This week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. If you’re not happy to be alive and living in beautiful Central Indiana, there’s something wrong with you.
I usually take this week off, in fact, so I can take in all of the fun events in town, such as Pacers games, Carb Day, the 500 Parade and the orgy of grilled food that ensues on Sunday.
I’m not much of a racing fan. Strike that. I’m not much of an IRL fan. As I said last week, the sport’s bigwigs have run the league into the ground and removed almost all of the excitement from it. But if you grew up in Indianapolis, as I did, the weekend of the race is a rich repository for nostalgic memories.
The dominant memory of my childhood concerning the race was the way you could stand in my backyard and hear the sound of the race broadcast booming from radios all over the neighborhood. Every family was cooking out and every family was listening to the race.
The day before the race, my parents would take my sisters and me to the parade downtown since we couldn’t afford tickets to the actual race. We got to see big-name celebrities like Adam 12’s Kent McCord riding in a convertible. There was a veteran of the Spanish-American war who appeared in the parade every year.
The highlight of the parade was when all 33 drivers passed by us, one by one, waving and signing autographs. There were giants in the sport then. Mario Andretti. The Unsers. There was Johnny Rutherford, who was never too busy to sign an autograph for a kid.
A.J. Foyt, however, never appeared in the parade when I was a kid. His time was apparently too important. I’ve never forgotten that and still do not like him to this day, as unfair as that may be. It would have taken two hours out of his life to make a few kids happy but he couldn’t do it.
I remember people getting hotel rooms in Cincinnati so they could watch the race on television and others installing satellite dishes to catch the ABC Sports feed of the race. I’m not sure people do that anymore.
This year’s race will be the same as the last 10 to 15 years of drama-free racing. If someone offered me suite tickets, I’d probably go, just for the shrimp and Crown Royal. Barring that, I’ll spend time with my family and follow the race on radio.
There was a small window of opportunity on Sunday where it actually looked like the race would be interesting this year. If Tony Stewart had succeeded in his last-minute try to get in the field, it would have changed everything. There would have been some actual drama and some excitement for once.
Instead, we’re going to get the same thing we get every year. And that’s fine. I’ll just watch the Pacers game on Sunday night and that will be my holiday.
Speaking of the Pacers, I want to clear something up for my fellow fans. If the Pacers should happen to lose the series to the Pistons, do not, under any circumstances, say that the Pacers had a “great season.”
A great season would be defined by the team winning the NBA Finals and bringing home the Larry O’Brien trophy. Period.
It is not enough to make it to the conference finals or lose again to the Lakers.
That’s part of the problem. Fans here are satisfied if their team makes it fairly deep into the playoffs. I guarantee you the players themselves won’t be satisfied if they lose to the Pistons. This city will never be a championship city until we settle for nothing less than winning it all.
This is the kind of thing I wouldn’t normally bring up, but I was talking with a conservative friend of mine the other day about politics when he brought up some of his own legal problems. He has something like 25 unpaid parking tickets and is trying to resolve the situation through his lawyer before the city issues an arrest warrant.
“Maybe they’ll haul you in to jail,” I joked. “Rumsfeld is preparing a cell for you at Guantanamo Bay right now. Get ready to be tortured. Hope you like having your picture taken.”
“You liberals always blow things out of proportion,” he said. “It’s like what Rush Limbaugh said. The guards were blowing off steam. Nothing that happened there doesn’t go on at a Skull and Bones initiation ceremony. Didn’t you ever see Eyes Wide Shut?” He laughed.
“And I thought you liberals were into that kinky stuff. I figured you’d enjoy wearing a hood while standing there naked. I don’t know what those prisoners are complaining about. A lot of people would pay good money to do what those prisoners got to do for free.”
So this is what it’s come to. We’re rationalizing torture now. If this is the level of political discourse in the country today, not only does Bush not stand a chance of re-election, this country deserves the criticism of the world. I can’t wait for November, when a nice, cool rain will clean the streets of Washington. Don’t forget to register to vote.