My childhood, and quite honestly a good part of my adulthood, is spent with my nose in a book. I was read Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit as a young child (Shire for life!), I’ve devoured the Harry Potter series so many times I’ve lost count. Every Star Wars movie: I’m there. I have fallen in love with good storytelling, and I know when forced storylines don’t work. There have been calls for more villains in IndyCar, and they need to stop.
Storylines that draw people in all fall under the same premise of The Hero’s Journey (and if you’ve never read Joseph Campbell’s work you should). One individual completing a journey or task with a host of supporting characters with them to either help or hinder, and in many cases do both. Take for example the Star Wars original trilogy, that’s the journey of Luke Skywalker (hero) from sad farmer to supercool Jedi. Along with him are the players that help Luke transform by either forcing him on his path, challenging him, helping/guiding him, and being in direct opposition to him. What everyone is wanting right now is very one-dimensional: pitting one person against another as rivals.
There have been calls for the storyline that puts Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport – Honda) in the role of villain sabotaging Robert Wickens’ (Schmidt Peterson Motorsport – Honda) races. This storyline would have started all the way back at St. Petersburg where a lot of people claim Rossi actively ended Wickens’ run. I’m not going to dive back into that argument, but it to me appears there was an unintended wiggle out of Rossi’s car. Then there were calls after the move in Road America because many feel that Rossi intentionally squeezed Wickens out during a run. The role of a villain is a very specific and chosen role. Someone needs to want to be in that opposition role. I don’t believe Rossi is the villain role; he and Wickens are fierce competitors with each other.
We need strong competitors, not enemies, to flourish in our chosen profession and hobby. Today it’s the world of frenemy. The world of haters. The world of trolls. Enemies don’t push us – enemies incite anger and disruptive emotions. Competitors instill drive. IndyCar doesn’t need a villain. IndyCar doesn’t need a forced rivalry. IndyCar needs to play up this very strong competition between Alexander Rossi and Robert Wickens.
If IndyCar, or fans in general, are anxious for storylines, the answer is clear. Each driver is a hero. They’ve all been on a hero’s journey starting years ago in a small go-kart or quarter midget. There have been challenges along the way. Even now they have a lot of challenges to overcome. We don’t need to force storylines; forced storylines just get in the way of the real story.