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And Another Thing

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Requiem for a snakepit

INDIANAPOLIS -- Look, I get that the old days are gone. A million codgers will tell you that, and I'm one of them.

And so I know I'm never again gonna see what I used to see in the infield at the Indianapolis 500, which is the kind of stuff you never saw anywhere else outside of, say, a maximum security prison.

One year I saw a passed-out dude in the bed of a pickup truck, entirely covered by his buddies with empty Busch Light cans.

One year, leaving the track, I saw a couch burning in the Coke lot along 25th Street, so close to the roadway I could feel the heat through my window glass as I passed.

One year, when the rains came and never seemed to stop, I saw an entire section inside turn one transform into a muddy slip-and-slide. Men and women in various stages of undress and inebriation took turns surfing across it until they were the color of the earth itself.

In the infield at Indy, I have seen people who passed out under their cars and missed the entire race. I've seen mud football (a variation of the mud slip-and-slide). I've seen people cooking breakfast at 7 a.m. with one hand while working on their fifth beer of the morning with the other.

Most of that's gone now, of course. But there is gone, and then there is sacrilege.

"Glamping" (i.e., "glamor camping") in the infield at Indy? Are you kidding me?

No, I am not, alas. Where once there was the snakepit, there is now, apparently, noblesse oblige. For a low, low price of $650, you, too, can acquire a waterproof tent, two cots and a lounge area (Lounge area?!) with a firepit. Also your own movie screen and private (Private?!), air-conditioned (Air-conditioned?!) bathrooms and showers (Showers?!).

Heck. For $1,000, you can even get a queen-size bed instead of the cots.

Altogether now: A queen-size bed?!

I can't think of anything that so hugely misses the point of the Indy experience. Where is the debauchery? Where is the degradation? Where is the wretched human behavior that, years ago, prompted one of my colleagues to utter the single best line about the infield scene I've ever heard?

A day-long rain had finally stopped and the sun was working its way through the clouds, so a few of us stepped outside the cramped old media center to get some air. Eventually I did, too, and wandered over to a group of writers I knew.

"How's it goin'?" I asked Dan Dunkin of the Indianapolis Star.

Dunk never batted an eye.

"Just hangin' out, watchin' the creatures," he replied.

The creatures. Beautiful.

And now?

Now the creatures have given way to creature comforts. Sad.

Ben Smith's blog.

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