Loose is bad.
For me, that was the hardest thing to get used to at the Indianapolis 500. Everywhere else in sports, loose is good. We won because we were real loose. I knew he could get loose over the middle. But loose is out at Indy, and I had a tough time adjusting to this.
During the trials last year, for example, car No. 89, driven by some poor devil named Phil Krueger, crashed. I saw it on the closed-circuit replay. You don't see anything for real at Indianapolis. You just keep watching those TV sets they've got set up in all the press facilities. Now, there are some psycho-social critics who say that people come to Indy just to see drivers get killed. I wouldn't know. But I do know this: If people do go to Indy for that reason, they are barking up the wrong tree, because you don't see anything at Indy except a bunch of colored blurs roaring by.
It was terrible, the way Phil Krueger hit the wall on the TV. I couldn't imagine any human surviving that. I was there in Gasoline Alley when they brought the wreck back. They wheeled it in on a sort of stretcher device; actually, it was more like what they wheel coffins down the aisle on. In fact, by then, Phil Krueger's car was about the size of a coffin.
I asked a knowledgeable veteran Indy expert, a native, what happened. "Got loose in the turn." he explained.
For an instant I brightened. Then I remembered: No, loose is bad. "Will the driver live?" I asked.
"Oh, this doesn't look like a fatal, but I'll tell you one thing: He'll sure be doing a lot of sheet time."
Sheet time! Now that is loose. And I'll tell you one thing: As far as I'm concerned, the Indy 500 is loose. Everybody told me I had to go there, had to see it. If you're in my business and you've been to the World Series and Wimbledon, the Super Bowl and the Derby, you must see an Indy, too, everyone says, because you'll get goose pimples at the start and because Indy is the quintessential American sporting event, the largest slice of Americana. I adore what usually passes for Americana. I love country music, county fairs, bumper stickers, Cypress Gardens, high school basketball, salad bars and It's A Small, Small World.
My credentials are almost all in order. Almost. You see, I don't care much about cars. I am a failure as an American that way.
One day in Indianapolis I went to an automobile memorabilia show at a motel. There was a little booth there, with a photographer, and the sign on it said ASK ABOUT A CUSTOM PORTRAIT OF YOUR CAR. I stared at that for a long time. I stared at the sample custom portraits. I was dumbfounded. To me, the sign on that booth might just as well have said ASK ABOUT A CUSTOM PORTRAIT OF YOUR FURNACE.