It’s been a rough week, a rough month, and a rough year, hasn’t it?
For the sports world, it’s been 106 days — and counting — since it was kicked in the…well, you know where, by the results of COVID-19.
(Editor’s note: Yo, the 19 in the name refers to when it was discovered. Carry on.)
In every facet of our lives, we have been desperately trying to get ourselves back to the point where everything feels just a little bit more “normal”. We as humans thrive on normality, the same things being there at the same place and the same time as they always are.
Sports are no different, and we are discovering how much athletics are ingrained in our culture, not to mention our psyche. I think there is a subconscious feeling among many — and I’ll admit, myself included — that once sports are back then everything will be back on its way to being OK.
They are certainly trying. IndyCar, NASCAR and the PGA Tour are all back to competing in the US, with major league baseball and the NBA trying to follow.
The Indianapolis 500 is trying to get back in the right direction too, announcing Friday that they will hold the race on August 23 with a maximum of 50 percent of its capacity in attendance. Fans can opt out for a credit for future ticket purchases, or opt-in to be reticketed and possibly moved to other seats for social distancing measures.
With just under 60 days to go, from a business standpoint it was a necessary decision, but the timing could not have been worse. While Illinois is moving into Phase 4 of their reopening, Indiana also doing well, and neighboring states looking to be moving in a positive direction, still many states aren’t, and we are learning the harsh reality that we’re all in it for the duration in one way or another. Like it or not.
Full disclosure: I made the decision to opt-in on my tickets. As an optimist, I’m hoping that over the next seven weeks enough progress is made that we can masks up and find a bit of desolate spot somewhere in the grandstand and enjoy the race. I’ve also missed just one race since 2005 (2008) and I’m holding onto the hope that we can still go, because the race means that much to me, as does the tradition of spending the weekend with my two boys.
On the flip side, I’m pissed off about this. Like many people, I took this seriously from the jump. I stayed at home for close to a month, to this day I still put a mask on whenever I go inside or am in close proximity to other people. Over the last 3 1/2 months I’ve never been more than and hour away from home.
Lots of us did this, because we saw something that was bigger than ourselves. I did it because it was the right thing to do, and I did it in hopes that I could go to the Indy 500 or watch a game at Wrigley Field this summer. I did it so that I could be back on the campus of NIU and cover the football and basketball teams this year. I did it to keep myself and anyone around me safe.
Yet, here we are, on June 26 and it’s the same song and dance. I commend IMS and IndyCar for trying to somehow get this done, but at the same time I think it’s going to eventually be an act of futility. Sure, I kept my tickets, but do I think people will be in the stands on August 23? No. Do I believe fans will be in the stands in October? Probably not.
That’s what’s maddening, both personally and as a race fan. Our world is taking two steps forward and one step back, and then we are shooting ourselves in the foot for good measure.
Like I said, I’m torn. If the race were today, I wouldn’t be going. There’s just too much we don’t know right now about the surge in cases we are now experiencing. I’m hoping that over the course of the next two months we can make some better progress. If I feel safe, I’ll go. If I don’t, I’ll put the tickets up somewhere for someone who does to enjoy the race.
In the meantime: mask up, wash your hands, and keep yourself safe. Hopefully we’ll see each other in August.
Rumble Strip Podcast
We had a few technical glitches with this week’s so, so instead I posted an abbreviated show with an interview with 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice. You can find it on iTunes, SoundCloud, Podbean and iHeart Radio.
Photo credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media