Benner/Sports and Colts and Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Opinion and Sports Business

BENNER: Good news locked out until NFL makes peace

May 28, 2011

Of this, that and the other:

Via his PeyBack Foundation, Peyton Manning—remember him, the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback?—doled out $800,000 to community organizations in Indiana, Tennessee and Louisiana a couple of weeks back.

Youth-serving charities in Indiana received nearly half that money—$321,000 being distributed to 71 groups of do-gooders who have the wants and needs of kids, especially at-risk kids, at heart.

Just thought I’d mention it. Virtually no one else did.

It’s partly the nature of media. More often than not, good news is not news. Been there, lived that.

Besides, other than the beneficiaries themselves, no one much cares. So what if Manning distributed 800 grand, money that will trickle down to meaningful moments for kids who might otherwise go without?

What we really want to know is (a) when will the lockout end? and (b) how is he recovering from that most recent disc surgery?

Not that publicity for his good deeds is the motivating force behind Manning and his foundation. I’m naïve enough to believe his motives are greater than a tax write-off, or intended as a balance on the scale of his incredible good fortune. I also think he follows the credo: To whom much is given, much is expected.

And perhaps it was payback for PeyBack. Manning, after all, refused to turn the birth of his twins into a media event. Some also believe Manning is responsible for the shroud of secrecy surrounding the Colts’ workouts whilst the National Football League players are kept away from their training facilities.

If he won’t cooperate with the media, why should they run with his feel-good press release? Let’s face it, as long as the lockout continues, both media and fans might be disinclined to pat anyone on the shoulder pads.

Of course, that goes for owners, too. So I was delighted to see Colts owner Jim Irsay’s Twitter response to (unfair) criticisms from ESPN commentator Tony Kornheiser. After Irsay said he and Colts center (and NFLPA rep) Jeff Saturday could work out a labor agreement on a cocktail napkin, Kornheiser replied with a mean-spirited rant and said Irsay was nothing more than a product of the “son business” and disrespected by his fellow owners.

Irsay came back with a tweet that listed his accomplishments as an owner.

As an aside, among Irsay’s claims was that he had “built a top-3 stadium.” Perhaps the 140-character tweet limit did not allow for elaboration, but no one person built Lucas Oil Stadium. And certainly no one person is paying for it.

In the meantime, I don’t want to hear anyone’s public posturing. Training camps are seven weeks away. Just do a deal.

Now then, anyone who knows Indianapolis Motor Speedway history knows that ride-buying is nearly as old as the Speedway itself, so Michael Andretti’s purchase (for his driver, Ryan Hunter Reay) of the A.J. Foyt-owned car (qualified by Bruno Junqueira) is hardly plowing new turf. It’s also a long-established fact that it is the car that is qualified on the starting grid, not the driver.

Shoot, in NASCAR, some drivers don’t even have to qualify. Instead, they’re placed into the field as “provisionals” based on points.

At any rate, Pole Day and Bump Day were two of the most compelling qualifying days I can remember and not, in my view, overshadowed by the Monday-after maneuvering that put Hunter Reay into the field. This one goes into the “Life Ain’t Fair But Those Are The Rules” file.

Perhaps it’s time to change the rules.

In the world of two-wheeled racing, I have recounted on several occasions in this space my relationship with and admiration for cyclist Lance Armstrong and the Indiana University doctors, in particular oncologists Lawrence Einhorn and Craig Nichols and neurosurgeon Scott Shapiro, who brought him back to health from nearly fatal testicular cancer.

I have long believed Armstrong’s steadfast denials of using performance-enhancing drugs en route to his seven straight Tour de France titles. But, in the wake of recent reports in Sports Illustrated and on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” I feel as if another myth—and mythical champion—is about to be shattered. I also wonder if I should continue to wear that rubber, yellow “Livestrong” band around my wrist.

Finally, here’s the bad news. It looks like the Miami Heat will win the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals. Now here’s the good news: It looks like the Chicago Bulls will lose the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals.•

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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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