Thoughts about this, that and the other:
By the time you read this, the Tennessee Titans may have sprung the biggest upset of the NFL season, rendering some of the discussion moot. Remember, on any given Sunday.
That's why I always say that, in the
NFL, every game is a big game.
Therefore, that the Indianapolis Colts made it at least into December winning every one of those big games is an amazing accomplishment, especially when you recall the hand wringing and concern that accompanied their winless preseason.
As if anything that happens (other than injuries) in the preseason matters.
So far, the Colts have taken the city along for a joy ride. It's precisely the best of what sports can do for a community-and a region. No, it doesn't repair the cracks in the sidewalks, educate our children, or reduce the crime rate (although I'll bet there is less crime when Colts games are being played). But it certainly adds to civic pride and becomes a common denominator that extends across all socioeconomic strata. There's an energy here now that is palpable.
Critics hate when this happens because they can't deny the popularity of sports. Yet those out-of-sight local TV ratings don't lie. People are watching and caring, passionately.
The unbeaten run has inspired national attention that increases every week. This puts the spotlight on a team that wins and-if I may borrow Larry Brown's well-known phrase-"wins the right way." Tony Dungy's low-key style sets a tone for a team that just goes about its business. If you want to see showboats, go to the river.
Of course, the media-both national and local-have worked themselves into a lather about the possibilities of the Colts' remaining unbeaten and what that might mean when (OK, if) they clinch the division title and home-field advantage.
Certainly, you can't prevent anyone from lapsing into all the silly hypotheticals about what Dungy and the Colts might-or should-do if they remain unbeaten.
I'll not play that game and, happily, neither will the Colts. Because of Dungy's level-headed guidance, the only game they're playing is the one in front of them.
The what-ifs can wait until there are no more ifs.
By the way, isn't it funny how Bill Polian suddenly seems to know what he's doing?
And just in case the Colts don't make it to the Super Bowl-as depressing as that would be-I want to offer up the bright side: Think of the money you won't spend for a February weekend in Detroit.
Moving on ...
Call me old school, please, but Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson's scripted touchdown celebrations scream "me, me, me" and not "team, team, team."
Now that the Pacers' Ron Artest has had the name of his record label, TruWarier, shaved into his hair, can corporate logos-a Nike swoosh, perhaps-be far behind? And how does the NBA stop that?
Pacer fans might be thinking of a similar inscription for their noggins as they watch Artest: TruWorriers.
So Jonathan Bender might not play again for the Pacers. Don't know about you, but I'm shocked.
Michael Irvin, the former Dallas Cowboy and now NFL analyst for ESPN, says the drug paraphernalia found in his car during a traffic stop belongs to a friend. In an ESPN interview with fellow commentator Stuart Scott lobbing softballs, Irvin said he discovered the crack pipe when his friend arrived at his house on Thanksgiving and Irvin gave him a hug that actually was intended as a pat-down. Irvin then said he put the pipe in the car rather than throw it away out of fear someone might find it in his trash. Irvin said he will do everything possible to clear his name. I'd start by concocting a better story.
I've supported Tony George because I recognize the positive things he's done for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the city, but in light of Toyota's looming withdrawal from the IRL and the threat that the fabled "11 rows of three" on the Indy 500 starting grid might be closer to 11 rows of two, I will renew my plea ... do whatever it takes to unite IRL and Champ Car.
Quick question: Where did all the Joe Paterno detractors go?
And speaking of old guys who can still coach a little football, congratulations to Sheridan High School's Bud Wright on yet another state title.
Ditto for his son, Kevin. That's one fine college football team he's assembled at Warren Central High School.
Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. 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.