Pass the turkey and a heaping helping of gratitude

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It was only a few years ago that I finally graduated from the “kids’ table” at Thanksgiving dinner.

For years I had sat at the auxiliary table, the inevitable fate of being the youngest of my siblings. Yes, according to Webster’s, my 45 years put me smack in the middle of “midlife.” Yet, in the American family dynamic, I’ll always be the “baby” of the family.

It was not until my sister had three children that a real estate shortage at the kids’ table finally bumped me up to accompanying the main event. Suddenly, I was adorning the table featuring turkey and potatoes as opposed to that which housed the rolls, butter and cranberry sauce. 

My time rubbing elbows with the family elders was short-lived, however, and came as the result of a holiday spent away. I was working in St. Louis one year when my schedule prohibited me from traveling home for Thanksgiving. I spent the holiday with a microwaved meal, much to the dismay of my mom.

Nothing against the fine people of St. Louis – I enjoyed my time and friends in the “Show Me State” – but when a holiday invitation was never extended from the folks there, Mom made the vow that “Hoosier hospitality” would become a Query Thanksgiving tradition. 

It is for that reason that my time at the main table was short-lived. I now sit at the guests’ bureau, accompanied for dinner by friends or co-workers unable to join their family in a city away. It’s become a tradition for which I’m extremely grateful, an example of my mom’s heart that I cherish to this day. 

Each year, we express the one thing for which we’re thankful. I try to theme my gratitude around health and family. After all, I have the space of this column to express that from the world of sports for which I’m grateful. 

I’m thankful to have enjoyed another season of INDYCAR racing that was void of serious injury or loss. Danger is a part of racing, and INDYCAR has tremendous commitment to limiting the effects of its presence. The reminder came with the May incident of Sebastien Bourdais. I give thanks that the combination of a magnificent Holmatro Safety Team, tremendous medical care and great resilience of the driver allowed Bourdais to return before season’s end. One of the most talented drivers in the world, it was great to see Bourdais return to the craft to which he is dedicated. 

I’m thankful for the dedication and passion of race fans. I know I’ll eventually face the point at where I need a “real” job; it seems appropriate if I deem myself worthy of the adult table. I am extremely fortunate to share observations from the sports world in both verbal and written form. I know that’s not possible without people sharing a passion for the sports of which I’m observing. It is much appreciated. 

I’m thankful that INDYCAR racing features very friendly and accommodating competitors. I’ve covered about every professional sport at some point in my career. Athletes aren’t difficult in general, per se, but they are in the focus of their workplace. I can only assume that a guy with a microphone can become a tired sight. The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is on the air for EVERY practice, qualifying session and race. That’s a lot of skulking along pit road.

Nonetheless, drivers, crew chiefs, owners and team managers seem to understand that I’m the intermediary between them and race fans. Their time, patience and understanding is appreciated. Sure, it’s not always gumdrops and sugar plums, but it always seems so in the end. I’m thankful for that. 

I’m thankful to have called the majority of Helio Castroneves’ Indy car career. The Brazilian’s third Indy 500 win in 2009 came in my first year calling a turn (Turn 2) for the radio network. In the closing laps, we will often work in anecdotal notes of the driver as they fly toward drinking the milk. Doing so was the first time I truly grasped the feat to which I was witness.

In addition, Helio has always been a true pleasure to cover. In the 11 years I’ve been with the radio network, Helio declined to be interviewed twice. On both occasions, he (unnecessarily) publicly apologized. The guy has always been upbeat, fun and competitive. As he moves his way into sports cars, I look forward to seeing him return for the 102nd Indy 500 in May.

Last, and I know I have said this before, I am thankful for my co-workers at the radio network. Sometimes I forget that racing calls for me to work seven-day weeks. That’s because the weekends are less like work and more like college days with good friends. From general manager Wally Leavitt to engineer Rick Evans and producer Chris Pollock, to the voices you hear on our broadcasts, I find myself wondering how I belong with such a fantastic group of people. 

It’s pretty simple, really. I’m sure they all come from great families. Families with which they’ll spend their holiday dinner. If, for any reason, however, they cannot, they’ll always be welcome with mine. 

I’d just ask they don’t knock over the rolls. 

(Veteran broadcaster Jake Query is a member of the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network team and offers his musings regularly on IndyCar.com.)

From the fans