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An open letter to ABC/ESPN

Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 11:14 a.m. CDT

Kate Jackson

Coordinating Producer

Motorsports

c/o ESPN Communications

ESPN Plaza

Bristol, CT 06010

Ms. Jackson:

We greatly appreciate the coverage and exposure ABC and ESPN give to Iowa Speedway whenever they come to Newton. Given your network’s frequent trips to our community, many of your long-time staff have become like extended family members to many in Newton.

As a graduate of the University of Iowa, we know you understand what the exposure you provide to Newton and Iowa mean to us. So, thank you for that, from the bottom of our hearts.

We also appreciate the difficulty of shooting an inherently international sport, like the IZOD IndyCar Series, for broadcast to a predominantly red-white-and-blue American audience. Making drivers from Japan, Venezuela, Brazil and the U.K. — driving cars that look more like they belong on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier than a race track — relevant to your viewers cannot be easy.

That being said, regardless of the audience, and regardless of the setting of the race, there are some elements you just cannot mess up. Chief among these is the performance of the national anthem during pre-race festivities.

So, we’re left wondering why the national anthem wasn’t broadcast during the pre-race for last Sunday’s Iowa Corn Indy 250. Sure, it rained earlier that day, but by the time pre-race festivities were getting underway, the track was dry and ready to race, so scheduling wasn’t an issue.

Had the audience watching from home had a chance to watch it, they would have seen a “local kid,” Colfax-Mingo FFA student Sydney McLaughlin, perform a beautifully inspiring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Afterward, there were a lot of IndyCar folks saying, “Wow!”

We hate to speculate, but we can’t help but wonder if the national anthem was left out because Sydney wasn’t a big-name superstar. Sure, having an “untrained amateur” perform the national anthem is a gamble, but it happens all the time at sporting events.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it ends up getting a couple hundred million views on YouTube. But that was the decision made by Iowa Speedway and the sponsors of the race, Iowa Corn.

We wish you would have shown a little more respect for that decision.

Not broadcasting the national anthem before the start of a race — any race — in the United States would be like WGN not broadcasting the celebrity singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the Seventh-Inning Stretch of a Chicago Cubs baseball game. It just doesn’t happen.

So, at the very least, we would like some kind of explanation.

The Newton Daily News

Editorial Board

• • •

The preceding represents the opinion of the Daily News Editorial Board. Readers may respond with letters to the editor written to P.O. Box 967, Newton, IA 50208, or at newsroom@newtondailynews.com via email.

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