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BENNER: A lot more is in store in 2012 than just the Super Bowl

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Bill Benner on sports

Well, it is here. 2012: Our year. Our Super Year.

Nearly four years after National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell decreed that Super Bowl XLVI—that’s 46, for those of you who are Roman-numerically challenged—would come to Lucas Oil Stadium, the game is at hand.

We are inside 40 days until kickoff, and fewer than 30 until the fun begins with the opening of the Super Bowl Village along Georgia Street and the NFL Experience at the Indiana Convention Center.

To many, our ability to execute America’s most-watched event will—for better or worse—define us as a city, at least for the short term. More than 5,000 media will be credentialed for the Super Bowl and, rest assured, not all of them will spend the entire week breaking down X’s and O’s and the two teams.

Some will devote time, ink, video and audio weighing in on our worthiness as a host city. We will absorb criticisms, deserved or not. Little issues will become large issues and large issues will turn into outraged ridicule.

For reference, see Dallas/Fort Worth, 2011, snow.

Sports media are, by and large, spoiled grumps (I speak from firsthand knowledge). Thus, a 10-minute wait for a bus, a steak delivered rare when medium was ordered, or, especially, a watered-down cocktail, can inspire a radio rant or a 700-word column labeling the host city a worthless dump that never should have been granted a croquet championship, let alone a Super Bowl.

I just want to warn you that, even if we catch a week of sunny skies and temps in the 40s matched by flawless execution from Allison Melangton and her Super Bowl Host Committee, some will be unhappy because they couldn’t follow the morning press conferences with an afternoon tee time or drinks by the pool.

The good news is that many in the media I have interacted with at the past two Super Bowls in North Texas and South Florida will arrive in Indianapolis with positive vibes about the city. They have been here for Indy 500s or Final Fours or the Indianapolis Colts and the NFL Combine and they like the city’s ease and convenience.

Interestingly, some in our own midst have the highest degree of skepticism about our ability to pull off a Super Bowl. They are a reflection of what I have labeled as our Indy-feriority complex. Despite the city’s successes in the sports arena and the glowing praise it continually receives as an event host—most recently from Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany after last month’s inaugural Big Ten championship football game—these are folks who are uncomfortable with having our blemishes exposed to the world.

There also are some naysayers who hope we botch it somehow so they can say, “Told you so.”

Melangton and her crew—which I’ve called the Dream Team of event organizers given the depth of their experience—are working 60-hours-plus weeks in preparation. Yes, the logistical challenges are enormous. Few Super Bowls have taken place in such a compact area. Our shiny new airport will be taxed to the max. Restaurants, bars and hotels will be slammed. We all will be inconvenienced.

And there is the one thing no mortal can control: the weather.

In any case, the Super Circus will leave town on Feb. 6, and we still will have multiple opportunities to make this a memorable year. A month later, the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments return and, on the men’s side—for the first time in years—both Purdue and Indiana universities could be contenders.

We also should know in March the future of Peyton Manning and that of the Colts as it pertains to the draft in April. There are other futures to be determined, too, including those in the front office and coaching staff.

May will bring the new Dallara chassis and the new turbo-charged engines to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which should spark renewed interest not only in the Indy 500, but in the IndyCar Series.

And perhaps our promising local NBA team can make a deep run in the playoffs, giving us a “Pacers-Racers” May revival from the 1990s.

In September, the biggest names in professional golf—and those should include one Tiger Woods—will assemble for the BMW Championships at Crooked Stick Golf Course.

And by then—let’s hope, at least—Peyton Manning will be back at QB for the Colts, with a fella named Andrew Luck as his understudy. Now that could make it a Super Year, indeed.•

__________

Benner is senior associate commissioner for external affairs for the Horizon League college athletic conference and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. He also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.

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