The recent events at 16th and Georgetown have shown the disconnect between the fans and the core constituencies of INDYCAR, as defined by new INDYCAR Grand Potentate Jeff Belklus. INDYCAR’s core constituencies,as defined by Belklus, are the owners, drivers, vendors, and business partners. He did manage to publish an open letter to fans, quite likely ghosted by a PR wonk, hoping that this one missive posted online would let the fans know how important they were. This cavalier, high-handed attitude toward the fans reminded me of someone: Dean Wormer in Animal House. It’s time for New Track Record to head back to the movies, comparing the principals in the current INDYCAR morass to characters in the movie Animal House. “Toga! Toga!”
Dean Vernon Wormer: Greg, what is the worst fraternity on this campus?
Greg Marmalard: Well that would be hard to say, sir. They’re each outstanding in their own way.
Dean Vernon Wormer: Cut the horseshit, son. I’ve got their disciplinary files right here. Who dropped a whole truckload of fizzies into the varsity swim meet? Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner? Every Halloween, the trees are filled with underwear. Every spring, the toilets explode.
Greg Marmalard: You’re talking about Delta, sir.
Dean Vernon Wormer: Of course I’m talking about Delta, you TWERP!
This is Dean Wormer talking to his co-conspirator Greg Marmalard of the Omegas about the boys at Delta house. This is a perfect fit. Just assume that the Deltas are the fans and Dean Wormer is Jeff Belskus or any of the owners who are bothered by the pesky people who continue to show up at races to have a good time. The boys at the top are exasperated over the fact that the FANS have certain expectations of treatment and have had the unmitigated gall to actually like Randy Bernard. The next thing you know, the great unwashed will want everyone to communicate with them. The audacity.
Bluto: Hey! What’s all this laying around stuff? Why are you all still laying around here for?
Stork: What the hell are we supposed to do, ya moron? We’re all expelled. There’s nothing to fight for anymore.
D-Day: [to Bluto] Let it go. War’s over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.
Bluto: What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Otter: [to Boon] Germans?
Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.
Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough…
[thinks hard of something to say]
Bluto: The tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!
[Bluto runs out, alone; then returns]
Bluto: What the f- – – happened to the Delta I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer…
Otter: Dead! Bluto’s right. Psychotic… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!
Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.
D-Day: [stands up] Yeah, I agree. Let’s go get ’em.
Boon: Let’s do it.
Bluto: [shouting] “Let’s do it”!
[all of the Deltas stand up and run out with Bluto]
What really surprised the suits at IMS and the lynch mob of owners was the vitriol directed towards them after IMS gave Randy Bernard his walking papers. As seen above, the Deltas never gave up after their frat house was closed. In fact, the fans are very much like Bluto giving his impassioned speech about not giving up “when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor” – we may not know what really went on or what we are really talking about, but we damn sure know that something is not right. IMS and the owners are discovering that IndyCar fans are passionate, and passion causes emotional responses. Even stupid ones.
[the Deltas have been expelled]
Bluto: Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the f – – – ing Peace Corps.
Not only is Bluto a powerful speaker (when he finally speaks), he seems pretty self-aware. In fact, he sounds like the many fans on Twitter, Speed.com, and the message boards washing their hands of IndyCar racing because of Randy Bernard’s dismissal, which long time fans see as just another example of what ails the sport. The fans may come back, but the hard-core, long-time followers of the sport are tired of having their hearts broken. They are emotionally spent. Instead of the Peace Corps, they might as well just start following NASCAR or (gulp) F1.
Otter: Point of parliamentary procedure!
Hoover: Don’t screw around, they’re serious this time!
Otter: Take it easy, I’m pre-law.
Boon: I thought you were pre-med.
Otter: What’s the difference?
[Addressing the room]
Otter: Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests – we did.
[winks at Dean Wormer]
Otter: But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!
[Leads the Deltas out of the hearing, all humming the Star-Spangled Banner]
I can never get through one of these movie comparisons without a connection to Robin Miller. I really like the fact that he cares so deeply about the series. I really like the fact that he uses his bully pulpit to shine a light on the prevarications and outright lies that the fans are expected to take as gospel. I really like the fact that he will name names and demand accountability. And I really like the fact that he sounds just like the IndyCar peeps I have coffee with on Saturday mornings. His spelling, grammar, and syntax may not be perfect, but just like Otter in his speech defending the Deltas, his epistles are heartfelt, even if you don’t agree with his perspectives. We need more bombastic speeches!
D-Day: Hey, quit your blubberin’. When I get through with this baby you won’t even recognize it.
Otter: Flounder, you can’t spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes! You f – – – ed up. You trusted us! Hey, make the best of it! Maybe we can help.
Flounder: [crying] That’s easy for you to say! What am I going to tell Fred?
Otter: I’ll tell you what. We’ll tell Fred you were doing a great job taking care of his car, but you parked it out back last night and this morning… it was gone. We report it as stolen to the police. D-Day takes care of the wreck. Your brother’s insurance company buys him a new car.
Flounder: Will that work?
Otter: Hey, it’s gotta work better than the truth.
Bluto: [thrusting six-pack into Flounder’s hands] My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
Otter: Better listen to him, Flounder, he’s in pre-med.
D-Day: [firing up blow-torch] There you go now, just leave everything to me.
Poor Randy Bernard. He came into the IndyCar “family” assuming people were all pulling in the same direction. I’m sure he thought if he had good ideas and a pure heart, then the paddock would get behind him for the betterment of the series. At least he would have the support of his “friends” on the board if he met resistance. Oops. Just like Flounder, he made the mistake of trusting his “friends.” Just like Flounder’s “friends” reporting his car stolen, Bernard’s friends will just put out a little press release that will take care of everything. “It’s gotta work better than the truth.” Live and learn, Randy.
[Dean Wormer’s plotting to get rid of Delta House]
Greg Marmalard: But Delta’s already on probation.
Dean Vernon Wormer: They are? Well, as of this moment, they’re on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION!
Once again, poor Randy Bernard. I’ve had difficulty deciding which character best represents him. Is he Flounder trusting his friends, or is he Hoover, the president of Delta house? Maybe Hoover is a better connection. It fits if you assume that Dean Wormer is Jeff Belklus and that Greg Marmalard represents the owners going around Bernard to hamstring him. He was on double secret probation and never even knew it. Henry Kissinger once said “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” As IndyCar’s value plummets, the politics will only get more vicious.
Mayor Carmine De Pasto: If you want this year’s homecoming parade in my town, you have to pay for it.
Dean Vernon Wormer: Carmine, I don’t think it’s right that you should extort money from the college.
Mayor Carmine De Pasto: Look, these parades you throw are very expensive. You using my police, my sanitation people, and my Oldsmobiles free of charge. So, if you mention extortion again, I’ll have your legs broken.
Even though I’ve pointedly put Jeff Belklus at the epicenter of all that was wrong with the removal of Randy Bernard, there’s a power above him at IMS. The Hulman-George family had the power to support Bernard or not. They didn’t. In the movie, the only one who outranked Dean Wormer was Mayor Carmine DePasto. When Wormer complained about being extorted, DePasto let him know where the real power was. It’s guaranteed that Jeff Belklus was acting on orders from the board. They might not have broken his legs, but they could sure take them out from under him. Power may corrupt, but it’s still power. There are no clean hands in this IndyCar saga.
Chip: [being spanked as part of Omega’s initiation] Thank you, sir! May I have another?
Chip, one of the Omega pledges, has to continue to accept the degradation that goes with being a member of the Omegas. He not only has to endure a beating, he has to ask for it to continue. That is how INDYCAR, with its current and most likely future management, expects the fans to behave. The fans will want to join the IndyCar frat. The fans will want to accept whatever it offers. The fans will ask the leaders to continue to punish them. This misguided perspective on the fans’ loyalty is what has driven, and continues to drive, fans away from the series. INDYCAR, just like the Omegas, think their club is so special that its important to keep people out of it. They forget that the majority of the fans are GDI’s (God Damn Independents).
The real difference between Animal House and the recent events at INDYCAR is simple. Animal House was intended to be a comedy. INDYCAR is a serious business that has become a joke.