Monday, December 19, 2016

Renaissance man

So the Indianapolis Colts pillaged, plundered and several other Viking metaphors yesterday, beating the Minnesota Vikings 34-7 up in the great frozen north and making off with all their gold and precious stones and whatever other loot for which Vikings used to pillage and plunder.

This was appropriate, given what else happened over the weekend.

What happened is former Indianapolis mayor Bill Hudnut died, and if the Colts won that means Hudnut went out a winner, too, because he and the Horsies will always be forever tied together. It was Hudnut, after all, who played a major role in bringing the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984, and made Indy a major-league city once and for all. And it was also Hudnut who convinced the Simon brothers to buy the Pacers and keep them in town when it looked as if they are going to bail in the early 1980s.

That was all part of the larger mission, which was to give a nondescript Midwestern city a definable identity. Hudnut turned to sports to do that. On his watch, the Hoosier Dome got built, the Colts came, the city played host to the Final Four for the first time and, in 1987,  the Pan-American Games came to town.   India-No-Place became India-Some-Place.

And remains so to this day. Everything that has happened since is, in some sense, Bill Hudnut's legacy: Lucas Oil Stadium, Banker's Life Fieldhouse, the NCAA moving its headquarters to Indy, the 2012 Super Bowl, the numerous Final Fours that have come to the city since the initial one.

I am thinking now, on the occasion of Hudnut's passing, of one Final Four in particular. It was in the mid-2000s sometime, and the games were done, and we were all sitting around the post-midnight brunch which has become a Final Four tradition on the night of the championship game. I happened to sit down at a table where longtime Boston Globe basketball writer Bob Ryan was holding court.

The subject was the Final Four, and Indianapolis. The consensus was that Indy was a great site for it, because the event is so self-contained and downtown had all the amenities and it was just about logistically perfect.

"I love Indianapolis," Ryan said. "They could hold the Final Four here every year as far as I'm concerned."

Something else to add to Bill Hudnut's legacy.

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