Those who snipe at and gripe about our misplaced values when it comes to sports have been fairly quiet lately.
Or perhaps we just can’t hear them above the din.
Once again, the Indianapolis Colts have reached the Super Bowl. Once again, our city is blowing up over the Blue.
Local television ratings have exploded through the roof—even the closed, retractable kind. The media outlets are frenziedly engaged to outdo one another, eager to uncover the greatest story that’s already been told … several times.
Honestly, in this column, I’d like to present a different perspective, but I’m not certain there’s one out there. Nonetheless, I’ll plow ahead and hope you follow along.
This is an extraordinary time in our burg … yet only another in a series. AFC Divisional and Championship games to be followed by the Colts in the Super Bowl to be followed by the Big Ten basketball tournaments to be followed by the 100th year of the Indiana Boys State High School Basketball Tournament to be followed by the NCAA Men’s Final Four.
And then, soon thereafter and even in a truncated version, the month of May culminating in the Indy 500.
No wonder CBS’ oh-so-smooth sportscaster Jim Nantz continues to gush about Indy, just as he did once more during the telecast of the Colts’ victory over the J-E-T-S—which, as it turned out, stood for Just Ended Their Season.
“This town really knows how to put on a big event,” said Nantz, who will be back for the Big Ten men’s semifinals and finals, Selection Sunday and the NCAA Tournament draw before returning again to do the Final Four. He’s a virtual Hoosier.
Nantz also will be doing the Super Bowl from Miami, a happy coincidence since CBS also had the rights when the Colts beat the Bears to claim the Lombardi Trophy in 2007.
Two Super Bowls in four years for the Colts. Ponder that for a moment. Kind of eases the pain of first-round losses or sitting the starters when the team is 14-0.
By the way, you couldn’t help but notice that the Colts had decidedly fresher legs in the second half against the Jets. There was gas in the tank, which is what happens when you ease off the throttle.
Really, in Bill Polian, we must trust. Why? Because the guy’s a flippin’ genius is why. Just as with Peyton Manning, he has to be a shoo-in, first ballot, no debate Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible.
As for Manning, he shouldn’t have his name just on St. Vincent’s Children’s Hospital, but on its surgical wing, too. He doesn’t call plays as much as he says, “Scalpel, please.”
Still, look at how Polian and his personnel team have meticulously assembled all the pieces around him, from a defensive superstar like Dwight Freeney to an undrafted linebacker named Gary Brackett to the understated presence of rookie kickoff man/punter Pat McAfee.
So now, on to the Big Game. With all the objectivity I can muster—honestly, not much—the only way the Colts lose this game to the Saints is to be the Minnesota Vikings and beat themselves.
Otherwise, they are simply the better team, not by the margin they were superior to the Ravens and Jets, but certainly more than sufficient with weaponry and defense to outgun quarterback Drew Brees and his mates.
Yes, New Orleans—the combination of team and city—is a wonderfully heartwarming story: a historically sorry franchise serving as the rallying point for a city still recovering five years later from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
I can’t work up a load of loathing for the Saints or their fans, unlike the brash, arrogant New Yorkers or the grudge-bearing Balti-morons. I covered Brees when he was taking Purdue University to the Rose Bowl, and he was a class act then as he is now. I followed Saints cornerback Tracy Porter and wide receiver Courtney Roby (North Central High School) at Indiana University and couldn’t be happier that they’ve proven themselves as pros.
But this will be the Colts’ moment (again), just as it has been their decade. Better still, they go to Miami to represent us not just as a successful franchise, but also one that represents our values as well.
Bottom line: Indy, 38; New Orleans, 24. I hope the weather will be better for the parade this time.
And when it’s over, we can return to the debate about misplaced values.•
Benner is director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.