Indianapolis, the Belle of the Super Bowl Ball? ‘PREPOSTEROUS!,’ Says 1980s Indianapolis, From the Grave

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There was a certain minimalist charm about downtown Indianapolis in the mid-1980s, although that’s not entirely true. There was nothing “charming” about it. Going to a Colts game, for example, entailed just that: going to the game. Then going home. There was nothing else to do, nowhere to go — downtown Indianapolis back then was a barren moonscape of nothingness, void of life and activity and hope, and the “Charlie & Barney’s” in the Hyatt was the lone pre-game hot spot. Not figuratively “hot,” of course — but literally. As in hot chili, served out to the wandering masses like gruel in some Depression-era Red Cross tent. Also, there was pigeon shit everywhere. 

It was the downtown that launched a million inferiority complexes.

*     *     *

From the beginning, I wanted no part of Indianapolis hosting a Super Bowl. None. Nothing good would come of it, I figured. Only venomous critiques from the national media & well-heeled corporate types more accustomed to their Super Bowls being held in the sexy warmth of Miami or San Diego or New Orleans. Being neither sexy nor warm, we’d have strikes 1 and 2 on us right out of the gate, well before any hospitality scarves were knitted, and two-strike home runs are exceedingly rare. Already fuming at the prospects of being shipped to Indiana in February, the scribes who’d ultimately judge our city would hit the airport tarmac in a remarkably foul mood, probably amid a Bering Sea-like ice storm, before cramming into a nondescript downtown LaQuinta. Then they’d all get the Norwalk virus and write awful things about us and go home, the end. Indianapolis would be the new Jacksonville. 

My philosophy, back then? It is better to remain silent and be thought a small-market dud than host the Super Bowl and remove all doubt, or something along those lines. Inferiority complexes are hard to shake. But they are not impossible, apparently. And neither are two-strike home runs.

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An obscene amount of my time this week was spent pouring over articles and Tweets and blogs from the national media heaping praise on our fair little burg. And these haven’t been the polite little customary things that any decent human being feels obligated to say, untruthfully, like when my son hands me a drawing of Lightening McQueen that looks like it was hoof-painted by a giraffe — and yet I tell him how good I think it is. Not the pity compliments. Rather, these have been the absurdly flattering ones. The INDY IS THE BEST SUPER BOWL SITE EVER!! ones. The ones arguing that we should be in the permanent rotation with Miami and San Diego and New Orleans, which, you know … Jesus. The ones that so violently fly in the face of my pigeon-shit-stained memories of Indianapolis in the mid-1980s that this all hardly seems real.   

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This week has clearly been the watershed moment of this city’s life, and that is how we will remember it. Until we host the goddamn Summer Olympics. Certainly nothing good could come of that, I’m sure.

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