Benner/Sports and Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Opinion

BENNER: Pack rat and sports fan is a most dangerous combination

February 9, 2013

This is about possession obsession. Mine.

Much to my wife’s utter—or, should I say, clutter—dismay, I am an unabashed pack rat. Our home overflows with sports mementos and memorabilia of every description. Event credentials, posters, pictures, programs, ticket stubs, pins, you name it … everything from Wheaties boxes featuring Peyton Manning and Larry Bird to a Reggie Miller bobblehead.

Some of it’s pretty cool, I think. Like a piece of the hardwood floor from the Connersville YMCA where the first basketball game was played in Indiana in 1894. I also have a piece of both the original Assembly Hall and Mackey Arena floors.

Then again, they’re just chunks of wood, sitting there, collecting dust—on shelves, in closets, on desks, in boxes, in file cabinets, in the attic. Why do I hang onto to this stuff? I don’t know, I just do. I guess because each represents a memory.

Actually, my wife is pretty understanding about it all. Maybe because it gives her cover if I bring up the voluminous amount of her stuff in our abode. And maybe, too, because she occasionally contributes to the sports junkie’s junk. Just the other day, she announced she was in proud possession of Andrew Luck’s rookie card.

“Might be worth something someday,” she said, and so now there it sits right next to our Official 2005 Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning Medallion, listed on the package at $2.99 but, you never know, it might be really worth something someday.

My possession obsession includes all manner of publications, including magazines, newspapers and boxes full of clippings. Yes, I do have a hard copy of the more than 600 IBJ columns I’ve written since coming on board in February 2001. Do I ever read ’em after I write ’em? Rarely. But I have them. Just in case … though just in case of what, I don’t know.

A few weeks ago, I finally caved in to space demands and divested myself of my Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editions. Well, all but one of them. I just can’t let go of Cheryl Tiegs (and you older male readers know exactly which cover I’m referring to).

I have programs from various “firsts”: first Indiana Pacers games at Market Square Arena and Conseco Fieldhouse, first game at Victory Field, first games at the Hoosier Dome and Lucas Oil. I have the program, courtesy of my father-in-law, John, who actually attended the game, from the epic 1954 State Championship game between Milan and Muncie Central. Milan hero Bobby Plump later signed the program. Now that’s a keepsake.

I have books from authors Claire Bee (the Chip Hilton series) to Dan Jenkins to John Feinstein. I think I have everything either written by or about John Wooden. I have an entire wall of shelves filled with sports books. I’d be embarrassed to admit the small percentage I’ve actually read cover to cover but there they are, if I ever get around to it.

I have enough Indianapolis Motor Speedway/Indy 500 stuff to fill a Gasoline Alley garage.

I have commemorative footballs, baseballs, basketballs, tennis balls, golf balls and a couple of hockey pucks. Larry Bird once gave me a sleeve of Titleists with his name on them. They remain the only golf balls I’ve never lost.

There is glassware: dishes, bowls, cups, glasses. I also have commemorative bottles and cans. The Official Super Bowl XLVI Bud Light? There’s one in the fridge, sitting next to the can of Hatue beer I smuggled out of Havana, Cuba, after covering the Pan Am Games in 1991. Does beer get better with age? Probably not, but wine does, which bodes well for our bottle of red from the 2009 USA Swimming National Championships.

Yet there’s another wine bottle with contents I’ll never touch. That’s because it’s filled with pool water—yes, actual pool water—from the 2004 World Swimming Championships at the fieldhouse.

Speaking of international events, I have three boxes filled with items from each of the Olympic Games I covered, and another box from the Pan Am Games.

There are all the baseball caps, which bring the Goodwill commercial to life every time we open our coat closet. Then there’s my day-job office replete with: More Stuff.

So I continue to accumulate these mileposts along my life’s highway. What comes in never goes out. My wife, Saint Sherry, understands.

Besides, she’s convinced that Andrew Luck rookie card might be worth something someday.•

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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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