Helio Castroneves vents rage in proxy for all IndyCar fans. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
You know what I love? The way companies slip big deal issues into official PR by means of afterthought sentences at the bottom of a few paragraphs of rah-rah feel-good boosterism.
It's the kind of "oh, by the way" strategy that humans use almost from the moment they learn to talk. You know, like the kid who brings home his report card with all A's - except for that C-minus in math. It's an attempt to minimize bad news as much as possible.
Of course, minimizing bad news doesn't make it any less bad. Ask an IndyCar fan how he or she feels about reading the news that live online web streaming of IndyCar sessions is now a thing of the past, and I guarantee you that none of them will say, "Well, I'd feel worse about it if I hadn't read all of that awesome news just above it!"
That's right, boys and girls, IndyCar's online streaming has gone the way of the dodo bird (except, from what I understand, for the month of May). And fans are not happy about it.
Some of them have a really legitimate gripe, in that in some areas of this big ol' world of ours, the only possible way they could follow IndyCar beyond the written word was through these live webcasts. Those are the people who are the most gypped by this move.
Less gypped are the folks who routinely and vociferously took to social media to bitch and moan about how awful the IndyCar.com live streaming service was. And let's be honest, as far as product quality goes, IndyCar's streaming service was like a piece of Fruit Stripe gum - it was good in spurts but it quickly lost flavor with its inconsistency and signal drops.
I have a hard time, personally, kvetching too much over this. I tuned in online for the web streaming a few times and, on the off chance that the signal was uninterrupted or unmarked by constant stuttering and rewinding, it was a nice resource. For me, the greatest value was watching Indy Lights races live - considering that the races were all tape delayed for broadcast if they were even broadcast at all.
But there were days when the product was so bad that I - and many others - opined that, between having this and having nothing, we'd prefer nothing.
Apparently, that's now what we're going to get.
Nobody is sure whether NBC/Comcast will have any sort of online video streaming or not. I've heard conflicting reports, but the balance seems to indicate that they won't. Apparently, some networks believe that Internet-based video streaming devalues their broadcast product, and in this age of Hulu and on-demand video they may have a point.
What IndyCar has said is that, absent the video, they will be ramping up their online offerings such as live timing and scoring, social media integration, and so forth to compensate. That is more than NBC/Comcast are doing; from what I have heard, they may be killing their well-regarded original IndyCar content as a cost- (or effort-)saving convenience. If that happens, they will set adrift some of the better IndyCar scribes around, including Jeff Olson, Jeff Iannucci, and the inimitable and psychopathic Roy Hobbson... again.
This whole situation is another jarring kick in the fellas after an off-season of (mostly) positive news in the IndyCar world. The shutdown of De Ferran Dragon Racing and Tony Kanaan's subsequent (second) ride loss; the takeover of FAZZT Race Team by Sam Schmidt Motorsports and the resulting unemployment of the best IndyCar PR person around, Pat Caporali; the controversial adoption of NASCAR-style rules; all of those things have put a short-term damper on what had basically been the first real optimism for the future that IndyCar fans have had since A.J. Foyt was still shoving his massive bulk into a Lola.
Given how easily IndyCar fans have fallen into pessimism since then, it's no surprise that some are sinking quickly back into their Sad Trombone personas. Well, the sky isn't falling yet, Chicken Little. Things are still weighted on the positive side.
What happens if more bad news comes down the pike? In that case... well, we'll jump off that bridge when we come to it.