Back, by little demand, my annual list of wants and realities for the New Year (please do not clip and save).
Want: Same as last year, and the year before, and the year before. That Peyton Manning leads the Colts to a Super Bowl victory and validates his MVP status (for those who still believe he’s not as good as he is). The euphoria over the Horseshoes’ Super Bowl triumph then forces the General Assembly’s hand, and the stadium-Convention Center-expansion funding package-which includes a casino in Union Station-sweeps through both houses and is signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Reality: OK, maybe I’m still caught up in the excitement of that amazing, come-from-behind, record-breaking triumph over San Diego, but I do think this is the year the Colts run the table-even if that table includes winning at Pittsburgh and New England-and disprove the theory that only great defenses can win the Super Bowl. As for the stadium and Convention Center expansion, that will go through without the aid of a Super Bowl victory. But the promise of a Super Bowl after the stadium is built will be a big lure.
As for the casino, you might as well be prepared to play a little Indiana Hold ‘Em somewhere else. The funding package might put slots at the race tracks in Anderson and Shelbyville, but it sure isn’t going to put them in downtown Indy. In any case, ground will be broken in July, especially after a local company with a long history of supporting its home town-hint, hint-comes through for naming rights.
Want: The Indiana Pacers make it back-to-back street parades and author one of the great comebacks in sports history by winning the NBA title, sans Ron Artest. On their way to the title, they knock off the evil Detroiters and hack Shaq and Miami into submission while Reggie Miller plays like he’s 29, not 39. Wait a minute. He’s already playing like he’s 29.
Reality: While it’s tempting to think everything will be just fine when Stephen Jackson comes back from his suspension, the bottom line is that the Pacers cannot make a deep playoff run without Artest. The absence of his multiple skills at both ends of the floor will really become apparent when the heat-not to mention the Heat-of the playoffs comes. The Pacers will be just a brick shy of a load. My only hope is that Reggie re-ups for one more try. Then again, I won’t blame him if the next time we see his No. 31 jersey, it’s hanging from the Conseco rafters. His legacy and Hall of Fame status is secure, championship or no championship.
Want: Indiana under Mike Davis and Purdue under Gene Keady find themselves and turn into Big Ten contenders.
Reality: Sadly, it appears the Hoosiers and Boilermakers couldn’t find themselves with a compass, map and GPS. Barring a dramatic turnaround, Davis may survive into the New Year, but he’s unlikely to be the coach in the new season, leaving Indiana the Big Ten leader in another category: buy-outs. As for old Game Face, Keady, my only hope is that be will be remembered for the length of his career, and not for how it ended. He deserved better. Then again, what you see is what he got.
Want: With Michigan and Ohio State right where it wants them-off the schedule-Purdue wins the Big Ten football title.
Reality: It’s not the big name opponent, it’s the big game opponent Purdue can’t beat. This time, Iowa. But another bowl game is in the offing. Ho-hum.
Want: Terry Hoeppner, newly arrived from Miami’s Cradle of Coaches, gets Indiana a Bucket (Old Oaken) and a bowl (any will do).
Reality: Look at it this way. Even four wins would be an improvement.
Want: That Tyrone Willingham wakes up the echoes … at the University of Washington.
Reality: The offensive genius of Charlie Weis will not help a porous Notre Dame defense. But Charlie will enjoy a honeymoon. In South Bend, it lasts until the first loss.
Want: That the Rahal-Letterman team wins Indy again … only this time with rookie Danica Patrick. The lady as a champ would be a huge boost for the Indy Racing League.
Reality: As good, and fast, as I hear Patrick is, methinks The Captain, Roger Penske, returns Team Marlboro to Victory Lane. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.
Want: With the “Year of the Woman” coming to Indy in sports in the form of the Big Ten Women’s Tournament, the NCAA Women’s Final Four and the Solheim Cup, that means, respectively, Purdue and Indiana play for the Big Ten title; Tennessee wins the NCAA crown behind Hoosier natives Shyra Ely (Ben Davis) and Shana Zolman (Wawasee) and former IU golfer Michele Redman outguns Annika Sorenstam in the climactic Solheim match at Crooked Stick.
Reality: Hey, I’ll settle for one out of three.
Want: In a stunning move, the IHSAA reinstitutes single-class basketball.
Reality: Let it go, Bill. Let it go.
Benner, a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star, is now vice president of communications for the not-for-profit Indiana Sports Corp. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.