Monday, July 20, 2015

America's day

We are a provincial country. In that, we are probably no different than any other country -- only louder about it, with shinier trappings, and at center stage of the world's consciousness instead of somewhere lurking in its wings.

So when you point out that part of the problem for IndyCar is that so many of its stars hail from elsewhere, it's undoubtedly true even if it makes you queasy in the boiler at some basic level. And the reason it does that is so many of those stars are such eminently likeable people -- who doesn't like Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves, for heaven's sake? -- and would be eminently saleable if only IndyCar remotely knew how to sell them.

(The other reason it makes you queasy is how narrowly the line is drawn sometimes between being provincial and being xenophobic. We're getting a perfect illustration of that right now from alleged presidential candidate Donald Trump, an old-school demagogue who knows the quickest way to dupe the masses is to pander to their ugliest instincts. And so it's not just "Yay, America!" with him, it's "We gotta get rid of them dirty rapin' Mexicans 'cause they're takin' your jobs!" And the masses cheered, sadly).

But back to IndyCar.

Its issue is not that it doesn't remotely know how to sell its foreign stars, it's that, despite their appeal, Americans like to see Americans win. And they will flock in greater numbers, and with greater enthusiasm, to sports where Americans win.

And so Sunday was a good day for IndyCar, because Americans were everywhere. An American, Ryan Hunter-Reay, won the Iowa Corn 300 for an American team owner (Michael Andretti) An American (Josef Newgarden) finished second for two more American team owners (Sarah Fisher and Ed Carpenter). Another American, Sage Karam, finished third. Another, Graham Rahal, finished fourth.

It marked the first time Americans swept the podium in an IndyCar event since the 2006 Indianapolis 500, and if it likely won't be an habitual thing, it did indicate that the American presence in IndyCar is in good health and getting healthier.

The sport likely will never attain the prominence or visibility in motorsports it once had for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the product or its viability. And it  likely will never entirely slay NASCAR's 800-pound gorilla, an outlier that skews the public's perception for what constitutes success in motorsports. But it's a heartening prospect for a sport that is still in some sense struggling to recover from the defection of arguably its two brightest American stars, Sam Hornish Jr. and Danica Patrick.

Who really ought to come back to IndyCar, if for no other reason than it would be much less labor intensive for them these days.

There is, after all, lots of help now to wave that flag.

No comments:

Post a Comment