Friday, September 26, 2008

Guest Blogger Mike Harris - more on Mike Hollander

Mike Harris

First, before anything else that needs to be said, Mike Hollander was my friend.

He was a lot of things to a lot of people, but, to me, he was the personification of intelligence and decency, wrapped up in a pleasant personality.

And he had his own parking spot.

Mike was fond of telling people that his father always seemed to be able to find a parking spot, no matter how big or crowded an event. He would drive into the overflowing parking lot, head for the front and - viola - there would be an open space.

According to Mike, when his father died, the parking spot passed on to him.

And I came to believe him after I saw it myself. We were in San Diego in the early 80s, covering an IMSA sports car race at the Del Mar horse track. I offered to give Mike a ride to the track and, when we got there, the attendant at the media lot said there were no more spaces. Mike leaned over and asked if he would let us ``try to find one.'' The guy shrugged and said, `Sure. But you won't find any.''

Needless to say, I drove to the front of the lot and somebody was pulling out of a prime spot as we approached. Mike just grinned and said, ``See.''

I never doubted him again.

Other people have written about his pioneering in the use of computers at the racetrack and his abilities as a writer and public relations person, so I won't bother to get into all of that. I just want people to know that Michael Hollander was a very special person and he will be missed.

Mike Harris, AP
(Mike Harris is an award-winning writer for Associated Press)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Two Racing Media Insiders Pass Away

Two very special individuals in the world of auto racing are no longer with us. You may not have known Michael Hollander or Ron Meade. Media centers are a little less human due to their loss.

Ron Meade, who I first met at Daytona, was the kind of guy who was knowledgeable in just about any form of motor racing. In Meade’s last years he worked in Public Relations at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. If you ever wanted to discuss the events of the day, or bounce an idea off of someone in the business “Uncle Ron” was there.

Michael Hollander

Hollander was a personal friend. I say the following with great affection, he may have been the first “computer geek” in the media centers of professional racing. When I first met him he was lugging a box full of electronics, it was almost 30 years ago. Laptops had not been invented. I believe he had a Radio Shack Model TRS-80. There were no disk drives for it. He loaded programs with a cassette recorder. For a monitor he had a portable black & white television.

Amusement turned to amazement when he obtained live results of races in far flung venues. Back then it was published on Compuserve which was eventually taken over by rival AOL. There were no “internet service providers” available at the time. His Racing Information Service developed a cadre of hard working unpaid or underpaid reporters who transcribed press releases and uploaded live race results. Graphics? Forget about it. It was all text, but, the world became a very small place thanks to Hollander and his reporters.

At first race tracks, like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, scoffed at Hollander because it was an unknown media, and circulation numbers were unreliable. Credentials? Almost impossible, but Hollander soldiered on letting the slings and arrows of lack of professional recognition bounce off him like Teflon, long before Al Gore “invented the World Wide Web.” He didn’t have the status of the name reporters but he deserved it

You know how popular online chats are these days? Old hat to Mike. He was always beaming to me after a huge coup. Dale and Teresa Earnhardt came to his home, and because his office was not quite adequately set up, Dale did a live question and answer sitting on the Hollander family water bed unfortunately I’m not aware of any photos of that event.

Today the tangible forms of media are withering away in favor of immediate online news. It's not hype to say that Hollander was a pioneer in his field.

That doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of his other accomplishments in public relations in the automotive field or work with professional media groups.

Moreover all of that wouldn’t do justice to this warm husband and father. He was a great friend to many the first to volunteer assistance whether it be professional, or to demystify the latest gadget or get you connected to the ‘net.

Both these wonderful people made my life covering auto racing a pleasure and they, certainly, are missed.