Sunday, May 24, 2009

Goin' to Indiana in My Mind

Larry Bird and Reggie Miller aside, I don't really get the point of Indiana. Ur-Hoosier Bobby Knight registers lower on the Wait Scale of Admirable Americans than geeks in chemistry labs. Tom Crean, Knight's latest successor as Chief Chairthrower at IU, should never have left Marquette. Peyton Manning's a great quarterback, but he's not really a son of the state. For that matter, the entire Colts franchise isn't really of the state. Once I had a job interview in East Chicago, Indiana; thirty years later, I can't remember if they turned me down or if I ran away screaming.

In fairness, Indiana has Notre Dame, as well as two Big 10 universities and a school that's actually called Oo-ie-poo-ie. The price for diesel fuel is lower in Indiana than in Illinois. The phrase "Gary, Indiana" has a lovely, trochaic meter; it's even musical, you might say. Breaking Away (1979) is a fine little coming-of-age movie depicting the aimlessness of four Indiana high school buddies. My point is this: weren't the four of them all trying to break away?

Some may say I don't know the real Indiana because I never saw the movie Hoosiers (1986). What I do know about Hoosiers is that former Vice President Dan Quayle is one in real life. I rest my case!

Once a year, however, my fatuously judgmental attitude toward the Hoosier State, like a muddy snowbank along I-90/I-94, melts away. Apparently, I care a bit more than it's cool to admit about a certain little annual road rally.

I almost missed it this year. For some reason, I thought the Indianapolis 500 was on Monday (Memorial Day) instead of Sunday. I was tooling around town in The Silver Zloty, aimlessly punching car radio buttons, and came across a radio broadcast of the race. Although I'd missed "Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!", the classic cry to start each year's race, I was tuned in from Lap 83 onward.

The radio announcers were great! Their crisp call of the race was as colorful and exciting as any sports broadcast that I've heard; I was able to visualize the race clearly. Naturally, I spent the rest of my errand run curbing the instinct to perform lane changes Mario Andretti-style!

Kudos to the radio team, and especially to the audio and technical directors; from the perfect mix of screaming engines and crowd noise to the seamless segues among the several enthusiastic announcers, the whole production was terrific. Their impeccable teamwork would have won applause from the finest pit crew. Listening, I once again fell in love with radio as a sports broadcast medium and the Indianapolis 500 as an annual sports tradition. I'm hopeful both will survive long into the future.


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