Sports Illustrated Just came out with “Ten Dumbest Moments in Sports” (subtitled “it’s true someone has to win and someone has to lose, but nobody has to make these kinds of colossal blunders”)…
EDIT This is the Real Number 7 …
MEMORIAL DAY Lest's see - The Indianapolis 500 is a beloved institution run damn near every Memorial Day since 1911. So in 1996, open-wheel racing splits into two factions, CART and IRL. As a result the best drivers leave for a race no one cares about, and the race people care about is left with no drivers. Gentlemen, start your angina. For no good reason you've ceded motor-racing supremacy in this country to NASCAR. True, CART and IRL appear to have patched things up, but that's a bit like Hall patching things up with Oates. Will anyone still care?
Not as drastic as initially suggested. The worst part was the 'patching up' angle, not true at all. But the rest of the article clearly shows the split as being dumb for everyone concerned.
It was one of the biggest sports blunders ever. The fact that not many people talk about it as such, is simply due to how irrelevant the whole thing has become for it to even be considered a topic for discussion.
It was a stupid, stupid, mistake. The timing of it could not have been any worse: when the series was still thriving and Indy still was the biggest thing in town.
Lets thing about how big a blunder it was with the benefit of some hindsight.
Did it protect the Indy 500?: No, the 500 is not even the biggest race at that track, much less natioaally.
Did the league promote American short track drivers to get to Indy: No, the Yeley's, Kahne's, and Walkers are going elsewhere. Part of the reason had to do with the fact that equipment wasn't really all that affordable.
Did it contain costs? No, costs gradually rose to the point where they are roughly comparable to pre-split CART.
Did it promote oval racing? No, since both the series as well as CART have been forced to cut back from many domestic ovals for economic considerations. It now embraces road and street courses.
The PPG Indycar World Series operated well enough with Indy at its center. Without having to deal with the dilution of the sport and the fans, that the IRL's creation caused, a single series would have been better off with all resources in one boat.
Not to say it would be bigger than NASCAR today - which it probably wouldn't. But we would be in much better shape.
CART screwed up afterwards, because it still had re-unification fever, and put off too many crucial decisions thinking some deal could be sruck with George. But regardless the series continues to this day, and seems to be on a proper track.
Now Tony could have fixed this blunder by agreeing to some sort of re-unification when he had the chance all the way up to 2001. Seems like time ran out on him though.