Tuesday, May 31, 2016

So long, Indy, it's been good to know you

The media room begins to fill up on race day.
When I first started coming to the Indianapolis 500 in 1966, I thought, someday, I'd like to work in that place, meaning the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Al Bloemker was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Director of Publicity when I became director of communications at the United States Auto Club, just up the street from the Speedway. We were only blocks apart in distance but far apart in many ways.

Al was all Indianapolis 500, 12 month of every year. He didn't have to contend with NASCAR's Brickyard 400, or IndyCar's Grand Prix of Indianapolis, or an Indy Lights race two days before the Greatest Spectacle in Racing or all the other events that now fill the annual calendar at IMS. 

He had been at IMS 33 years before I got to USAC in the summer of 1978, and I figured that if he decided to retire (he was already 72), I'd apply for his job. 

The red carpet.
When I left USAC to become Morning Call sports editor in October of 1980, Bloemker was still plugging along. He stayed until 1987, largely because he got some assistance from guys like Bob Laycock and Bill York, who were always out front while Al spent most of his time in his office. Bloemker died in 1996 and the room from which journalists work today has been named the Albert Bloemker Media Center in his memory.

I never knew, when I accepted my first collect call to The Call's sports department from Eddie Sachs on a Sunday night in 1960 or 1961 or when I checked into the old Hotel Warren in downtown Indianapolis in  May of 1966 for my first Indianapolis race covering local driver Mario Andretti, how much this place would mean to me a half century later.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Another step for Smalley; a new look for Fisher

Matt Smalley has his last final exam in computer science on Friday, and he has one more paper to turn in by next Tuesday. But you can understand if he has his mind on some other things at this point.

At least, as he said on Thursday, “I think I can hold off on job interviews for the time being.”

Smalley, Lafayette’s oft-decorated  defensive cornerback, took a big step toward fulfilling a dream that has been in his mind since he started playing football at the age of 5. He signed a three-year contract to become a member of the New York Giants’ 90-man roster.

While this move doesn’t yet make him a sure thing for Sunday-afternoon duty, it’s step in the right direction.

A first-round draft pick – in the Giants’ case, another cornerback, Eli Apple of Ohio State – might have his entire contract guaranteed, but Smalley said, “a minimum rookie like me, it’s only guaranteed if I make the 53-man. I still have to make it to get the money.”

“I fell in love with (football) early,” Smalley said. “I remember sitting on the floor and watching the Eagles and the NFL with my family. When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said play in the NFL. It’s pretty exciting and mind-blowing that I have made it this far.”