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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

The Millionaire

Athens, NY—You have to be a Boomer or an outright fossil to remember the name John Beresford Tipton.

For the benefit of “you youngsters out there,” as Ed Sullivan would refer to the youth who were impatiently waiting around for the rock’n roll acts he would schedule for “later on in our rilly big shew” after the plate-spinners, ventriloquists, and aged monologists had finished hogging his stage, there was another popular TV program in those halcyon days called The Millionaire.

During the first few minutes of each week’s drama the richest man in the world—the fictional John Beresford Tipton—would dispatch his confidant Michael Anthony to find the person whom he had designated to be the latest beneficiary of yet another of his anonymously donated, tax pre-paid, cashier’s checks for a million bucks.

For the remainder of the hour Tipton, Anthony, and us viewers watched to find out exactly how these instant millionaires would spend—or misspend—the equivalent of perhaps twenty-five times as much moola by today’s inflated standards. It was interesting that for each recipient of Tipton’s largesse who seized the opportunity to use the money wisely or to become a philanthropist in his or her own right there was another who would stupidly allow the windfall to be the ruination of his or her life.

This was downright prophetic writing for those of us who found it difficult to believe that suddenly becoming rich could be anything but a gas. For in the years that followed The Millionaire we have heard time and time again about $100+ million lotto winners who peed away every penny of their fortunes only to end up in bankruptcy court, unable to repay their creditors.

Watching Uncle Joe Heitzler “at work” a few years ago always put me in mind of those instant millionaires who were clueless about how best to use their newfound wealth. But the persistent warnings of this renegade scribe that the business of CART and its stockholders were in jeopardy fell, for the most part, on deaf ears. When Grandpa Chris Pook was finally brought in for what everyone suddenly realized was a last-ditch attempt at rescuing Champ Car racing…well, the rest is history.

Therefore, I hope that my latest sooth-saying—about to be issued while other pundits and their readers can’t find enough praise to heap on the Champ Car troika—will not be roundly booed and then ignored. In any case, as always, I’m fully prepared for the next wave of hate mail and ostracizing.

Kevin Kalkhoven possesses a big enough bankroll to play John Beresford Tipton anytime he chooses. However, his somewhat strategic recent purchases of Cosworth and Pi Group with his business partner and fellow Champ Car team owner, Gerald Forsythe, will prove, in time, to be little more than an “in your face” show of financial force to their inheritedly wealthy business rival on the other side of town.

Sure, alleviating some of Ford’s tangential headaches will help to further solidify Champ Car’s relationship with that particular automaker. But the future of our beloved speed sport—specifically, the quality and excitement of its racing product—hinges on a multiplicity of participating manufacturers and constructors in conjunction with a major ramping-up of the marketing of its racing talent and unique technologies.

The OWRS Millionaires’ money would be better spent on incentives to get the world’s automakers on board and on a global ad campaign to tout the Formula One-ness of such a truly turned around series and its cutting edge participants. Any leftover cash should be earmarked for TV—any way you care to define that blanket term at this sad juncture.

Forgive my dissent, but the prospect of yet another season (or two, or three) of exclusive Lola/Cosworth package “competition” makes me feel like a youngster waiting around for the Beatles to arrive while plate-spinners, ventriloquists, and aged monologists keep hogging the stage.

Road Rage! An op-ed feature by Ed Donath.

Copyright © 2004 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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