How I F*cked Up My Interview with Mario Andretti

I’m sitting with Mario Andretti on the Saturday morning of “Bump Day” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  In fact, even though I arrived 10 minutes early early, I may as well have been late because Mr. Andretti had been sitting in his son Michael’s Andretti Autosport hospitality area waiting for our 10 a.m. appointment.

He’s busily thumbing through his phone as I’m getting things ready to start interviewing him.  I’m there with a co-worker of mine, Jason Rowland.

Rowland has never been to a race before; like me, his normal “day job” is teaching with me at Green Valley High School, but I asked him to tag along to be my assistant for a couple of days, and it would also be a cool opportunity for him to see the inner workings of what it is that I’ve been so obsessed about for most of my life.

So, here we are, two fat guys fumbling around camera equipment, microphones, and an audio recorder as quickly as possible to get things started so as not to waste Mr. Andretti’s time.

He does not seem impressed.

At all.

This is a guy that’s raced for most of his adult life on six continents.  A man that has met heads of state, and even the Pope, and now, he’s waiting on two fat guys that don’t look like they know what they’re doing.

As we are getting ready, one of the people working the hospitality area asked me if I wanted him to turn down the TVs and music.

I said, “No, that’s fine.  Our microphones will filter that out.”

Who am I?  A former publicist in the industry that never had the chance to cross paths with this living legend.  I worked in Indy car racing for eight years, and never once did I have the opportunity to have a conversation with Mr. Andretti.

Not that that’s a bad thing.  It’s just an opportunity that never came about, and in the fight of suppressing my inner “super-fan” to be a professional, I never pushed the issue.

However, now that I’m working on a website that features the “Humans of Racing,” I reasoned that I actually had a legitimate reason to try and schedule an interview with this icon.

So, here we are, quickly, and clumsily, setting up our semi-pro camera equipment and audio recorder.

Getting equipment up and running as quickly as possible. Photo by Jason Rowland.

“Be cool,” I thought to myself.  “Be cool.

“You got this.”

Spoiler alert: Mr. Andretti graciously answered every question that was asked of him, and in fact, towards the end, I felt like he really started warming up to me and appreciated the sorts of questions that I asked him.

Unfortunately, a few hours after interviewing him, when I went to download and backup the audio and video to my computer, I realized that the audio recorder did not actually record.

Let me repeat that: my freaking audio recorder did not record the audio of my interview with Mario Freaking Andretti.

My immediate thoughts: “Fuck.”  “There goes my reputation for being credible.”  “FUCK!!!”

Pardon the language, but if you know me personally, I’m sure you can appreciate the agony I was going through.

The cameras we used to record the interview picked up ALL the sounds in the area (you know, those sounds I told the hospitality guy not to worry about).  I use dedicated microphones to record only the audio being spoken into them. Without that specific audio feed recorded, all you can hear is a lot of background noise and a muffled conversation.

In fact, at times, you can barely here the conversation at all.

It looks and sounds amateur, and I’m not the type to want to do things in an amateur way.  As a publicist, I spent many years making sure things go off without a hitch for others. In fact, when things have gone wrong (because they seem to always do), I’ve gone out of my way to problem-solve and alleviate the issue as quickly as possible.

So, here I am, having just finished an awesome interview with Mario Andretti, and I have no useable content.

I thought I won the Super Bowl, but upon further review, it turns out I just fumbled the football before the play even began.

Tears wells in my eyes as anger, embarrassment, and any other negative emotion ran through my mind in the span of a few moments when I realized what I’ve done.

I mean, am I going to approach Mr. Andretti and say, “Hey, sorry Mr. Andretti, but my technology malfunctioned due to user error.  Think we can do that interview over again?”

You know, since he’s go nothing else to do during the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway…

Problem-solve…problem-solve…figure this out…

“Maybe someone can take the audio from the camera and fix it on a computer,” Rowland suggested to me.  “I’m sure the video production teacher at school could help you out.”

It was a nice suggestion, but for context, whenever he has problems with his computer at work, Rowland comes to me to help him out.

Because he barely knows how to use the computer.  No offense, Jason.

I once had a design instructor tell my class, “Shit in, shit out.”  If the source is garbage, then no matter what you do to edit or manipulate it on the computer, the end product will still be garbage.

Hence the saying, “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.”

So, how do we problem-solve this situation?

Well, I do have SOME, albeit, muffled audio, and Mr. Andretti and I did indeed have a good conversation.

I could at least transcribe what was said!

You know, a print article could always work out; maybe it would be even better than the videos that I’ve produced.

Almost all of the content we produce is through video, but there’s something to be said about the written word.

I mean, if you made it this far, my written words have intrigued you, right?

So, in the next few days, I’ll be publishing different parts of my conversation with Mr. Andretti via written articles.

As a preview of what we talked about, I asked Mr. Andretti what he imagined life would be like after he retired and if he’s fulfilled the image he had in his mind.  I asked him who he has met that made him star-struck. What does he do when he’s away from the track? What is his normal day like?

Did he think he could still qualify for the Indianapolis 500?  I mean, realistically do so and be competitive?

Basically, questions to break down this aura I’ve built up of him to make him seem more human.

At the end of the day, I’ll have a video with crappy audio for myself to commemorate that I actually did interview Mr. Andretti, and if he’s reading this, I can only hope that he’s laughing.

I can picture how awkward we looked as we got ready to talk to him.

Mario, I promise, this will all come out looking good!

Stay tuned!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Shirley Daniels says:

    OMG my heart was breaking for you! I have faith in you, you will make lemonade out of this! Looking forward to your next chapter!

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