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Sports Business

Indy's Super Bowl bid posse ready to roll out secret speaker

May 15, 2014

Anyone in sales knows the importance of a good closer.

As a sports guy, when I think of an ace closer, I think of some stud coming out of the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth to save the day. I used to love in back in the 1970s and 1980s when the closer was ushered in on a golf cart with a top shaped like the team's baseball helmet. I also loved it when the San Diego Padres played the song Hell's Bells when they brought in ace reliever Trevor Hoffman.

I don't think the Indianapolis Super Bowl bid committee will be playing Hell's Bells on Tuesday when they bring out their ace closer at the Ritz-Carlton in the Buckhead district of Atlanta, but it should be no less dramatic. On Tuesday Indianapolis, along with Minneapolis and New Orleans, will make their oral bids for the 2018 Super Bowl. They are each allowed two presenters who are given 15 minutes to wow the fickle owners.

Indy's Super Bowl bid boss Allison Melangton is so amped about who will give the city's closing pitch Tuesday, she refused to tell reporters last week who that would be. That person won't be identified to the public until Monday in Atlanta.

It will be interesting to see who the bid committee comes up with. In 2007, when Indianapolis unsuccessfully bid for the 2011 Super Bowl, city officials called on beloved coach Tony Dungy.

In 2008, when the city bid for and won the right to host the 2012 Super Bowl, the bid committee was a bit more unconventional. It chose then Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White. His ties to the legacy project involving Tech High School no doubt influenced that decision. If you ever met White, even briefly, you know what a big impression he can make.

Your guess is probably about as good as mine who will make the closing arguments on Indianapolis' behalf this time around. I know one thing. It won't likely be a current politician. The NFL has asked bid committees a few years back not to have mayors and governors involved in the pitch.

I polled fellow IBJ editorial staffers to see who they thought might make good closers for Indianapolis. I got some interesting guesses.

First, let's remove two obvious candidates. It won't be Indianapolis Colts Coach Chuck Pagano, who beat cancer in 2012 and tugged at the heart strings of a nation of sports fans. I was told Thursday, he won't be in Atlanta for the meetings.

I'd be stunned if it was Colts QB Andrew Luck. As engaging as he is, I don't think the young, emerging star is the right man for this job. NFL owners want to hear from a voice of experience. Someone with a certain stature that a 20-something just doesn't have.

Forget Josh Kaufman. The local singer who recently made it big on the TV series The Voice is a little too Johnny Come Lately. Besides, I'm not sure The Voice is on the radar of many NFL owners. But who knows.

How about former Gov. Mitch Daniels? The Purdue University president certainly has the stature. But he's probably a bit too political and a tad removed from the Indy scene at this point.

One of my editors suggested Craig Huse or some other executive connected with St. Elmo Steak House. Hmmm. That's a tasty idea. I do know that St. Elmo made a huge impression not only at the 2012 Super Bowl, but at the 2010 and 2011 Super Bowl when they flew in their famous shrimp cocktail. St. Elmo shrimp was also part of the previous bid.

Another editor pondered if it could be Josh Bleill, the former Marine who lost both his legs while on duty in the Middle East. Bleill currently works for the Colts and is a very moving motivational speaker. He'd be an interesting choice.

Other suggestions included:

-- Hoosier author John Green

-- Someone involved with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway revitalization

-- An IndyCar Series driver or team owner

-- An Eli Lilly & Co. big-wig

-- Someone tied to the Indianapolis Prize.

In the final analysis, everyone in the IBJ newsroom that I asked said it's just so difficult to know who or what would sway the 32 millionaires that make up the group of NFL owners.

Minneapolis and New Orleans, the other two finalists to land the 2018 Super Bowl thus far are being less secretive about their bid presenters.

New Orleans' powerbroker presenters will be New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau President Steve Perry and Entergy Executive Vice President Rod West.

Minneapolis presenters will be their bid committee co-chairs, business owner Marilyn Nelson Carlson and Ecolab CEO Doug Baker. They may not have a secret closer, but they have told Minnesota reporters this week and last that they have "secret weapons."

This process has more intrigue than an Agatha Christie novel. As for who Indy's secret closer will be, only time will tell.

Until Monday, though, let the speculation begin. Who you got?

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