Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Friday, June 8, 2012

"Save Ferris? Save Ferris?"

In the iconic movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one future Kiva supporter is walking the halls of the high school with his used Pepsi can, soliciting donations for Ferris Bueller's expensive, yet life-saving operation... and it's a hoax. One point might be that it's a commentary of blindly giving money to an unknown cause. Another might be asking the question, do we really need to save Ferris? Ed Rooney might agree with that... but onward.

For years (I think 15), there has been a racing site that focused on West Coast racing. Like most professional endeavors, there is a "hub" for getting your foot in the door. Country music hub is Nashville. Live theatre is New York. Movies is Hollywood. For racing, it's Charlotte, NC. The greater Charlotte area is home to nearly all professional NASCAR teams. If something doesn't happen there, it doesn't happen.

That's where Racing West (RW) filled the void. A private, unaffiliated web site dedicated to racing out here in the West. The site was full-featured. News releases were posted on the front page, it had a classified section, photos, advertisers, a community cares section, and a message board. Before I get to that last one, let me talk a bit more about what the people behind RW did for racing.

As more and more racers joined RW, we wanted to know what was happening at area tracks. RW and some of the more intrepid members would put on Racing West Near Live, basically a chat room or message thread that someone at the races would update as the race was going on. A text-based relay to the users of what was happening at the track. It was great for fans/racers who couldn't get to the race. It was a great feature.

RW also provided a great outlet for press releases for teams. Sometimes I wondered why anyone would send out a press release about running a great 8th place finish, out of a field of 18 cars. The news was great for those who could promote their team and driver.

The section for Event Photos was awesome. We (racers) all love racing shots. Especially when the photographer gets the shot of that guy who clearly dumped you in that one race. It's nice to see action shots of cars.

RW also had a classified section for members. A lot of gear was traded/sold/bought through that section. It also spurned some rumors when a team would list cars, haulers, engines, etc., prompting many to question if it was retirement, quitting, or buying all new stuff.

These are just highlights of what RW did, it is by far an incomplete list, as most of what I listed I found the most beneficial. Now for the ugly part of RW: the Message Board.

Now, racers aren't the smartest group of professionals out there, and I think they'd agree. I'm not saying they're stupid, because everyone is stupid at one time or another. Sometimes they don't think. Paired with a cursory knowledge of a keyboard, mouse, and the Internet, racers can be downright dangerous online.

RWs Message Board was an open communication forum for racers and fans. It was divided into many different groups, from the Northwest section, Southwest, NASCAR talk, West Series, and Tech Talk, to name the most used ones. A few years ago there was a board spawned from a need to be uncensored. Thus the "Red Trailer" (and later Brutal Groove) boards were created. These were paid-access boards where users could be completely anonymous to other users. It was amazing what people would come up with.

The boards were useful probably 3/4 of the time. Tracks and users would post event schedules, payouts, info and more. Tech Talk was a useful board that helped a lot of racers across the nation with their racecar setups. Discussion on previous events would spurn multiple pages. Nostalgia would run rampant on a few threads. And sadly, arguments would get out of hand, resulting in name calling and threats. All helped by the anonymity of the Internet. Eventually RW users would slip and it would be known who was behind the screen name.

Horrific drama was played out on the message boards, and the stupidity of many came out. Some could debate and disagree with civil accord. Others tried to argue with a lack of common sense and coherent messages. When basic grammar failed them, they resorted to childish online tantrums, further solidifying the "infantile egomaniacs" perception we thought only existed in the world of Tony Scott.

RW opened the door for racers to express grievances and perceived slights in a semi-anonymous forum. What should have been said behind closed doors, or between racers, was played out online time and time again. It was sad; the "me" mentality of some, who were so concerned with keeping what they had, they didn't give back to the sport that so many love.

I don't know the reasons why, but RW has closed it's site down, and is using Twitter and Facebook to get the word out to the racing community. Time will tell if racers will have the sense to realize they are not so anonymous anymore.