By Larry Lawrence
If you do not subscribe to Cycle News you should, if for no other reason than Henny Ray Abrams.
Abrams’ opinion column called ‘Chicanery’ is one the AMA/DMG loves to hate, but the bulk of racing fans love to read. The column is often scathing, always humorous, but more than anything his column – plain and simple – makes a lot of sense.
I’m certain Abrams would not want to take on the burden of this title, but like it or not he is the conscience of racing in America. I say this not just because it happens to by my opinion. Henny’s column is always a hot topic of conversation at the races and I know many others feel exactly the same.
Much credit goes to Cycle News editor Paul Carruthers, publisher Robert NorVelle and owner Sharon Clayton for holding strong, having journalistic integrity and allowing Henny to tell it like he sees it in spite of the repercussions. I’m quite certain some major advertisers have withheld ads to Cycle News because they felt the publication wasn’t “getting with the program” of helping to promote the sport.
Guess what? The job of a proper media is not to “promote” the sport. The media is supposed to give readers the truth and in terms of opinion I argue that Abrams has done more to advance motorcycle road racing in this country than any other single journalist – especially in recent years.
The most recent example of this is the renewal of same-day AMA Pro road racing TV coverage. While some of the press seemingly stood on the sidelines and became mindless cheerleaders of PR spin promoted by the DMG that the ratings of the Saturday night program of races a week or two old were better than live or same-day coverage of the races. To Abrams, on the other hand, the PR being spouted smelled fishy and he did some actual journalism.
Abrams went on to run a hard-hitting and infinitely sensible column that basically said if AMA Pro Racing’s week or two delayed coverage on a Saturday night was such a great idea and ratings bonanza that perhaps NASCAR, the NFL and other premier sporting events should follow AMA Pro Racing’s lead and not show their big sporting events live, but instead delay them a couple of weeks to show them on a Saturday night. Think of the building excitement! Of course the proposition was ridiculous, but it brilliantly illustrated the fallacy of the DMG’s PR.
While they would never admit it, I truly believe Abrams’ column helped move SPEED and the DMG to reconsider its programming decision.
There are many more examples I could go into that illustrate why Abrams is today’s conscience of racing in America. A few include his stance on safety. Abrams declares who better to help an organization determine if a track or conditions are acceptable for racing than the six-time champion, winningest American Superbike racer of all time and longtime safety advocate Mat Mladin? It makes perfect sense.
How about a rider’s freedom to speak freely? When Jamie Hacking spoke out, sometimes using harsh language at Fontana this past March, it was Abrams who defended his right to speak, while another popular racing publication did not come to Hacking’s defense, a sharp contrast from said publication’s stance of defending Mat Mladin’s right to speak in an even more inflammatory manner directed at an innocent newspaper reporter years earlier at Loudon.
Abrams has covered every type of motorcycle racing. He’s been a regular of the GP scene for three decades. I’m certain he doesn’t want to tear racing down. Why would he? He makes a big part of his livelihood covering the sport. Abrams has seen what racing can and should be and in my opinion he simply wants to keep the fire to the feet of the powers that be here, to prod them into doing the very best for racing that they are capable of doing. Holding them to a higher standard if you will.
Like I said, real journalism and hard-hitting opinion pieces in this sport are hard to come by and should be heartily supported. If you value the kind of writing that can actually move the sport forward go to www.cyclenews.com and sign up.