Behind the Mic: The Indy 500

Let me be up front with you.  I watch one auto race a year – the Indianapolis 500.  When I was a kid, I listened to one race a year – the Indianapolis 500.  There was always something intriguing for me about this race and there was almost always a local driver starting with Mario Andretti of Nazareth who would allow me a rooting interest in the outcome.  This year, Sage Karam (his father is the wrestling coach at Liberty High School and Sage is from Nazareth) and Marco Andretti (Mario’s grandson and Michael’s son) were both in the race.  I had twice the rooting interest.

Neither of the local drivers fared very well.  Sage crashed and finished 32nd and Marco had tire pressure problems and finished 14th.

The race continued to hold my interest throughout, however.  A rookie, Alexander Rossi, won the race right before he ran out of fuel.  Rossi said he was so bewildered by the victory that he had no idea what he was supposed to do during the victory celebration.  He had to be told how to put on the wreath and what he should do with the bottle of milk.  He had never been at an Indy 500 race before!  His first memory was watching Marco Andretti race in 2006 and nearly winning.  This was only the second time that he had raced on an oval track.  And, he ran out of gas almost immediately after crossing the finish line.  A very strange win, but a great win none the less.

My friend, sports psychologist Dr. Jarrod Spencer worked with Sage Karam during this past year and traveled to the race.  He came away from the race with the following thoughts:

10 Life Lessons I Learned at the Indy 500

  1.  Life is fast. You either keep up or get left behind.
  2.  Life is not fair. You get unlucky. It’s how you deal with it.
  3.  350,000 fans couldn’t be more different. Diversity is good.
  4.  Yet, all fans shared a love for the USA. Be proud to live here.
  5.  A rookie can win anything with some luck. Be in it to win it.
  6.  Fuel consumption matters in life and racing. Pace yourself.
  7.  Camaraderie among competitors matters. There is more to life.
  8.  Crashing is a part of personal growth. Take self-responsibility.
  9.  Winning matters. But a person’s character matters more.
  10. Dreams and ability are ageless. If you want something, go get it.

After seeing Jarrod’s post, I am reminded that athletic competition mimics life all the time.  Lessons are learned from both participating and watching.  This was probably my 60th Indianapolis 500 as a listener and viewer and, once again, lessons were learned.  I will watch next year on Memorial Day weekend and learn more about life again!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Bangor Slater baseball team lost to Parkland on Memorial Day by a 2-1 score. This loss came during the District XI AAAA semifinals.  What made this game stand out is that prior to the loss, the Slaters had won 23 straight games and a Colonial League Championship.  Their season abruptly came to a close on Monday, but it certainly will be remembered.
  2. The Phillies lost their 8th game in the last 11 on Memorial Day. We have now experienced the successful, yet unexpected winning Phillies and, currently, the offense-starved losing Phillies.  Which one will dominate the rest of the season?
  3. Ryan Howard hit a double on Memorial Day. It was his first extra-base hit since May 14 and he is now seven for his last 70 at bats (.100).
  4. I watched the Golden State Warriors win three straight to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Western Conference Finals. They were only the 10th NBA team to rally from a 3-1 deficit.  Stephen Curry is just a joy to watch and so talented.  Curry and LeBron James go at it next.  I will watch.
  5. Jordan Spieth won a golf tournament in Texas, his home state, for the first time and showed off a little bit with a 32-foot putt, a 20-foot putt, and a chip-in after hitting a spectator and dropping a 34-foot putt on the last hole. At 22, he has now won eight tournaments.

Behind the Mic: Pocono Raceway – Bad Memories

 

Pocono Raceway: Bad Memories

Last weekend, the local papers were full of stories about the return of Indy Car racing to Pocono Raceway. The last time Indy cars raced there was in 1989. There were plenty of stories written about the history of the venue and local nostalgia about the Andretti family (Mario, Michael, and now Marco) at the race track. It turned out that Sunday was not a good day for the Andretti racing team. It was another bad memory for them. Ironically, it, also, brought back a very bad memory for me.

I really do not know the year, but it was a long time ago when I was asked to be the main announcer for the GATR 400 at Pocono. GATR was an acronym for The Great American Truck Race. The draw was to take truck cabs off the highway and have the drivers race them for 400 miles, you know, much like truckers do on Route 22 every day.

Now, let me be up front here – I was not and am not a racing fan. My sole auto sport interest, in the past, centered around the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day, especially if a local driver was involved. I know very little about cars, their engines, and how they work. That’s what mechanics are for. To make matters worse, I knew virtually nothing about trucks!

I did not want this announcing job. I figured rather than just saying, “No, thank you”; I would offer to do it for an exorbitant price. I asked for three times my normal fee, thinking that would get me a “Sorry, we’ll look for someone else.” That did not happen. The company agreed to my “demand” (ploy) and I was now doing a broadcast about which I knew nothing.

The race was on a Saturday with time trials and practice on Friday. I decided to go to practice to watch and learn. I went into the pits, struck up conversation with the participants, and took notes. I was honest with the drivers and they were cordial in divulging information. One suggested I should ride with him around the track to get a sense of the speed and the experience. Every brain cell said, “Don’t do this”, but my pride (stupidity) took over and I accepted the offer. I jumped in the cab and off we went. It was not long before we were going down a straightaway at 90+ miles per hour. I tried not to look frightened, but I was afraid my underwear would tell a different story. Trust me, it was frightening! I was convinced we would fly over the retaining wall and that would be it! The headline would read – “Young Local Announcer Dies Covering Sport He Knew Nothing About!” I, also, have the fear that same headline might be written about every sport I have covered over the years. But, I digress. Obviously, I did not die.

Instead, the next day I found myself high atop the track in the announcer’s booth ready to fake interest and knowledge and hope my color analyst was the best race announcer ever to take the microphone. To make matters worse, ten minutes prior to the start, we were informed our words would, also, serve as the PA sound to the thousands who had gathered to watch the race live – you know, the people who REALLY KNEW the sport.

The broadcast began (I still have nightmares about my scared voice “booming” out throughout the track), the race started, and I talked! It was exactly as I suspected – long, confusing (no truck should be allowed to lap another), and intense. Just like “all good things must come to an end”, it is also true of all “bad things”. I got through it.

On the way home, I wondered how much money I should ask for the next time I am offered a job to announce a race. For some reason, another offer never came.

Behind the Mic: What Were They Possibly Thinking?

I am not dumb enough to think that terrific athletes or sports personalities are necessarily, also, intelligent people. But, all too often these days, there are incidents that force average “Joes” like me to wonder, smart or not, what were they possibly thinking?

Let’s start with Ozzie Guillen who recently managed the Miami Marlins. One of the reasons he was chosen was because he related well to Spanish-speaking citizens in and around Miami. So what does he do? He talks about his respect and admiration for Fidel Castro in a city where many Cubans have fled Cuba because of their hatred for the Cuban leader. What was he possibly thinking?

Dennis Rodman visits the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, who runs death camps and oppresses his people. Rodman said, “He’s a good guy to me. He’s my friend.” Rodman totally disregarded all of the tragic history of the country and the man. Rodman’s statement implies that those who have suffered have earned their suffering. Otherwise this “good guy” would not have done these evil things. Dennis, what were you possibly thinking?

Sergio Garcia, one of the most recognizable members of the PGA tour and loaded with product endorsements, attacks Tiger Woods for an unsportsmanlike incident which turned out to be totally inaccurate. He not only doesn’t retract what he said, but he also doesn’t apologize and further tarnishes his image with a racist comment about serving “fried chicken” if he had Tiger over for dinner. All he had to do was ascertain the facts about the incident and keep his mouth shut. He didn’t do either! Instead of continuing to be a popular golfer, he will lose future endorsements and constantly hear a chorus of boos from the galleries. He goes from good guy to bad guy because of an incorrect interpretation. What was he possibly thinking?

Notre Dame went to College Football’s National Championship game last year with freshman quarterback, Everett Golson. Golson was looking at three more years playing the most glorious position at college football’s most historical football institution and the adulation that comes with THAT territory. All he had to do was just stay in school. However, Everett Golson is no longer enrolled because of “poor academic judgment.” We do not know what he did – cut classes, cheated on tests, had someone take his tests, failed too many courses – the list could go on and on. The bottom line and most obvious question is, “What was he thinking?”

I could certainly give you more examples – NBA’er Andrew Bynum bowling on a bum knee, causing him to now have two bum knees; NBA’er Amare Stoudamire punching a glass fire extinguisher following a loss to Miami; Lance Armstrong’s arrogance in denying his use of illegal substances when he knew he had been caught; etc., etc. I wish I could understand what they were thinking. But, alas, I cannot!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. I have tried to watch the Phillies, but their pitching is bad and the hitting is worse. They are getting to be an old baseball team and it is showing.

2. Heartbreak occurred at the Indianapolis Speedway again for the Andretti family (Mario, Michael, Marco). Marco was right there, kept all the locals in front of the TV, and, once again, fate dealt a stunning blow with a caution flag that cemented defeat and a fourth place finish for Marco. The family says there is no curse; I do not believe in curses; but, if I did, the Andretti history at Indianapolis would certainly qualify as one.

3. Tiger Woods, whose golf schedule is certainly limited, has agreed to play in the Turkish Airlines Open in Europe. Why there, you may wonder. There is a $7 million purse. Still wondering?

4. I needed to prepare for the District XI baseball championships over the holiday weekend. It is very difficult to get information when schools are not in session. I finally got everything I needed Monday night at @ 10:30 (after numerous phone calls to coaches). I worked all day Sunday with what I had. Guess what? The games were rained out on Tuesday and one of the games (already done) was moved and will not be televised. I am not complaining; just a little venting. Thanks for listening.

5. I am hosting Sportstalk next Thursday (June 6) and the panel will be discussing the best 5 high school football players at various positions. Dick Tracy, Dennis Laub and Joe Craig will offer their lists. Join us with your opinions. I am sure there will be many.