BENNER: Time flies when you're writing about sports

February 12, 2011

Tempus fugit, as they say in Latin.

Time flies. Oh, my, how it does.

Ten years ago this week, the good folks at Indianapolis Business Journal began providing me the opportunity to write in this publication.

Inside back page. What a coveted space. What an honor and privilege to fill it with perspectives, insights, memories, opinions and reflections.

My greatest source of pride is that I’ve never missed a deadline—although I’ve stretched a few. And only once in those 10 years, which would be more than 500 columns, did I not provide fresh copy. That lone repeat was on purpose. When legendary Crispus Attucks High School basketball coach Ray Crowe passed away, I requested that IBJ re-run a column I’d written on Crowe.

After more than 30 years of hammering out copy four to five times a week for The Indianapolis Star, I thought writing for the weekly IBJ would be a snap. Hardly. That Wednesday deadline seems to come around twice a week. And there have been more than a few Tuesdays when I thought, “What the heck am I going to write about this week?”

But deadlines are a heck of a motivator. As one old scribe used to say when asked how to hit deadlines, “It’s easy … you just put a blank piece of paper in the typewriter and wait until the beads of blood pop out on your forehead.”

Of course, now the blank computer screen has replaced the blank paper.

Some have asked during these past 10 years if I miss the world of daily journalism. My answer always has been: I might if it weren’t for IBJ.

That’s because, at the end of the day, no matter what I have gone on to do in my daily professional life, I am still essentially an ink-stained wretch. Newspapering is part of my DNA. I love to write, to communicate and to occasionally stir a soul.

And it’s still sports. IBJ has allowed me to extend my time in the toy department, writing about outcomes and issues that really don’t matter in the big game of life.

Except that they do.

Especially here in Indy, where sports have become our calling card to the country and the world.

That’s why I have often used this space to offer historical perspective, to remind readers of the sleepy place we once were before a group of true visionaries latched on to this idea of using sports as a vehicle to transform our city, all the while delivering economic impact and emotional wallop.

Just look at what these last 10 years have delivered: A successful Super Bowl bid and the legacy project it will spin off; the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, where our city went head-to-head with Chicago for the rights; the selection of Indianapolis as host for the first Big Ten football championship; the extraordinary agreement with the NCAA that will bring Men’s and Women’s Final Fours here deep into the future; and the relocation of yet another governing body, USA Football, to the city.

And, yes, there were the magical moments of the Indianapolis Colts’ Super Bowl victory (accentuated by that AFC Championship game triumph over the despised New England Patriots) and Butler University’s incredible run to the NCAA tournament’s title game just five miles from its campus.

Downers? Sure, there have been a few. The Indiana Pacers are still recovering from The Brawl. The Hulman-George family feud brought uncertainty to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Formula One left and the Brickyard 400 declined. We lost our tennis tournament and what was a tremendous tennis venue, the Indianapolis Tennis Center. The IU Natatorium and the nearby Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium at IUPUI need upgrades to remain world-class. Our amateur/Olympic sports initiative seems to have lost its edge in the face of competition from other cities.

Finally, I want to thank the many IBJ readers who engage me, either in conversation or via e-mail, to provide feedback (both positive and otherwise). And certainly, I offer the sincerest gratitude to IBJ Corp. owner Mickey Maurer; publishers past (Chris Katterjohn) and present (Greg Morris) and, at the top of the list, the editors—especially Tom Harton—who wade through my prose every week.

We’ll see what the next 10 years bring. The Good Lord and IBJ willing, I hope I’m here on the inside back page for as long as possible.•


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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