Indianapolis 500 part of Memorial Day tradition

The latest thing to be annoyed about and outraged over is that the Indianapolis 500 will be blacked out on local TV even though the race is sold out.

“It’s all about money and greed,” some angrily insist. “It’s the 100th running, it’s our Hoosier history, for cryin’ out loud,” others shout. On the other side (There is always another side) the argument is some variation of: it is a private business, the race has always been blacked out, and, besides, tickets for the infield are still available.

Once, baseball was our national pastime; now arguing is.

My favorite comment on this divisive issue was from a writer who wrote of a third way: “Who cares if we can’t watch it on TV? Listening to it on the radio is better anyway.”

I am thankful for that unknown sage, that peacemaker because the mention of listening to the race on the radio took me on a spin down the brickyard of memory.

I was reminded of the Memorial Day tradition of grilling out in the backyard with the little plastic radio on the shelf in the garage blasting out the excited non-stop commentary of the announcers while the roar of the engines aurally wallpapered the background. Dad was cooking food and listening with one ear to the racetrack drama while neighborhood dads in their backyards were doing the same. Yes, to me that is so much better than sitting around a non-blacked-out TV.

I understand different people have different Memorial Day weekend traditions which they prefer.

A good buddy of mine used to drive to Speedway the night before the race to hang out with all of the other race-obsessed partiers until it was time to work his way to the same seats in the fourth turn he had had since he was in high school. He would continue the party with the surrounding ticket holders who knew each other for only one day in May. Of course, he was younger back then and had more stamina.

A tradition is by definition a way of thinking, behaving or doing something for a long time. But even traditions had to have a first time, and even traditions don’t always last forever.

Several years ago, Becky and I began the tradition of watching our grandkids on Sunday while their parents went to the race. We started off with one grandkid and kept adding until there were three. By the time the fourth came along, mom and dad decided the first one was old enough to accompany them to the track. Then the numbers started working in reverse until this year we will be hanging out with the youngest only. We both know the time will someday come when this race-day tradition will be but a pleasant memory.

As one might expect from such a major national event, one that has been going strong for 100 years, many traditions connected with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the month of May have developed. These include the 500 Festival parade, the queen and her court, and the mini-marathon. They are the releasing of balloons and the singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the start and the winner drinking a bottle of milk at the finish. They are the pace cars, the Borg-Warner Trophy, and the infield shenanigans, and more.

Traditions bind us together as families, as special groups with common interests, and as citizens. Traditions help us mark our way through the 365-day calendar year and through the greater span of our lives. It’s hard to imagine life without traditions of some sort. Here’s hoping your Memorial Day weekend will be one to remember.