(Soundbite of song "(Back Home Again in) Indiana")
Mr. JIM NABORS: (Singing) Back home again in Indiana, And it seems that I can see The gleaming candlelight, still shining bright, Through the sycamores for me.
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
That's Jim Nabors, the actor who played Gomer Pyle on "The Andy Griffith Show," leading hundreds of thousands of fans in a rendition of "(Back Home Again in) Indiana." It's a tradition at the Indianapolis 500. Yesterday marked the 92nd annual car race. Joining us on the line again for our own sports tradition is former ESPN sports producer and BPP sports analyst Bill Wolff. Hey, Bill.
BILL WOLFF: Back home again in Chelsea.
MARTIN: And I remember, it always freaked me out when I was young, and I couldn't wrap my head around it. I was like, why does he talk like this?
WOLFF: Why is Gomer Pyle - yeah.
MARTIN: And then sing like this?
(Soundbite of laughter)
WOLFF: Yeah. It's a little different, isn't it?
MARTIN: It's very confusing.
WOLFF: I love that part, though, I have to say. I love - I'm very sentimental for my home, and therefore, I am always moved by everybody else's sentiment for their home. So back home again in Indiana, are you kidding? While I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash, how I long for my Indiana home? Oh. I got choked up. I watched it three times on TiVo.
MARTIN: You sound choked up. You sound emotional this morning.
(Soundbite of laughter)
WOLFF: No. I'm just - we had a late night with a certain young child.
MARTIN: Ah, yes.
WOLFF: So I'm just tired, but I'm ready to go.
MARTIN: I'm sorry. Thanks for being on board today.
WOLFF: Of course.
MARTIN: Let's talk about any other of these traditions. Now, I kind of want to go to an Indy 500 race. Sounds like they got all kinds of stuff.
WOLFF: Well, the Indy 500 is one of the coolest things in the world. They started running it in 1911, so just almost as soon as they had motor cars they had the Indianapolis 500, and that is what is so cool about it. And they run it on the same old track, the Brickyard, which used to be made of bricks, but now has but one strip of bricks at the start/finish line, and is, you know, asphalt or whatever, paved. And it's awesome. And there were 300,000 people in the audience live in Indianapolis yesterday, and that is also, by definition, awesome, and...
MARTIN: Let's talk about what actually happened in the race, right? Like, there was some drama.
WOLFF: Well, there were a lot of crashes.
MARTIN: There were a lot of crashes. I mean, let's first just put out there. Scott Dixon won, right? By...
WOLFF: Scott Dixon won. He had been sitting on the pole, that is to say, he qualified fastest, so he was the guy with the inside position from the start, but it's not always that the person on the pole wins the race. Yesterday, of course, he did. He's from New Zealand, which speaks to another thing about Indy Car, which may or may not inhibit its popularity, compared to NASCAR, where everybody's from North Carolina or Las Vegas. In Indy Car, which is the open wheels, no fenders, and the cars look like rocket ships...
MARTIN: A little more international?
WOLFF: Quite a bit more international, a lot of guys from Brazil and guys from Scotland and guys from New Zealand and Australia and England and everywhere else and fewer people from the United States named Dale or Jeff or whatever. So it - folks tend not to relate to it to quite the degree that they do NASCAR. So Scott Dixon did win the Indianapolis 500.
MARTIN: Let's talk about these crashes.
WOLFF: Yeah. There were a couple - the one that's getting all of the publicity was the one involving Danica Patrick. Danica Patrick is the young woman who won her first race about three weeks ago. She's a fetching woman who has been given a lot of publicity because she's, by many standards, attractive. She was in the pit road. That is, everybody was getting his or her tires changed and cars adjusted in one of those furious ten-second stops at the local garage...
WOLFF: And she was pulling out - she was running fairly well in the top ten - and there, at a low miles per hour, not going quickly at all, she was clipped by another driver and it ruined her day. And instead of finishing high, which she - you know, I don't think she was going to win. She wasn't really in a position to win, but instead of finishing, say, in the top five where she typically does, she finished 22nd, and then she showed that she is a true racer.
MARTIN: She almost got in a brouhaha.
(Soundbite of laughter)
WOLFF: Yeah, she wanted a piece of that guy, which is...
MARTIN: She did. You tell it. She like threw her helmet at - well, maybe I'm exaggerating, but she looked like she was going to fight this guy.
WOLFF: Nah, well - yes. She wanted a piece of the guy. She ran into his stall, toward his pit stall. Ryan Briscoe, he is from Australia, and she wanted a piece of him until a giant security - and Danica Patrick is not large. Danica Patrick might be five-feet-four.
MARTIN: Hundred pounds? Yeah. Itty bitty.
WOLFF: Something like that. She's not a big person, and a giant security guard got between her and Ryan Briscoe, that she might not throw her firsts in anger, but this was a great thing, because this proves that Danica Patrick is a legitimate racer, because racing...
MARTIN: Oh, yeah. Not her win before, but now because she was about to throw down with this guy?
WOLFF: Well, but it proves that she's - well, what it illustrates - I don't know if it proves - it illustrates that Danica Patrick is really serious about her business just like every other racer. Racers really get mad at each other.
WOLFF: They throw their helmets at passing cars, and they punch each other out, and they call each other names, and they grab each other by the lapels, and push them and stuff like that, and we had never seen from Danica Patrick that kind of anger. Well, we got it yesterday, and you know, there was this picture of her walking out of the pit-road area with an unbelievable, like, a scowl that could melt iron, unbelievably red hot scowl.
MARTIN: Breaking yet another glass ceiling, go Danica!
WOLFF: Well, you know, in a way, I think she did. She just showed, you know what? I'm a racer and a guy clips me on pit road, and you know what I'm going to be? POed.
MARTIN: There you go.
MARTIN: And last up...
WOLFF: So anyway, it was the Indy 500 and it was great and Scott Dixon did the other great thing that happens in Indianapolis, besides Jim Nabors singing "(Back Home Again in) Indiana," in the victory circle, in victory lane, rather than drinking champagne, he drinks...
MARTIN: Milk. There you go.
WOLFF: Milk from a jar. That's a great, great thing and he did it.
MARTIN: In the last couple of minutes, let's talk briefly about hockey and basketball. First, real quick, Saturday night, Detroit beat Pittsburgh, game one of the Stanley Cup. Did you watch it?
WOLFF: True. I did.
WOLFF: I've got a child. We're not going anywhere.
(Soundbite of laughter)
WOLFF: And I've got a very tolerant wife as well. Detroit and Pittsburgh is a great matchup between the veteran Detroit team, full of folks who have won many Stanley Cups, and Pittsburgh, which is very young with young hot stars, one named Sidney Crosby and another named Evgeni Malkin. They're like 19, 20 years old.
So it's the young versus the old, and they played in Detroit, and another great tradition was perpetuated, which is in Detroit for Red Wings games, and Detroit is crazy about the Red Wings, they throw octopi, yes, octopi. You think of it as calamari. They think of it as what to throw on the ice before the game, and they did, and my wife and I were watching. She said, what is that? And it's this slimy grey thing.
MARTIN: Octopi, of course.
WOLFF: Yes. Octopi. So they threw octopi on the ice, and then Detroit went out and beat Pittsburgh four-nothing, and took a one-game-to-none lead in the Stanley Cup Finals, and they play game two...
MARTIN: Game two tonight, right?
WOLFF: Monday night - that's right - in Detroit. And what's notable about the series is the NHL - pro hockey has struggled very mightily to garner a big audience for many, many years, but game one, on a Saturday night in Detroit between Pittsburgh and Detroit, grew the television audience, compared to the game one of the Stanley Cup Finals last year, by 150 percent. So it was relatively well-rated. A lot of people watched and many people measure the popularity of the greatness of any sport by how many people watch it on TV.
MARTIN: Lots of people watching.
WOLFF: And so hockey, showing signs of life, Rachel.
MARTIN: Woo hoo! Bill Wolff, we've got to leave it there.
WOLFF: Woo hoo. OK.
MARTIN: Thank you, sir. Former ESPN sports producer Bill Wolff.
WOLFF: Happy Memorial Day.
MARTIN: Thank you. Stay with us. This is the BPP from NPR News.