BOZICH | What city can top the dazzling Indianapolis Fab Five?
By Rick Bozich
It was before the PGA Championship landed at Valhalla for the first time, before (scratch two words) Cardinal Stadium opened in 1998 or Freedom Hall was abandoned for the basketball palace at Second and Main.
I was summoned to a landmark Louisville institution by two prominent local business/community/sports leaders for a private lunch that became part history lecture.
I started in this business dealing with Bob Knight. If you could handle Sweetness, everybody else seemed like Fred Flinstone.
The topic was as straightforward as a rap on the knuckles:
Stop writing columns comparing sports in Louisville to sports in Indianapolis.
Unfair. Irrelevant. Unproductive.
At the time, metro Indy was roughly 1 1/2 times larger than metro Louisville. Metro Indy had unified county/city government. Indy had made the cut from the ABA to the NBA. Louisville had not. Louisville had the arts market cornered. Indy had the NFL market cornered.
But, most of all, Indianapolis was a state capital. Louisville was not.
Hoosiers pulled together for Indianapolis to thrive. Kentuckians were not 110 percent gaga about wonderful things happening in Louisville.
I granted some of their points — and questioned others. It was a pleasant and productive exchange. I didn’t have to break out the advice former Marquette basketball Hall of Fame coach Al McGuire once shared after he watched a local assistant athletic director badger me at a basketball arena because of a critical column.
“You don’t have to listen to that,” McGuire said later, shaking his head. “Next time he tries that, just tell him, ‘If you want to read something nice about yourself, buy an ad.’“
I loved Al.
I am not asking anybody to buy an ad.
I am not comparing the Louisville sports scene to the Indianapolis sports scene.
But I do think it is reasonable to recognize that over a 14-month stretch from February 2021 through March 2022 our friends in Indianapolis, a mere hour and 45 minutes north of the Ohio River, will have as much to celebrate as any sports town in America.
Indianapolis will not have to concede an inch to New Orleans, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Houston, Chicago, New York City or any other American market that considers itself a Destination Sports Town.
Indianapolis will celebrate this Fab Five:
The 2021 NBA All-Star game.
The 2021 men’s NCAA Final Four.
The 2021 Big Ten football championship game.
The 2022 College Football Playoff championship game.
The 2022 Big Ten men’s basketball tournament.
Event envy, anybody?
I would throw in the Indiana high school basketball state championship games, but that’s a given for Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, which will share all the activity with Lucas Oil Fieldhouse.
The only thing missing is the Super Bowl — and Indianapolis has hosted that moment.
Not a bad run for a town that once had to buy an ad to stop critics from calling it India-No-Place.
The NBA all-star game in a town that is not a destination city for top free agents and has never won an NBA title. Impressive.
The Final Four because it’s silly not to play the Final Four in Indianapolis at least once every five seasons. (News flash: It’s going back to Lucas Oil Stadium in 2026. The NCAA loves Indy and has a home there.)
The Big Ten football championship game because it’s the finest and fairest venue that is affordably accessible for fans of Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State and Nebraska.
The college football championship game even though there’s not an FBS program in town.
And the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament because playing the Big Ten tournament anywhere other than Indianapolis or Chicago (like Washington D.C. or New York City) should be a fireable offense for the Big Ten commissioner. (Lesson learned.)
That’s a Fab Five that should be the envy of any American city that considers itself a front-row sports venue.
That’s a credit to the city’s persistent push to recruit prime-time sports events for central Indiana fans to celebrate and support.
But most of all that’s a strong 14-month run for the folks in Indianapolis.
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