Opinion: Snake pits

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Commentary by Terry Anker

The Kentucky Derby is a horse race. The Indianapolis 500 is an auto race. The Super Bowl is a football game. While each of these is a true statement, it would be a gross mischaracterization to consider them to have been complete in their assessments of the various events. Individually, they have become their own spectaculars.

They are enormous economic engines – driving everything from local hotel room revenue to, at nearby homes, lawn parking opportunities. They bring scads of less tangible bragging-rights to the communities that welcome the proceedings. In some cases, almost non-stop media coverage delivers millions of dollars of attention to that city. And as any good host will attest, we clean things up at home before we invite company in for a party. The neighborhoods near the facilities can expect significant attention from government authorities to make sure that all is visitor-ready.

Yet as the frenzy reaches its zenith, have we lost track of the original objective in the spectacular? Or in adding half-time shows, hat-parades and snake-pit balls, are we simply expanding the reach to include more members of our communities who might otherwise be uninspired by a sporting event? Some would argue the competing objectives incompatible – they grumble about gadflies who are only interested in celebrity sightings and wouldn’t know a carburetor from a filly. Maybe they have a point. But, can’t we allow for both perspectives to hold sway? Can’t we hope for the brackish water between the points of view that will help us find better understanding?

As we Hoosiers prepare to host the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, consider attending a new event. Consider participating in a different way. If cars don’t interest – this year, learn one thing about the machines. And if snake pits sound unappealing, well, buy an anti-venom.


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