Ya know, it’s funny… over the years I’ve seen several posts, articles & memes about how social media is ruining short track racing. Man, did I hate seeing those. Blaming social media is such a cop-out. The world’s changing, and when it comes to short track racing these days – especially in southern New England, a presence on social media is almost a requirement. And while I still don’t believe social media is to blame for any track’s demise or short comings, I do agree that too much negativity can definitely be harmful. Ironically now I’m at the point where I think too much positivity can be harmful too… sounds weird right? Maybe even stupid ya may say… But just hoping for the best & staying positive to the point where that’s all that’s acknowledged or accepted does have a level of ignorance to it… because there can be glaring concerns that won’t actually go away just because they are ignored… in that sense, any over-abundance of positivity, while nice in theory and constructive to a degree, doesn’t address or resolve all concerns.
Fast Foward to today’s current Speedbowl saga, and the scales have seemed to tip way over the top of the positivity mountain… so much so that it’s becoming somewhat bothersome. I mean, it is truly wonderful that the track is finally gonna open for the 2017 – lets be honest, as divided as the community is now (more on that later), I think we all wanted our beloved bowl to finally open. But his whole “stay positive and everything will be alright” mentality… well, it just doesn’t speak to me… and it’s hardly my reality. So I’m gonna say some things… and if you’re only about the positives, you’re probably not gonna like it so ya may wanna go read something else.
Before I continue, in case anyone was wondering if anything’s change on my end – it has not. Our web series “Sid’s View” remains suspended indefinitely because Bruce Bemer is still the owner of The New London-Waterford Speedbowl… therefore all the reasons I stated back in April as to why we’d be suspending production are still accurate. Nothing’s changed. I’ve been contacted by George Whitney directly and politely declined… and while our dialogue was brief, I think he respectfully accepted my response even if he may have been disappointed.
I’m sure there are some of ya already saying to yourself “Whatta ya mean nothing’s changed, the tracks’ been leased… things are changing”. Well, listen… I’m sure George Whitney is working his a$$ off trying to get the season started, and I’m sure that effort is genuine and he should be commended for all he’s spearheading right now for the racers. But for me… the whole “lessee” thing… well, I dunno about that one. Yeah, I know that’s what they’re saying publicly, there may even be lease papers signed & filed away. But the fact that the operating team seems to be pretty much the same from before the owner’s arrest, including the select few who actually deal with the owner directly… I just don’t trust that the owner really will be disconnected from the track under those conditions, and it’s not that far of a stretch to conclude that he may still very well be the one ultimately in charge of the race facility, not just a landlord. Feels more like George Whitney just replaced Shawn Monahan as GM, nothing more.
I also read in Whitney’s interview with the Mod Squad something to the effect of all the money going to the racers & facility improvements…. and while that sounds just dandy, that actually further cemented my doubts on how distanced the track owner will actually be. I mean, how does all the money only go to just those great & wonderful things? Who’s actually making the lease payments then? Where’s that money coming from? Almost makes me wonder if there really is a lease? Just doesn’t add up for those of us truly concerned with what the owner’s affiliation with the race operation will actually be. To be honest, how the inner workings of the track’s financials or the conditions of the lease agreement aren’t any of my business or yours. I get annoyed with all the social media debate on where the money goes and how people justify their support for the place by determining where they think the cash flow ends up. And here I am pretty much doing the same… or at least questioning it. But I didn’t even really have any care or suspicion about the lease details until Whitney gave that vague & odd response. I know the Mod Squad seemed to think that specific Q&A put a lot of people’s concerns at ease… which it probably did. But it also just raised more concerns for others, like myself, because it gave us major cause for concern that the owner is still very much involved, just behind the curtain where no one can see.
Ya know, it’s funny…. since I sat down to type this out, I’ve continually paused and said to myself “well that last sentence will spark some sh*t on social media”… just happened again… I can read that chatter now. “Get over it Sid! He’s just the owner! What’s the big deal? He got caught picking up a prostitute, so what”… man, if one more person says that to me….. UGH!! I’ve tried to refrain in all my rants about getting into details of the owner’s arrest, but I just can’t take it anymore… so here goes. Yes, I agreee… it wouldn’t be a big deal if the owner picked up a prostitute, but of course, that’s not actually the facts. That’s great if you want to warp the facts to justify your decision on supporting the track, but it’s not actually true. The owner wasn’t arrested for soliciting a prostitute, the truth is he was arrested for patronizing a trafficked person. I suggest to those who apparently don’t know the difference to do some research & educated yourself on the differences between prostitution and human trafficking. Trafficked people, unlike prostitutes, are having their human rights violated. Say what ya want about prostitutes, they are willingly prostituting themselves. Trafficked people are not. They are being forced to do things against their will.
Have you ever had your human rights violated? In any way? Ever in your adult life been forced to do something against your will? If not, I hope you feel fortunate like I do to not have to ever endure something like that. No one deserves that to be treated like that… oh, and by the way, that includes prostitutes, drug-addicts, the mentally unstable… NO ONE deserves to be treated that way. It’s an unalienable right we all share as part of the human race. That’s great everyone wants to just go racing and not talk about things like this… trust me, I don’t either. But that is what we’re dealing with. And don’t blame me for bringing it up, or not being positive… it’s the owner’s fault I actually have to considering things like this.
The owner of the Speedbowl…. in his own admission, mind you because it’s what was made public from his interrogation with police… has basically violated numerous people’s human rights for his own sexual pleasure for over 20 years by patronizing trafficked people.
For me – it’s really not any more complicated than the above paragraph. That’s why I’m disgusted, that’s why I’m conflicted, that’s why I fear I wont feel as good about going to the Speedbowl this year as I have in years past because people who violate other people’s human rights aren’t good people IMO and I don’t trust that the owner wont be around simply because George Whitney was announced as leasing the track. And while that lease may seemingly lessen the chances the owner will actually be visible on race night – heck they could even make a public statement stating the owner won’t be around on race day… but he’s still the owner, can do whatever he wants and be on the property whenever he wants. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful we no longer have to worry about things like the zoning issue that would destroy the track forever if it didn’t open at all this year, but in the big picture the dark cloud the owner’s personal life has brought to the Speedbowl still remains. You can chant “innocent until proven guilty” all you want. The guy admitted it already, there’s no mystery to what he did.
Geez, I just wish he woulda sold the joint. I understand a sale would have to make good business sense for him, and maybe even have some sort of court approval at this point… it’s actually not too shocking that it wasn’t sold, despite my hopes or the endless speculation weeks ago. I personally don’t think he intends to sell the place at all now and actually question if he ever did. And why would he if everyone just shows up again. I don’t think it’s too outrageous to think he’s just waiting for this whole legal issue to go away without selling it.
But all that off-the-track drama still looming doesn’t change the fact that he’s successfully divided the racing community threefold. There’s the Positive Police, the Boycotters and the Still Conflicted. I definitely identify with the latter. I’ve never owned or driven a race car, never owned or operated a race track. In my contributions to racing and specifically the Speedbowl, a lot of what I do comes from simply observing… and I’ve never observed the Speedbowl community so divided… sometimes to really disheartening levels of anger & dis-respectfulness. So the owner has that going for him…
Remember all those times between 2006-2014 when you’d talk to someone outside of racing about the Speedbowl and they’d say “that place is still open? I heard on the news it went into foreclosure” and we’d have to say “yeah, it’s still open. Owner is having some issues and there’s a foreclosure looming, but it’s still a great place to go on a Saturday night.” Didn’t that kinda suck… not the end of the world, but I was always bothered we had to defend the community and the sport in spite of the owner’s off-the-track struggles.
And when the gates open again, eventually we’ll talk to someone outside of racing about the Speedbowl and they’ll say “that place is still open? I heard on the news the owner was arrested for human trafficking sex thing and now his assets are frozen” and we’ll have to say “Owner is having some issues off the track and there’s a court case looming, but he leased it out and we don’t see him a lot, it’s still a great place to go on a Saturday night.” So we get to do that again… owner has that going for him too I guess.
There were several race teams and several fans who told me over the years while Terry was the owner that they would never come back as long as he was there. And most of them kept their word. I happily saw many of them return when 2015 season came around. And now that cycle will begin again. There will be a different group of people who will do the same in regards to the current owner… so while many seem to think once the gates open, it’s peaches n’ pie for everyone, there will be a long-lasting negative effect we’ll have to deal with as long as this dude’s the owner… and for the community as a whole, that sucks. Yes it will be great the track will open, but open once again with a black cloud. I know the Positive Police don’t want you to think about any of that, but that doesn’t mean that aspect doesn’t exist. Being celebratory to one part of the situation & ignorant to the other isn’t a positive solution for the community as a whole.
Last night, I succumbed and for some reason delved into some social media comments on the bowl’s status. Still wonder why I do that. But since I did, I gotta ask… how exactly is it positive to tell people contemplating whether to attend or support the place while still under current ownership that they are not & never were part of the Speedbowl family if they don’t want to go to the track now. Too frequently in the last few months I just get sad reading some peoples comments. I mean, I’ve had those doubts all along and have obviously altered my level of support for the place… I guess under that angry, ignorant logic maybe I’m not “allowed” to be part of the Speedbowl family now either because I’m not willing to ignore what the owner did or be blind that it’s still an issue. Good to know where I potentially stand according to some.. way to be positive though!
All those times during Terry’s reign when someone told me they wouldn’t go back as long as he was there (and there were plenty of them with that stance), I never told any of them they weren’t part of the Speedbowl family and or that they never really were. I was respectful to their decision and welcomed them back when their time was right to return. Seriously can’t take it with certain people who think they’re being positive and when they just come off as mean & insensitive to anyone who doesn’t think like they do.
So I guess I’m done here. Not sure what I accomplished other than probably irritate all those excited to go racing. And I apologize if I did, despite my still-severe concerns, I am genuinely happy for all those getting ready to head back to the ‘bowl for some Saturday night racing. I’ve honestly been contemplating posting my thoughts for quite a while and as I’ve seen the Positive Police’s posse grow in increasing numbers day-by-day. I thought maybe I should just keep my trap shut. Why be such a downer when everyone’s so happy the place will finally open? And why post and share this rant on social media just to open up a potential for comments that’ll just piss me off and spark more senseless debate & speculation?
But I also thought, maybe there are many people who feel the same way I do, but just aren’t keyboard warriors with how they feel and still are unsettled about the ownership of the track. While I think we all are thankful the track’s gonna open, that doesn’t mean everything’s just wonderful for everyone. And I don’t want to sound too overly critical about those leading the charge on staying positive. There is good in that and it is needed to an extent. But just because there’s a strong vocal group pushing positivity vibes to the extreme, that doesn’t mean they speak for the entire Speedbowl community…. and there are many more members of the Speedbowl community than just those who are all-in on the Positivity Train.
So with that, I’ll join ya in a tall glass of “STFU Sid, Let’s Go Racing!!!”… I get it. As usual, I just had to get some sh*t out. I’m Italian, what’d ya think? I was gonna keep quiet forever? At least ya know where I’m coming from now, so when we see each other at the track, we don’t have to go over everything since we last chatted. I respect the fact that there’s a huge amount of people who aren’t going to care 2 squats about the owner and how he violated numerous people’s human rights for his own pleasure. Please respect that there are many in the community, including myself, who may be at the races with you, that do care, are still bothered by the ownership not changing, are not relieved of all concerns because a lease was announced and still have major concerns about the long-term survival of the ‘bowl beyond what has been salvaged for the 2017 season.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with my thoughts. There’s people on my own video crew & people I consider good friends who don’t agree with my take at all. That’s actually the whole point – we don’t all have the same take, and we’re all still part of the Speedbowl community regardless of whose viewpoints are the loudest or the most prominent in social media circles.
Bash me all ya want for not being positive, I can take it. I’ll always put more effort into keeping it real anyway. I’m comfortable that my stance is staying true to myself. So I’m good with that…
See ya at the track sometime