ass soundtrack. Make the uninterested & unfamiliar feel as though they HAVE to watch the upcoming race, as if it was THEIR League. As if they’re apart of it all (because, in a sense, they would be). As if they’ve invested too much of themselves to NOT see how that week’s “episode” ends.
I promise you … in time, the numbers will skyrocket. To almost unimaginable heights. And NASCAR will be dethroned. Violently. Gloriously. Finally.
The Pagoda has spoken. Go forth, VERSUS, and collect your multiple Emmy nominations. Make us proud.