Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I bleed Ethanol

Please forgive the melodramatic title, but it's true.  This is my first of many posts, so I must start out with some background information to help validate my opinion.

I was born in Indiana but moved away as a child.  All of my childhood, I was the only Hoosier I knew (aside from relatives), and aside from the classic movie Hoosiers, there was little to my home state that was special aside from the Indianapolis 500.  I attended my first race in 1988 with my now-estranged father.  We sat in Turn 1 (Legacy tickets long since abandoned) and I screamed my head off as the only driver I knew, Rick Mears, won.  I was hooked.

My parents divorced, or were probably divorcing at the time, and my father became estranged.  Still, I held on the 500 in my heart.  A reminder of better times, in my Uncle Lou's backyard, with my cousin Andy, running through what is known as the "Garage-mahal" (Lou's three car garage dedicated to all things Indy 500)... while, somewhere in the background, some aspect of the month of May was playing softly on a two dollar radio.

Growing up in Kansas, the Indy 500 was mine.  Well, that was my opinion.  My mother, a graduate of Purdue, had plenty of love for the 500, having attended several races herself with my father.  My mother is a great many things, most of them great, and deep down inside, at her core, mixed in with her love for her children, grandchildren, family, God and everything else special, is a deep seeded love for the Indy 500 and most things Indiana.  I think for her, living in Indiana, was a very challenging yet very rewarding time.  One she looks back on with a smile.

This was roughly the model of TV I smuggled into Church as a kid.
As an obnoxious teen, with a ghost for a father, and a mother working her knuckles to the bone, I held on that the Indy 500 was mine alone.  Yes, I was once thrown out of church because of the 500.  Yes, I did smuggle a television into church.  I managed to see the opening lap before being yanked out of the pew and nearly crowned by some woman who was clearly overreacting.  Oh, this was no hand held, discrete TV -- it was a four inch screen and the whole thing was about the size of a case of beer.  I slipped in unnoticed with it in a small duffel bag.  I propped it up on its end, on the floor, placed it between my knees and put my face in between my palms as if sleeping (to hide the earphones).  I'm not sure why I thought pretending to be asleep in church was good camouflage; nevertheless, it's what I did.

This was no traditional church.  No stand-up, sit down, kneel aerobic exercise like being Catholic.  This was full contact religion, the stuff that makes the news, and never for a good thing.  So there I was standing in the stairwell, as some woman scolded my mother because, as this was news to her, I slipped a television into church.  I watched my favorite driver Mears, the pole sitter, get passed on the opening lap (as he always did, LOL), and then it was gone.  20 bucks in D-Cell batteries wasted.  My mother stood there, upset, giving me the pretty standard "disappointed" look I have seen consistently through my life.  However, when she found out I was watching the 500, well, for some reason I remember there being little punishment for that crime.

Mr. Rick Mears following the victory I missed in church.
For the next 20 years, I watched every race I could.  The television coverage outside of Indiana is pretty pathetic, and has gotten worse over the years.  I became an adult, joined the military, and still I found time to catch almost every 500 I could.  Sometimes, well, the Army had other plans, but in my heart I was always a fan.

In 2010, I moved back to Indiana.  For the 2010 race, my father's family (oh, he's still estranged, but they're not) were all at the race.  I was driving through Indianapolis in a U-Haul packed with all my things while Dario was blazing towards his second win.  I screamed at the radio begging for one last caution as I was still 50 miles south of the city, heading north towards Lafayette, and I wanted to miss the traffic.  Dario won, I made it home, and I decided then, at that moment, I would become a Hoosier again.  I feel in love with this state, with the race, and I knew right then, I would attend every race for the rest of my life.

In 2011, I held my four tickets.  My first time back at the track in 22 years, I had covered seats in C-Stand and I could only think of one person on this entire planet I wanted to go with me:  my mother.  My Aunt Linda and Uncle Don also joined, as back in the 1970s, it was my father, mother, Linda and Don who went to the race every year.

I had the pleasure of taking my mother back to the IMS, where she had not been in over 30 years.  And what a race we witnessed.  Although we had no idea the drama at the time, the late Dan Wheldon won in amazing fashion.  I will never forget that day.  As the day wound down, I was back in Lafayette in time to watch the race in High Definition on TV.

I shared that day with my mother and knew I was a fan for life once again.  As the season wore on, I figured it was quite foolish to call myself a fan if I really only followed the 500, so I began to catch up on other races and the history of the series.

I was pretty shocked to learn what I did:  that this league is failing, and NASCAR, and their brilliant marketing strategy, is sucking the life right out of IndyCar.  As I conclude this post, this will be the end of my rose-colored opinion.

"They'll never cancel the Indy 500," says some ignorant Hoosier.  Well, if there's no league, and no series, let alone no interest, there will be no reason to compete in the 500. It's time to bring the fans back.

Immortal IndyCar is a fan based blog providing an honest assessment of the Verizon IndyCar Series from someone who wants nothing for than the series to succeed. You can follow me on Twitter @ImmortalIndycar. Thanks for reading!

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