Hoosiers' heritage takes a beating

May 4, 2012
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It’s been a tough week for Indiana traditions.

First we found out the Indianapolis 500 might not have 33 cars starting the race for the first time since most people can remember. Then we discovered that Jim Nabors’ singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana” is going to be via video tape.

Top it off with a spat between athletic departments that ended the storied University of Kentucky and Indiana University men’s basketball match-up.

Eleven rows of three cars have started the Greatest Spectacle in Racing since 1934.

Indiana and Kentucky have played every year since 1969.

Nabors has sung “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the 500 since 1972.

I have to admit, I don’t quite understand locals’ attachment to Nabors, an Alabama native who lives in Hawaii, singing “Back Home.”

Yes, the song should be sung before the race as long as the race is run. But I’m quite certain someone else could have been found when Nabors became incapable of a live performance.

And before you all get started, yes, I am a Hoosier, born and bred. I came into this world at Beech Grove’s St. Francis Hospital in 1966, and live about a mile from where I grew up next to Southport High School. I've attended numerous Indy 500s. My first in 1973. I’m about as homegrown as it gets.

Nabors has a wonderful voice, and so do a lot of others—including a handful of Hoosiers I could name. I'm certain there are others who could belt out a stirring rendition glorifying the moonlight on the Wabash.

But after tweeting about Nabors on Thursday, I realized how many people—for whatever reasons—are deeply attached to this tradition, and I’m not going to berate their feelings. I know, change is hard. Maybe harder for us Hoosiers than most. And I respect that.

That’s why it’s especially painful for us to see a change that isn’t necessary. At least in Nabors’ case, there’s a good reason why he won’t be in Indianapolis. The 81-year-old is medically unable.

The Indiana and Kentucky match-up is ending because grown men have decided there’s no way to compromise. This impasse comes down to money, exposure and recruiting.

It’s noble that IU Athletic Director Fred Glass and Coach Tom Crean want to keep the game on campus and accessible to the students. But the truth is that UK’s getting any more exposure in the Indianapolis market—where more than a few of their best recruits have come from over the years—is no good for IU.

Kentucky wants to play to a wider audience at Lucas Oil Stadium. IU wants the games played in Bloomington and Lexington.

So IU did what it felt was necessary to get a leg up in this intensified recruiting war. Strategically smart perhaps, but at what cost? Now, instead of not having a game on campus for a few thousand students to enjoy live, what do we have? No game. No tradition. No enjoyment for anyone. That’s the dictionary definition of lose-lose. Or maybe lose-lose-lose. I’ve lost count.

It’s safe to say the warm, fuzzy friendship between Crean and UK Coach John Calipari just had a layer of ice frosted over it.

At least there’s hope that the oldest of these three beloved traditions can be saved. Driver Jay Howard is still trying to scrape together a deal to get himself a Lotus or Chevy engine to have the 33rd car to enter for this year’s Indianapolis 500. At this point, he’d probably take a Briggs & Stratton.

Oddly, I’ve heard more concern over the crooner of “Back Home” than about having a full field to start this tradition-rich race. I suppose Tony George was right when he said “33 is just a number.”

And May in Indiana is just May. The sign of spring and of new beginnings.

Though this May seems to be more a sign of painful endings.

Well, for this year anyway, at least we have Gomer.


  • Traditions
    Keeping Nabors is the ONLY tradition the 500 has left. Do baskeftball fans really care about the IU-UK matchup...no. Just another game and an IU - Kansas setup would be better. Two strong programs with two reputable coaches. Maybe IndyCar SHOULD talk with Briggs and maybe Tecumseh that way you know the engines would be reliable. Just thinking....
  • Fred: I'm all about Football
    IU's Fred Glass is just showing he is a lawyer more than anything else......and not a very good one at that I might add.

    I don't know what Fred Glass's problem truly is, but calling off a high profile game with last years NCAA champion over a venue dispute seemly awfully stupid.

    Guess he forgot he has a IUPUI campus in Indianapolis with plenty of students and alumni that would love to go to the game in Lucas Oil or Banker's Life.

    Kentucky certainly is not stupid knowing that their finish in this past NCAA championship makes them a hot ticket that could easily fill up their new Yum Stadium in Louisville.

    Fred Glass apparently feels no affinity for the largely unused Lucas Oil Stadium and it's $750 million bill he gave central Indiana taxpayers.

    Guess IU is now paying the price for hiring a athletic director for $500,000+ a year to screw up it's sports program by playing hard nose lawyer against another school that doesn't need to deal with him or IU.
  • Glass
    Amend...it's shattered shattered (Mick Jaggers).....
  • Anthony, check your facts. Nabors did not sing in 2007 when he had hepatitis. That said, Tom Carnegie was doing announcer duties long after some thought he should hang it up. Why? Because people loved it. Because he loved to do it. when he could no longer handle it full time, they brought in Callabro to assist, and when he could no longer do it? Callabro came in full time. I feel Nabors should continue as long as he can. when he can't, the Speedway needs to look for a quality person to pick up the tradition. Not an American Idol flash in the pan. Someone who will dedicate as much to it as Nabors has.

    33 cars goes back to 1947, not 1934. They ran 30 cars that year. I am sure the Speedway will have 33 cars start the race. Of course anytime you make a major change, in this case changing cars and engines, you run this risk. This is not the first time this has been an issue. If 33 cars do not start this year, it will be a footnote, nothing more.

    IU/Kentucky is all about money. Kentucky realizes playing before 40,000 fans at Lucas is better than playing before 17,000 at Btown. They also realize it is about playing to the alumni and non student fans.

  • Bloomington Road Trip
    IU could easily create a bus caravan to Indianapolis with special seating for students at Lucas Oil Stadium.

    IU's Athletic Director can't see the forest because the trees are in the way.

    Scary to think he is representing IU in the BCS negotiations.

    We will probably end up playing IU's football final four games in South Bend every year, giving away all the revenue, while picking up all the expenses;)

  • Tick Tick, is that you?
    Actually Lucas cost $719 ml. and Glass is paid $400k.
  • Fact Check
    Marie, Marie, Marie

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

    Fred Glass made $422,300 in cash salary in 2009-2010 excluding 25% in undisclosed pension contributions and other benefits which brings his compensation level to $527,875 according to the Indianapolis Star.

    The stated cost of the Lucas Oil Stadium construction was $720 million, however this number does not include tens of millions in cost overruns, rework, redesign, underwriting fees, attorney fees, and finance expense which actually pushes the cost north of $750 million according to the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority, CIB, bond offering sheets, and published news reports.

    Keep in mind that mayor Bart Peterson declared the new football stadium would cost $500 million when he announced the deal to the public (Source: Indy Star)

    Also that the President of IU makes $437,750, excluding benefits placing Fred Glass almost equal in compensation. That seems strange.
    • Tick Tick Tick
      Louie, if you subtract the Colts contribution to the stadium project, the cost becomes low $600 mill. If you are going to add attorney fees, don't you think it is fair to include this fact? Regarding IU President McRobbie's SALARY, it is $533k for 2011-12---excluding benefits. Am I mistaken?
    • How To Purchase Real Estate With No Money Down

      Apparently Math was not your best subject in school.

      Even if you gave the Colt's credit for contributing $100 million to the stadium in your fantasy, which I do not share, the taxpayer cost would have been $400 million not a "low $600 million".

      Keep in mind the $100 million "contribution" your talking about was actually Jim Irsay forgiving taxpayers for a "$50 million RCA Dome break up fee" for building him a new stadium plus a $50 million NFL loan.

      Basically, Fred Glass gave him a no money done deal with taxpayers getting all the bills.
      • Gomeritus
        People get spun up about Nabors singing or not singing "Back" because the Indianapolis 500 is more of an annual, traditional, cultural event for the small, core group of people who follow it like religion. Sure, it will get a huge crowd May 27, but as a whole, this event is no longer the extraordinary, monumental, impact sporting event (no pun intended) it once was.

        The Indy 500 pinnacle was in the 80's and into mid-90's. Maybe even the first IRL year in 1996. After that, maddening descent, leveled off last year for the temporary intrigue of the 100th Anniversary year.

        Back to more of a descent this year. The Indy 500 is in decline. As a result, people people cling to traditions and old touchstones to remind them of the glory years and in hopes the event can return to prominence. Unlikely.

        This year's race will reveal a fast-fading event. Lower attendance, TV ratings, media coverage, and interest. It'll be the 96th Indy 500. Maybe they can pull off four more after that and call it good. 100 is a nice, fat number. "100 Indianapolis 500's - A Look Back at The Greatest Spectacle In Racing." That would make a nice coffee table book to recollect the 100 Indy 500's held before the plug was pulled. Jim Nabors might even make that last one.
      • Tick: "Conversation should be...novel without falsehood."
        1. Tick Tick, the NFL loan (note: LOAN) was $34 mill, according to the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority, CIB, bond offering sheets, and published news reports.
        2. IU President McRobbie's salary is $533k for 2011-12, plus bonuses and excluding benefits according to IU's annual salary report. You said it was $437k. Which is true?
        3. You are correct about my math, I thought the public contribution to Lucas was much more than $400 mil. I cannot get to $400 mil. no matter how hard i try!
      • Marie
        1) You do realize that by reducing the NFL loan from $50 million to $34 million you are increasing the taxpayers initial contribution to the $750 million total cost? (I suspect you are talking about its current balance, after several years of payments, but who knows)

        2) One would normally compare salaries during the same time period.

        IU Salary Database:


        3) The initial transaction was portrayed as a $500 million project with the Colts contributing $100 million, this the $400 million taxpayer contribution. However, as I have previously outlined, the total cost increased to $750 million and the $100 million Colts contribution was basically smoke & mirrors.
        • Speaking of smoke and mirrors
          Here is what you said: "... the President of IU makes $437,750, excluding benefits placing Fred Glass almost equal in compensation. That seems strange."

          Your statement is MISLEADING. It is stretching the truth to suit your argument.

          And the $34 mill. loan means the Colts non-NFL contribution was $66 million, not $50 million, PLUS an additional $8 mill in overruns,

          And the $400 mill was your statement, not mine. Your math.

          Look, I will let the Colts fight their own fight, but I can never understand why, if the TRUTH is so bad, some feel the need to embelish with half-truths?
        • A Little Advice
          First law on holes - when you're in one, stop digging!
          • Accountability
            Well that's one thing we agree on!
          • The Indy 500 is not a big deal like it was.
            Let's face it, the Indy 500 is a local event now. Yes, it is on TV. Yes, it gets a large crowd. But ask yourself this? Who do you know outside the Indianapolis area, non-racing person, who even knows it is coming up?

            This old relic is like the Kentucky Derby. Popular for a few hours because it is old and then forgotten again for 364 days.

            No excitement in this town for it, truthfully. Where is the beef? The Indy 500 is a has-been even here to be honest.

            It is more or less an event of non-importance anymore. It could go away tomorrow and few would care.
          • I am not really sure you can call the largest single day sporting event in the world with a crowd of over 300,000 that is broadcast live nationally and internationally a local event.

            Your comment about non race fans can be said about the Daytona 500 as well. Most non race fans don't know when it is coming up, and don't care.

            You can try to marginalize the 500, but the figures bear out that it is still a major national and international event.
          • Maybe so
            ....BUT, it is a shell of it's former self. Traditions have been sacrificed, fans alienated, TV coverage minimized, marketing almost non-existant.

            If just existing cuts it Indyman, well then you're happy as a pig in slop. But for the rest of us, the pig was slaughtered and sacrificed so the Hulman family could own the sport.

            That's why no one can find it on TV, no newspaper in this country covers it on any day except Memorial Day anymore...and it is virtually invisible everywhere else except for the free ticket banners popping up everywhere. The 500 used to sell out 1 year in advance. Now, they just leave the gates open because they are too cheap to hire Yellow Shirts to watch them.

            There's your Indy 500 in 2012, limping on four bad knees and headed right to the glue factory. Good riddance, because even Ol' Yeller was euthanized. So such should be the fate of the Indy 500 under Hulman rule.
          • ALmost a year in advance, yes.
            The Chief is correct. When I was a boy we lived in Muncie where my father taught. We loved the Indy 500 race. The first year, we missed it. No tickets unless you purchased mega price from a scalper. No way.

            But the next yera, 1983, my father purchased four tickets on the backstretch near Turn Three the last week of June. Close call! He was told when he was there that day to purchase there were only about 5,000 seats left. He was told they would be sold, too, by end summer. So all but a small percentage of tickets sold less than a month after the race? This is no more.

            I will attend the race this month, coming to Indy from Chicago, again with my father, brother, and his wife. We purchased ticket last month and had mega choice. Many, many seats are still available.

            I love this race but the good day was back then. No excitement in Indy Town anymore. what happened. When I was a boy, all the talk, all the talk in May was Indy, Indy, Indy. All the papers. Even my friend Carlo out in Sacramento, he said Indy was big in the papers all month. He still has clipping.

            No mas. Sad.
          • Example
            Indystar frontpage has an Indy 500 in its link bar, a AJ Foyt video 3/4 of the way down page on right next to some Kat Legge video link. That's it. More coverage of zip lines in Brown County. That's how far it's fallen.
          • Hate to hate but....
            ...I hate what has happened to the Indy 500 and IMS. I was out there both days. I have been to IMS each and every May, multiple times through the month, every year since 1980. I have only missed four Opening Days during that time. This was, by far and away, the worst I have ever seen it.

            EVERYTHING about this race has diminished in stature. The atmosphere is lame by comparison to even two or three years ago, which was bad.

            The new car is ugly, slow, akward. There is so little interest around IMS now.

            I think we are seeing one of the last four or five Indy 500 months. This race may come to an end. It is almost like, "who cares?" is the mood in Indy itself.

            Bye Bye Indy 500.
          • MIght be a good race, though...
            ...somehow I think, depsite the complete and absolute lack of atmosphere, diminished local interest here, miniscule media coverage, and an awful racecar that looks rediculous at IMS, they may just be able to pull off a decent race May 27. They'll have too. It is all that they have left this month....hopes for a good race, one that is fast and competitive deep into the goofy-looking field of fugly DW12's.

            If they can pull off a good race, there is some hope. If things go badly, I don't see the race making it much longer. There is so little interest in Indy, none outside Indy, and the streets around the Speedway have no energy or buzz.

            The place was pathetically empty Sunday. And the cars! The cars look rediculous and the engines sound weak and I guess they should, underpowered as they are by the Pace Car!

            Sure the Pace Car weighs more. But imagine a field of 33 coiled snakes with less HP than a car being driven by the food show guy.

            The Indy 500 is essentially dead. They'll need a good race.

            Hopefully, they can contrive a win for an Amrerican.
          • Is the 500 what it was? no. Is the Daytona 500 what it was? no. Is the Kentucky Derby what it was? no. is the NBA what it was? no. So your point is?

            Indy is still the single largest one day sporting event, one of the most recognized sporting events in the world and a heck of a lot of fun.

            If this was happening in a vacumn and it was only Indy, you may have a point. NASCAR is playing to tracks that are three quarters full with declining tv even though they are doing major media blitzs. NBA is playing to substantially lower attendance with tv ratings down.

            IMS is working hard to bring in the crowds, some I agree with, some I don't. I think you are seeing increases every year. They are re engaging the young folks at all levels. It will be interesting to see what this year brings.
          • Indy not what it once was.
            So much so that, ideally, all the Indy 500 hype is mercifully concluded and this becomes a "Race Weekend." Practice Thursday, Qualify Friday, Parade on Saturday, Race on Sunday. The banquet thingy is not important. Add a load-in and load-out day and teams are there for less than a week.

            Also, eliminate about 25,000 to 50,000 seats. Empties look bad on the tube.

            It is the "single largest day" thingy because IMS says so. May have been true at one time, but that was ages ago. Maybe the race gets the largest attendance still, but how long is that goign to last.

            Seats aplenty for sale still. Seats aplenty.

            Honestly, a Four Day Race meet. Cut all the hype crud. So few care anymore. Indy is for a very small group of traditionalist fans, older in demo, who cling to old favorites that make them happy.

            Does it really matter if Jim Nabors sing the song? Tom Carnegie is dead. Does anybody outside the hardcores even know it? Who listens to this tired old dog on the radio anymore? I know of nobody except a few fans at the race.

            Bump Day? Pole Day? Carb Day? That's yesteryear.

            Indy is a four day event, 33 or not, and headed for ESPN or even ESPN 2, by the way.

            Find me some people outside Indy, Speedway maybe now, who even care. I was there yesterday. 2,500 fans tops. Maybe 5,000 on Opening Day.

            The Indy 500 is small taters. Let's cut the hype.

          • Deleted?
            Reports the DW12 cars are unstable in traffic and the speedway is considering giving $5K fastest-driver-per-hour on Carb Day got deleted?

            We are talking about Hoosier heritage's being beatin', right?

            Self inflicted wounds by the owners of the sport. This is turning out to be an ICONIC May. You'll see.
          • As usual burl replaces fact with his opinion. The Star, the originator of the 257,000 seat number even says only 5,000 seats give or take have been removed without being replaced, but some how Burl claims it is 5x that number. But then again, the haters old stories of doom and gloom are wearing extremely thin. What year Burl did you say the 500 would cease to exist?

            Still the largest one day sporting event, still one of the most famous races in the world. Facts are really stubborn things, aren't they?
          • Indyman's struggles with comprehensive skills...
            ...continue like a bad Lotus engine. I called for the elimination of 25,000 to 50,000 seats. I had no idea they removed 5,000 seats but that is a good start. Keep removing. Get 'er down to about 150,000 and see if they can sell that out and make it look like a big deal. Maybe 100,000.

            Time to let of the largest single day thingy. The race is not that important.

            Question Indyman. Why are so many seats still available. A guy with some change in his coffee can here and a sawbuck there can by a large swath.

            Why so many tickets available?

          • hAy, IndyMaN
            Why does the 2012 Indy 500 pace car have 80 MORE horsepower than the DW-12?

            Hey, I'll by the next bloke a pint at mcGiulveraryies if they can tell me the last time that happened in INDY/CAR/CCWS/IRL/INDYCAR history. Despain last nite on Windtunnel was exasperated...Miller had no answer to give except say "It's SAD".

            That is the continuing state of affairs at a certain speedway in Indiana.
          • So much for iman's shizzle
            One million watch Tour de France

            The 189 cyclists left London for finish line at Canterbury

            More than one million people lined the route of the Tour de France as it started in England for the first time in its 104-year history.
          • So much for iman's shizzle
            Tour de France 2009: Mont Ventoux provides glorious spectacle for a million cycling fans

            Very few sporting occasions live up to the hype, but Mont Ventoux with the Tour de France in full cry and a million sun scorched party-goers swarming over its historic slopes ticks all the boxes.
          • Tour de France
            The tour is not a single day sporting event. That is the catch. Indy 500 is. But it was still one million folks gathering at one time to watch the bikes go by. So IMS must drop the Largest Single Day thingy if they have any cred.

            Just drop the tag. It is not true.

            At any rate, I am here at the Speedway this morning and the place is dead. Where's the beef? The atmosphere here sucks.
          • Where are the people?
            I walked from the admin building all the way down Georgetown on out to the parking lot by the Coca-Cola facility this afternoon. Did I stumble across any fans? No. Atmosphere outisde the track = ZERO. What happened?
          • I know
            ....but I'm not telling.

            Musta been the Speedway Redevelopment plan that did it. Or, the stimulus bailout funding that bought them new cars for the IRL. Take your pick because it couldn't be the cars and stars of the Indycarz. Could it? LOL

            Heck, even Anthony won't write about the follies at 16th and Jonestown...that's a sign of a failing business right there.
          • Yeah!
            Chief makes a good point. Anthony, there is ZERO buzz outside this Speedway and so few inside it watching practice I am not sure most of those folks are not associated in some way with the teams and/or people working there. There could not have been more than 2,000 people in the place yesterday.

            Walk around the Speedway and tell me if there is not a problem.

            Twenty years ago, heck ten years ago, there was easily three times the activity inside and outside the Speedway. W. 16th was a buzz. Now it seems like a small county fair.

            I would look into it...ask some questions. Write a piece in what is really, REALLY, a downturn in atmosphere and activity. Can't be good for Speedway coffers. Ask retailers and local business people.
          • Wowo...loose and fast with the regulations at Indy
            I see where the Lotus got extra boost in normal practice so it could help an old geezer pass his rookie orientation.

            Seems as if the IRL/Indycarz tech gurus can do what ever they want nowadays. More heritage getting beaten upon. Just the way a certain speedway in Indianapolis wants it to be. What a freakin joke.
          • Don't forget...
            ...ALL the uglymobile grenades get a boost for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Then back to basics, race included, unless they change that too. I would say that one is 50-50.

            Special Edward, Newgarden, and Clausen most likley will get Danica's for Quals. Whatever it takes...

            ...they only want the geezer in the show to make 33. Nobody knows who he is. Sort of like the Sandwich.
          • Are the vendors
            still fighting over the prime spots on Georgetown Road like they did before Tony had a vision?
          • Perplexing tribute to Danny Boy
            I see the series is pledging a "cardboard white sunglasses" tribute to Dan, the driver killed at Las vegas last year. Free when you enter the speedway on raceday...some arbitrary laps are to be designated as the salute laps where the throngs of event fans don the fashionable metro-ware, just like Dan would have.

            Is the speedway doing this out of guilt? This is, in my humble opinion, the DUMBEST idea EVER to come out of 16th and Jonestown. This is the series way to capture media attention for a quick ratings blimp. I reckon folks aren't sober enough to attempt making "77" out of their fingers...much like the #3 salutes to Dale Earnhardt.

            He's gone...let him go with dignity. Not this stupid idea. Please.
          • Low Class
            Chief, again, makes a salient point. I'll go a step further and call it exploitation. Or outright use the word, which Chief already has alluded to in mentioning the obvious reasons for this stunt: ratings and attention.

            IMS is a very desperate entity these days. It is getting to the point of how low can we go.

            The mega exploitation of Dan Wheldon's death is crass, borish, ugly, and low class in a manner usually reserved for that NASCAR low-class kind of way. Pale trash.

            A better manner in which to remember the two-time and reigning Indy 500 champ would be a simple moment of silence, inclusion of his name in the pre-race prayer, and perhaps a small, video tribute on TV and on the jumbotron thingys of no more than two mintues, tastefully done.

            Butthat is asking way too much for a desperate entity run by hacks and amateurs.

            The Indy 500 and IMS has turned into a crappy, lifeless shell of its former self.

            I'll be there for quals Saturday. I'll be there for the race on Sunday, May 27. But I must admit, this year is the WORST atmosphere I have ever seen at Indy, and I have been there every May sicne 1980. This is the lowest point I have seen it, and the place is DEAD. ZERO atmosphere. YOu knwo what it reminds me of? About the size of crowd the series gets in teh day or so before the races they ran at Fontana and Chicagoland...a few people milling about, some vendors with two or three people in line for t-shirts, quiet, boring, empty.

          • Businesman's Special Day Turdsday
            Peeked at Speedway cam...about 250 in grandstands right now. 250 fans.

            Perfect chamber of commerce day at the ols speedplant. NOTHING.. Fans are rejecting the 500 like the plague. Very sad and alarming, really.
          • Bad News
            Diehard Indy 500 traditionalists are figuratively committing Hari-Kari. Members from the official Indycar forum are calling for the immediate dismissal of top Indycar brass....for the continued destruction of the traditions and values of the Indy 500.

            So, lets recap....they've turned off the CART contingent, the IRL contingent, and now the diehard alleycats and railbirds at the Indy 500.

            What happened?

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