Emerson Fittipaldi dominated the 1994 Indianap...

My how the mighty have fallen.

This weekend I took in one of my favorite Memorial Day weekend sport related pastimes. I realized a lot has changed since the days of my youth. Of course I am talking about…..

The Indianapolis 500.

I harken back to my younger days, it was on ABC. Of course in those days you did not have 1873 different channels to choose from on cable, or the dish, so on Monday night, you got to watch the Big Race. The entire family got together after a day of running around the yard, and barbecuing to enjoy the air-conditioned living room (typically at my grandparents’ house) and some sugary snacks for me and my cousins. Looking back now I am certain is was some nice down time for the parents and grandparents as well after a long day of chasing us around everywhere.

All of the same names were there, year after year after year. A.J. Foyt, Tom Sneva, Al Unser, Gordon Johncock, Bobby Rahal, Johnny Rutherford….I am sure there are many more, but those are the ones I remember.

You also had the cool sounding team racing names….McLaren and Cosworth sounded rich, chic and mysterious. You didn’t see cars with these names going down the street in your hometown. But you were sure to check out the cool corvette or Camaro that was the pace car for that particular year and it was all painted up and looking sweet!

Jim Nabors signaled that you better get your coke and popcorn ready as he started singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” There were thousands of red, white, and blue balloons released into the air. Even doves on some occasions if memory serves me correctly.

The television coverage was grainy as could be, you had about 4-5 different camera angles and that was pretty much it.

You saw that huge trophy. Wouldn’t it be cool to take that home with you.

There were announcers that you only heard at this event. Of course there was ALWAYS Jim McKay, but then there was also Sam Posey, Jackie Stewart and my personal favorite Chris Economacki.

Even the time trials were a huge event. They took up the weekend coverage the week before the 500. It was pretty much an afternoon devoted to the racing around the 2 mile oval. You got to watch the three laps against the clock, and then hear the announcers break-down their chances for the following week.

You marveled at the guy perched above the finish line waving his flags…green, yellow, white……checkered.

This year the 500 went off with a general malaise of which I cannot ever remember. No big coverage of the time trials, barely a mention on SportsCenter. My local newspaper did not even make it front page of the sports section. Instead it was relegated to about 6 small paragraphs on page #3 of the Sports Section.

NASCAR is much bigger now. The weekend race received front page sports coverage on what used to be considered the biggest racing event in America (with all apologies to the Daytona 500).

Personally, I am not a race fan at all, but for the casual race fan, the demise of the Indianapolis 500 is well underway. All you had to do was look at the stands yesterday. Years ago, the Brickyard was packed to the gills for this race.

Yesterday a lot of race fans evidently dressed up as empty seats. I am sure there will be more fans there for the NASCAR event later this year.

Things are always changin’

Until Next Time, Stay Classy Rutland, Vermont!
 

  

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Johnny Goodman writes a weekly sports column for The Soap Boxers. His articles can be found in The Goodman File.

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