Life’s Too Short

“When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun, keep me in your heart for a while. There’s a train leaving nightly called, ‘when all is said and done’, keep me in your heart for a while.”

Warren Zevon

I was feeling a growing urge to post yesterday, while progressing through my day job, perhaps to counter some of the virulent takes about the Music City GP and remind people that it’s beyond time to remember that it is our duty to keep some semblance of fairmindedness with regard to most anything, and especially for a brand new event of our favorite sport, even as inauspicious as its debut may have seemed on the track. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

As my work day wound down, I scanned Twitter in anticipation of thinking of final thoughts for this post, and my countenance dropped.

The news of yesterday’s passing of longtime voice of the 500 (and so much more), Bob Jenkins was certainly unwelcome news, but in the moments following my reading of the news, it hit me harder than I might have anticipated.

Bob Jenkins, as has, and will be noted often in the coming days, was so well-regarded by so many associated with Indycar and the 500. His voice and visage were significant and instantly recognizable elements for racing fans in the U.S. who traversed the 1980s, ’90s, and beyond. More personally, what hit me was the realization that his passing also represents a significant connection to memories of my appreciation for this sport and of the hallowed grounds of Indy.

I can’t help but feel some dread in thinking about the growing frequency and volume of the people we’re losing who represent what many call the ‘Golden Age of Racing’ (I roughly place that as early-1960s to late-1980s), not only for Indycar, but for all the major racing series during that time. “Growing old sucks”, as my father used to say, “but it beats the alternative”. Alas.

There are many things to be said by people who knew him personally, and we’ll be reading them over the next several days. I never met the man, but his voice and face will forever remain some of the most key visceral memories of a time in my life and in a sport that I cherish. It means so much to me that he, as a fan first and later media-everpresent of the sport, got to witness the fourth 4-time winner at Indy this year. There are precious few races that are as significant as the one we just completed and it is fitting that he was able to appreciate that from the pagoda before he left us.

To me, it was always evident in his broadcasting style that he had to work to curtail the fanboy giddiness he must have had at being able to cover the sport he loved, such was his appreciation for Indycar and racing. It was perhaps the most endearing feature of his delivery as those of us here can certainly appreciate the depths of his enthusiasm and enjoyment.

In thinking about the race this past weekend and in thinking about Bob’s life around Indycar, I can’t imagine him saying much ill of the Music City Grand Prix and that’s not a ‘fanboy’ thing so much as it is a good thing.

Events come and go and certainly the on-track action may have been far from satisfying to some. Certainly it wasn’t easy for those in the stands who endured an extra 60 minutes of ‘not-racing’ in the midsummer Tennessee heat to maintain their initial enthusiasm, yet I felt the race overall was interesting, intriguing, and not short of drama, whether intentional or not.

(c) 2021, Chris Owens/Indycar

To the new fans and Nashvillians who attended their first race last Sunday – you could be forgiven for not entirely knowing what to make of an Indycar race. You definitely saw the better and lesser of what Indycar is. Certainly changes will be made to help reduce the on-track mayhem, but from a fan of 4 decades of this sport, it seems precious little else needs fixing, so I say your enthusiasm was and will be well-placed for this event.

The Music City Grand Prix looks to be a winner in many ways and I hope it becomes a mainstay on the schedule for many years. The city’s enthusiasm and response to this event has scarcely been equaled. I look forward to being able to join you all next year and celebrate in a city I’ve grown to know and love.

And that brings me to my final thought: As an ever-aging, and longer-time fan of Indycar, I want to express my ongoing concern of the fair-mindedness of (most everyone these days, but also) people who frequent social media. I’m proposing (as much for myself as anyone who read this) a few strategies to amplify enjoyment and reduce the ‘Legions of the Miserable’ by combatting the drive that seems to be solely to reduce other’s enjoyment of something.

  • Let’s aim to reduce the ‘hawt-taeks’ and virulent punditry that is all too prevalent these days. I know I have to work at it, and I consider myself pretty even-handed in thought. Holding off on posting may seem antithetical to the very use of social media, however, that ‘cooling-off’ time allows for one to consider positives and negatives more even-handedly (plus one gets the benefit of avoiding looking like a total spaz in thought and action).
  • Likewise, let’s aim to practice finding more things we like than things we don’t. So many of us have a very specific presence just for Indycar, why clutter up the space with negativity or corn-flake-pissing.
  • Be aware that you are in a public space. My father used to say that “your personal rights end at the tip of your nose” and I agree with that sentiment. Believe what you want, but realize that anything beyond your nose is shared space, and is not ‘yours’ (a practice scarcely seen in social media). Nothing like a worldwide airborne pandemic to underscore that point in so many ways.

Yesterday, another fan of Indycar, with whom a social media beef in this era could easily result as he is a fan of Liverpool FC, and I, betrothed to Everton, might on that basis alone scarcely treat each other with dignity. However, against all popular trends, we easily agree that to be polarized to the point of 100% all-or-nothingness is not only futile, but destructive and unnecessary.

I will 100% agree that to be all-or-nothing on anything and everything related to opinion, is a guarantee of being 100% miserable, wrong, and disliked 100% of the time.

I never expect to be agreed with, nor agree with anyone all of the time. Trying to seek that approval is an utter waste of time. So too is creating polarization (often used to drive traffic on social media).

Treat each other with respect. Be a fan. Support what you like.

Critical thought is always important, but the very nature of it requires an even-handed, open-minded, and equitable nature and approach. Analyze fairly, vote with your energy and your wallet, and forget the rest. Enjoy what you like to the fullest, realizing nothing ever has been nor will be perfect. Be like Bob Jenkins and cling gleefully to what brings you joy.

Of course we’re saddened that the train to the another realm has taken Bob Jenkins. What we haven’t lost is all he meant to IMS, Indycar, and racing in general, so let’s go back out there (everywhere) with a better appreciation of his endearing example and make a daily habit of bringing out the positives in others and the things we love.

I know each 500 raceday, in my seat at IMS in May, I take a moment to recall those who aren’t with us anymore, and now I’ll have one more to think about.

Keep things in your heart that matter most and say farewell to things that don’t.

When all is said and done, life’s too damned short to be any other way.

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