On this Thanksgiving week, I’d like to again offer gratitude for what our sports world provides, especially in a city where we are so particularly blessed.
So I’m thankful:
• Certainly not for the health challenges facing Indianapolis Colts Coach Chuck Pagano, but for his courageous example. That post-game locker room video after the victory over Miami is incredibly inspirational, especially if you are a father of daughters.
• For the awareness of and the funds being driven to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society due to Pagano’s situation.
• That an old Purdue University offensive lineman, Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson, can come back to his home state and piece together a roster full of guys who have more of the right stuff than they do the right talent. Shows us what really matters.
• That Reggie Wayne decided to continue his career here. After the Jacksonville win, the guys on the NFL Network asked why Wayne chose to re-up with the Colts, as if there had to have been a greener pasture out there somewhere.
“Because Indianapolis is a great city,” Wayne replied.
• That Andrew Luck is even better than all the cognoscenti said he would be. We should never forget the MVP skills of Peyton Manning and the impact he had on this city. But Luck appears to be ready to take the Indianapolis quarterback position to another level when we didn’t think that was possible. And on that note, let’s again be thankful that the Colts lost that game at Jacksonville last year.
• That longtime assistant Bruce Arians is gaining national acclaim. There are hundreds of assistants like him, toiling in relative obscurity. As with Pagano, he represents the coaching “lifers.”
• That the Colts have a free spirit for a punter, Pat McAfee, who reminds us—and his fellow professional athletes—not to take yourself too seriously. And by the way, he’s a heck of a punter.
• That the buzz is back at both Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. For now, anyway.
• That when Pacers fans complain about the team, it’s no longer because of knuckleheads on the roster, but because they’re not winning enough.
• That Danny Granger is missing games at the beginning of the season, rather than the end. And, by the way, have you changed your mind about his importance to the team?
• His early-season struggles notwithstanding, I’m thankful Roy Hibbert stayed with the Pacers, because he is a class act, his Section 55 crew brings life to the fieldhouse, and his “Gangnam Style” flash mob video is a hoot.
And I will be thankful when he and the Pacers come out of their slump. They will.
• I’m not a Fighting Irish fan, but I’m thankful to see the return of the program to prominence. Having the University of Notre Dame in the mix just seems right for college football. Ditto for Indiana basketball.
• That donors are stepping up big time to fund the upgrades to Hinkle Fieldhouse while maintaining the tradition that oozes from those rafters.
• For all those high school and youth coaches who work long hours for low pay or nothing because they want kids to have opportunities and to get better. The good outnumber the bad by about 99 to 1, but it’s the “1’s” we tend to hear and read about.
• For all those youth-serving sports organizations, especially those in urban areas.
• That we had the nerve and marshaled the resources to go for it, and then the talent, creativity and execution to pull off the best darn Super Bowl ever. Can’t wait to do it again in 2018.
• For Chase Legacy Center on the near-east side. What a leave-behind from the big game.
Finally, I’m thankful to IBJ for allowing me to have this space, and thankful to you, the readers, for following me from the first word to the last each week. Hope you made it that far again. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.•
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 email@example.com. He also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.