It backfired in 2001 when Stephen Tyler was tabbed to sing the national anthem at the Indianapolis 500. When Tony Hulman invented the phrase ‘Gentlemen Start Your Engines’ for the 1946 Indianapolis 500 he probably never thought it would get twisted into the routine abomination it has become prior to many NASCAR races after they stole the line (along with most other pre-race pomp) from Indy Car over the years. This effect has never been as pronounced as it was this past weekend at the sparsely attended Michigan Cup race, where Kevin James and Adam Sandler, purveyors of many highly successful lowest common denominator comedy films, turned the utterance of the phrase into something so stupid even small children were not amused.
It is easy to understand the motivation; stars to which most of the audience can relate at the big race will always draw attention. Their act at Michigan, however, was not very entertaining. It was just stupid. Flat out stupid. It was as if you were attending church, then just as the pastor prepared to deliver the weekly sermon two pranksters hollered ‘wait a sec,’ ran up to the pulpit, placed the microphone by their anuses, then farted loudly a couple of times into it. People would look around at one another with puzzled looks on their faces.
Frankly, I don’t know which is more offensive. Letting lowest common denominator stars make a mockery of a sacred command, or whoring the privilege out to a sponsor. People may make fun of the Hulman-George clan, but they have generally always recognized the relative sanctity of certain things.