Have you seen Hallie’s weekly link-up at Moxie Wife, “Five Favorites?” The idea is (I think) to post a little something about five of your favorite things from the previous week. Well, obviously I’m slightly behind in that regard, since these are from Memorial Day Weekend, but at the risk of bending the rules just a little–next time my five favorites will be something from the previous week, I PROMISE!–I’ve decided to jump in today with five things that stood out in my mind and stirred my emotions at this year’s Indianapolis 500. (Some of you already know we’re racing fans, and we try to attend at least one Indy Car race every year. This year we decided to go for THE BIG ONE.) And they weren’t necessarily my five favorite moments, although some of them were; and a couple of them made me sad–again, I might be bending the rules. My apologies. Here they are, in the order that they happened, more or less:
We had to wait in line at the gate for a little while to get in (Did I tell you that the Indy 500 is the most heavily attended one-day sporting event in the world?) and the street preachers took full advantage of their opportunity to evangelize. As a Catholic and a Christian, I am all for standing in the street telling others about Jesus. What made me cringe was the way in which these well-meaning folks were doing their preaching. Using megaphones, they were yelling things like, “If you DIED TODAY, would you go to HEAVEN or HELL? You’d better think about that because if you don’t REPENT NOW you are sure to spend ETERNITY IN HELL FIRE! The only way to escape ETERNAL DAMNATION is to accept JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOR! You may be enjoying yourselves today, with all your drinkin’ and your cussin’, and your partyin’,” –and there was plenty of that going on; see #4–“but you’ll be AWFULLY SAD when the LORD comes to collect his children and YOU are thrown into the PIT OF FIRE, from which there is NO ESCAPE!!!”
I wanted to cry. I wanted to confront them. I wanted to shout at them, “Do you really think you will win people over to Christ this way? You’re just turning people off, my friend! How about telling us that Jesus loves us more than we can imagine? That He made us and loves us enough to die on the Cross for us? That He longs to be with us forever and ever??” I said these things out loud–not loud enough for the megaphone-wielding preachers to hear, but perhaps someone heard me.
(Which reminds me of my favorite thing about Catholicism: That Jesus loves us so much not only did He die for our sins and wants us to be with Him in Heaven, but he gave himself to us in the Eucharist. We can receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, any time we want.)
Shortly before the start of the race, thirty-nine runners who were unable to finish the Boston Marathon before the bombs went off had the opportunity to run the half mile or so from Turn 4 to the finish line. It was an extremely moving moment, and I might have shed a tear or two.
I think it was when Jim Nabors started singing that it finally dawned on me, “HOLY CRAP I’M AT THE INDYFREAKINAPOLIS 500!!”
One thing I was surprised to see that weekend–especially Saturday evening as we made our way back from Mass to our car parked near the speedway, and again before and after the race on Sunday–was the vast number of people whose sole purpose for being there seemed to be to get as hammered as possible. There were throngs of people camping in tents and RVs in lots reserved for that purpose right beside the track–which might have been very convenient for us, and we even considered renting an RV and camping there rather than staying in a hotel across town. My advice to anyone planning to attend a future Indianapolis 500: Go for the hotel. As far away from the speedway as you can stand it. And if you have small children, wait until they’re older, or leave them with relatives. We’ve attended quite a few Indy car races, starting when the kids were pretty young, and the crowds at those events have been (for the most part) orderly, polite, and subdued. Very family-friendly. People go to Indy Car races to enjoy the racing; and although you’ll see a few intoxicated people, there really is very little drunken revelry going on. We see many families, out together to enjoy a day of racing. People who have been to NASCAR races–Joe included–tell me that those crowds are generally larger and rowdier, and that bringing small children to them might not be such a great idea. Joe said that the Indy 500 crowd reminded him of the ones at the NASCAR race in Richmond, only bigger. We saw people playing drinking games literally in the middle of the street. It was CRAZY.
After the race was over (fast-forwarding a little bit) and we were exiting the speedway and walking through the crowds of people, there was a man walking in front of us carrying a little girl. She looked to be about four or five years old. The guy was covered in tattoos (nothing wrong with that of course; I know lots of wonderful people who have them) and he had a cigarette hanging from his mouth right next to the girl’s face. He was screaming at some friends of his, cursing at them for dropping all the beer and spilling it or some such thing. I looked at the girl and smiled at her. She looked at me but didn’t smile back. I wondered what life must be for that little girl at home. Was this her Dad? Is this the kind of behavior this beautiful child (not to mention her Mom, and her siblings if she has any) puts up with on a daily basis? I felt a little guilty for not saying anything to the man–even, “You have a beautiful daughter!” would have been nice. Instead I said a little prayer for her and for her family.
BUT, do you know what I loved? Once we found our seats, the fans around us were pretty much like the ones at all the other races we’ve been to–polite, sober, just enjoying some good racing. (There is a section in the infield called the Snake Pit, and I’m told that’s where all the partiers go.) The cars were fast, there was excitement in the air–THIS is what being a race fan is all about.
The end of the race. When Dario Franchitti crashed with two laps to go and everyone realized that Tony Kanaan would be the winner, everyone went nuts. People were standing on their seats, jumping up and down, screaming and yelling. Some people cried. I got a little teary myself. Tony has been Curly’s favorite driver since he was little (here he is with Curly in 2009),
and I think I can safely say he’s become our family’s favorite driver, too. It was great to be there when Tony finally got his elusive Indy 500 win.
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P.S. I fired up my computer tonight to finish this post and learned via Facebook that Thomas Peters, a Catholic and pro-life blogger and activist, was seriously injured yesterday in a swimming accident and is in critical condition (more details here.) Please join me in praying for him.