Plus: Star readers trash Bob Kravitz

If God hears the prayers of local TV sports personalities, then He answered them by giving Tony Stewart the win in Sunday's NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart

Stewart's victory gave them the ammunition to spend hour after hour pontificating about what a Great Guy Stewart is, as well as how He's So Misunderstood, with bonus credits given to the people who were able to say I Predicted It All Along.

Stewart's victory came in what was otherwise a relatively uneventful race, filled with yellow flags, extended breaks from race action and, for the TV audience, an endless stream of commercials featuring Lee Iacocca and Snoop Dogg.

After the race, all of the local TV stations were beside themselves with exuberance over the outcome, especially the tag team of Channel 13's Dave Calabro and Indy Star's Curt Cavin, or "the fifth Beatle," as some call him for his moptop haircut.

The exuberance continued into Monday, where, in a type size and font usually reserved for outbreaks of war and presidential assassinations, The Star's front page proclaimed, "The Greatest Day Of My Life." The quote was presumably from Stewart, not Channel 13's sports director, but it reflects the adulation local sports reporters must have felt.

The headlines in Monday's Star reflected that exuberance: "A Hoosier kid's dream comes true," was Bob Kravitz's take. The stories could have been written for a teen magazine like Tiger Beat, so upbeat and perky were they.

(Their weekly newspaper literally did emulate Tiger Beat with a painful 20-question session with Stewart that was as insightful as a Ricki Lake interview.)

A re-watching of NBC's race broadcast shows a few things: one, it was a boring as hell race for the first 100+ laps. Only when Stewart gained the lead, then lost it to Kasey Kahne, then got it back again after the yellow on lap 146, did the excitement level pick up.

NASCAR devotees relish every lap and pit stop for the drama, tension and pit-row maneuvering. As such, NBC's coverage was tech-heavy and surprisingly bereft of actual race analysis. Of course, when much of the TV time is consumed with yellow-flag racing, it's hard to make it seem exciting.

Stewart didn't help out NBC very much, either, using curse words in his exchanges with his pit crew, depriving the network of using his radio traffic. The cuss words didn't stop The Star's Jeff Rabjohns from filing a report filled with the word "(bleep)" every time Stewart said something off-color.

Stewart's victory, coupled with Dale Earnhardt's virtual elimination from championship contention, is just as devastating a blow to the national media as it is a boon for the locals.

Stewart is the sport's "bad boy," unafraid to clip a competitor on the bumper out of anger, while Earnhardt is the anointed poster boy of the sport, as ubiquitous as his sponsor, Budweiser. His collapse has been the biggest story of the season - and potential bigtime trouble for television ratings moving forward.

If Stewart, who moved into first place in the Nextel Cup standings after his win on Sunday, wins another championship this year, his family, friends and crew will be ecstatic. The local media will be even happier.

Kravitz: Internet-savvy?

With an innocuous comment made in a column last week, the Indy Star's Bob Kravitz has inadvertently incurred the wrath of some of his newspaper's most ardent readers - the members of its Indiana Pacers message boards.

Discussing Miami's acquisition of Antoine Walker, Kravitz asserted that the Heat were now the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, something few other hoops writers have been reluctant to assert.

But he got himself into trouble with his own readership, though, when he discussed the Pacers' signing of Lithuanian guard Sarunas Jasikevicius.

Kravitz wrote, "The Jasikevicius signing might not lead SportsCenter or fill the local chat rooms with frenzied talk of an NBA title, but that's only because most folks don't get the Maccabi Tel Aviv games on satellite."

It was a funny throwaway line, used as a transition into his main point, but within hours of its posting on The Star's Web site, The Star's Pacer message board - which had, in fact, been full of frenzied talk about an NBA title - erupted in anger.

"Have you not done some story research at your own newspaper's sports chat room?" wrote a user named "Naptown Seth." "How hard are those 2-3 clicks for you? Can't put down the bagel or the coffee to work the mouse over a morning break? Cavs fans were talking title back when they just thought [they] had signed him. What else did he say? I don't know. I really stopped and I really don't care."

Of course, this is the board that hosted a recent thread called "Who Do You Hate More: Kravitz or the Pistons?" While it's unfair to judge a writer solely on the amount of Internet shit-talking about him, a click or two might have saved the controversial Kravitz another round of complaints.