Good day, fellow somewhat sports-aware Indianapolis person! How about this past year in sports stuff? Wasn't it quite something? You bet your bottom dollar it was! There were many touchdowns that were scored and also some high flyin' dunk shots! The Indians again played base-ball at Victory Field 6,000 times and somebody won the Indy 500-Mile Automobile Race, although nobody really remembers who it was! Yes, it was a year unlike any other. Except it was exactly like every other, more or less.
Such is sports when you are 39 years old and Life and Work are taking turns kicking your soul in the gut all day, for fun, as Life and Work are wont to do. At best, sports become background noise that can, at times, be semi-interesting and fun — but those times are growing fewer and farther between. At worst they get entirely tossed into that forgotten hamper of our Youth, along with other rad shit like eating burritos at 3:45 a.m. on a drunken Tuesday morning or not having to buy life insurance. Keeping track of T.Y. Hilton's DVOA stats, for example, or Solomon Hill's Player Efficiency Rating in the NBA Summer League is a young person's gig — or a crazy older person's, either one; normal adult folk have no time for such things. We have endless meetings to attend and kids to keep alive and Ponzi Schemes to set up in order to secure the funds necessary to shop only at Whole Foods (because everything at the regular grocery store is injected with anthrax and diabetes, says my wife). Adulthood blows.
The point? I have a vague recollection/interest in whatever happened this past year in Indianapolis sports-dom, perhaps I am the wrong person to recap it for you, dear NUVO reader.
(Someone sounds the official NUVO Battle Cry, which is actually a tasty banjo riff from a super-cool hipster indie band nobody's heard of yet who only eats locally sourced duck prosciutto from Bluebeard and lives literally smack dab in the middle of Virginia Ave and wants NOTHING to do with sports stuff, ever.)
Or maybe I'm the exact RIGHT person. Let us proceed, I guess!
The calendar year began favorably enough, with the Colts beating some random team I've since forgotten in the first round of the playoffs. This set up a game against the Denver Broncos, which was great fun, if you recall! The Colts beat the living hell out of them — if only because Peyton Manning aged 7,000 years in 10 seconds right before of our very eyes, not unlike that Nazi asshole who drank from the wrong grail in Indiana Jones and evaporated into dust. That was the good news!
The bad news?
There were still many horrible weirdos around town wearing their half-Broncos/half-Colts jerseys in the week leading up to the game, on account of them being insane shitheads with horrible fashion sense. They really put a damper on things, truth be told. We need to ban those assholes from living here or visiting or voting, to hell with what the Constitution says. #MakeIndianapolisGreatAgain!
Of course, the Colts season ended immediately after the Broncos game, although not technically. It ended right when Bill Belichick began conjuring up his dark sorcery/illegal gameplan that would ultimately ensure that the Patriots would win by 290 points, deflated footballs or not. Holy hell, what a mess. The Patriots ran for eleventy gajillion yards while also annihilating the Colts' offensive line. It was very obvious to everyone — to us and to God and to blind Ecuadorian orphans who had never watched football before and certainly to Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson — that both the offensive and defensive lines would need to be addressed in the upcoming draft in May. Surely they would be.
The icy, psyche-murdering gray of our Indiana winter began to thaw just in time for the Final Four to return to Indianapolis. It was supposed to be a glorious event! Of course, that all went to shit when Kentucky and Duke fans began showing up in droves and destroying everyone's good time. Nothing ruins a Final Four atmosphere like Kentucky and Duke fans — except for our Exalted Supreme Leader, Governor Kim Jong Jesus! Just days prior to this internationally viewed event — with the world watching — he codified into state law the following, basically: "Gay people are gay and weird and gross and God told me we don't have to serve them pancakes if we don't wanna, the end, NO TAKE-BACKS." But then the CEOs of Cummins and Eli Lilly and Salesforce and Emmis and Angie's List and Anthem and IU Health and our Republican mayor and every single sane person in this state were like, "Nope, get the fuck outta here with that you hillbilly, what is wrong with you!?" The city was on the verge of becoming Branson, Missouri, East. We even had to issue stickers to local businesses to put in their windows to impart a simple message: "Dear Visitors – No, we are not backwards redneck bigots, please shop/eat here, we love your money regardless of who you bang!" A nation turned its eyes to our Final Four and recoiled in confused horror.
So then Our Beloved Governor in Christ hit the national news circuit for some damage control, and he was all, "Pffffft, no, you dummies got it all wrong! I abhor discrimination! This bill is not about discrimination! It may look like discrimination and walk like discrimination and be discrimination, but it is not discrimination, I'll show you!"
That quickly led to "The Fix," if you remember. House Speaker Brian Bosma clarified that the "The Fix" did not alter the law substantively ... rather, it only altered its "perception." (LOL.) But then the home-schooled wingnuts who actually wrote the bill for Pence threw a rage-tantrum, screaming, "WHOA WHOA WHOA, YOUR 'FIX' COMPLETELY GUTS OUR LAW AND MAKES IT SO THAT WE CAN'T DO DISCRIMINATION TO THE STUPID GAYS LIKE JESUS WANTS US TO DO, THIS IS HORSEFEATHERS, WE ARE GOING TO SUE YOU!" And so they have.
Anywho, that was the Great RFRA Clusterfuck of 2015. It was an amazing/terrifying/baffling time to be alive. It was far more interesting and compelling and meaningful for our city than stupid Duke trying to win the National Championship right around that same time, which they did. They beat Wisconsin, I believe. I don't remember the score, it is not important. Fuck Duke.
The grand month of May began ominously – with Ryan Grigson opting NOT to address the rotting, wretched, structural foundation of the team (the offensive and defensive lines) during the NFL Draft and choosing instead to get 29 different wide receivers for some reason. Put it this way: if he had a mouth full of broken teeth and $400,000 in his pocket that day, Grigson would've driven to the dentist office and bought all the aquariums and chairs in the waiting room and then left. He had the means and the opportunity to address the Colts' problems. He most assuredly did not address them, for better or worse.
But May in Indianapolis is not about the Colts or any such football-y nonsense. No, because May in Indianapolis is truly and wonderfully all about one thing, as I now know: RIDING YOUR BIKE TO THE INDY 500. I did that this year for the first time, it was really really great! And unless you're some rich asshole who prefers to skip the commute and helicopter into IMS, I advise doing this yourselves in 2016. You'll be glad that you did. Biking to the 500 was – honest to Pence – the Number One highlight of my Year in Sports, and whatever is in second place is a thousand furlongs behind.
The summer sports months droned on as they typically do around here: very humid and endless and pretty boring. The Indianapolis Indians went a respectable 983-and-921(?), the Indiana Fever of the WNBA almost won a title, and the Pacers drafted a 19-year-old, world-renowned "Fallout 4″-playing gamer-nerd who is also seven feet tall and astonishingly good at basketball. Also, the Colts signed a dozen more wide receivers, because why not?
The only cool shit to go down was the US Women's National Team playing in (and winning) the World Cup. It is technically not Indy-centric, that is true — but with all the cool spots Downtown and in Broad Ripple going all São Paulo dive bar during a Brazilian National Team game anytime the US plays in the World Cup, men or women — that is very, very boss and relatively new. Indianapolis, it seems, is becoming a soccer town. OK, kind of. A soccer-ish town We'll go with that. And that is fine by me. Whatever encourages mass drinking in the streets and pouring bottles of water on strangers in fits of celebration is a net positive for our morale and also the Downtown economy.
The worst part of the summer, of course, was Justin Wilson's death during an IndyCar race at Pocono. He was thoughtful and kind and universally liked among all levels of the sport, which is exceptionally rare. Many of us who knew him jumped on the TO HELL WITH THIS! bandwagon regarding open-wheel racing in general — because of, you know, the whole PEOPLE WE TRULY LIKE ARE DYING thing — to which the old-timers responded: "Drivers used to die all the time back in the day, that's just racin'!" Well, you know what, grandpa? People used to die all the time from scurvy as well; that doesn't mean they still are or should be. ("That's just seafarin'!") And besides, it certainly doesn't mean we want to get our insides mashed all to shit (again) by watching it happen live.
But never mind all that for now. That is too heavy for an end-of-the-year "sports review." It is depressing and awful. The lesser point still stands: August is a huge asshole. It is the Pharma Bro of months. The only good thing that ever happens in August is when it ends — when the stifling jungle heat makes way for football season.
Remember when you short-sighted dopes in this city thought the Colts would be a not-terrible football team and would probably win the Super Bowl? I mean, who DIDN'T predict that the Colts would get their dick kicked in every week by everyone outside of the putrid AFC South? (Zero people predicted that.)
Let us be clear on this: about 20 minutes into the first game of the year, all the crazy-smart Colts bloggers sounded their respective AIR RAID SIRENS on my Twitter timeline howling about how this team was dogshit. What us non-smart football people were seeing with our own eyes (an ass-whooping) was being confirmed through their super complicated quantum mechanics/advanced statistics that nobody understands. The bottom line, though, remained the same: the Bills walloped the Colts real good, and then the Jets turned around and did the same a week later, for good measure. For symmetry.
The Colts continued along their downward path to AFC South Mediocrity, sometimes through plain, run-of-the-mill ineptness — other times in new, FUN AND EXCITING ways! Like when it was 4th & 3 against the Patriots and Chuck Pagano sent Griff Whalen in to snap the ball to a local third-grader who was playing quarterback for some reason (because he had won a raffle in the cafeteria and this was his prize?). And just to make poor Griff's and Little Kid's jobs even more dangerous/unlikely to succeed, Pagano told everyone else on the field who was supposed to be blocking for them, "Come stand over here with me, it will be good for those two to take on the Patriots BY THEMSELVES. We'll see what they are made of! IRON SHARPENS IRON, MEN." The heavens wept.
The play proved to be unsuccessful. Griff snapped it to the Little Kid who was sacked for a loss about 0.000000000000026 nanoseconds into his QB keeper power-sweep run. Turnover. Patriots got the ball, a quick touchdown, and ultimately the win. Pagano told us that he called that play to keep chopping wood, that we all have circumstances — whatever he said, it was not comforting or coherent. Griff Whalen fell on his sword and said nothing. The maimed Little Kid never again played quarterback or those raffle-type games in the cafeteria again.
Oh, and later on, against the Broncos, Andrew Luck suffered a series of massive hits and sustained the type of internal organ damage usually seen after someone gets shot in the midsection with a cannonball at point-blank range. Neat! Some around here argued that Grigson had Luck's lacerated kidney blood on his hands; others argued that such things "can simply happen," regardless of how inept the Colts' offensive line may or may not be.
The lone bright spot in the darkening autumn was the Pacers and their somewhat surprising re-emergence as an NBA power. Paul George was wrecking everyone's shit, and still is to an extent. Paul George and this team make me want to really like sports again.
Autumn's cool chill turned into winter's balmy 65-degree days, because Indiana Weather is a weird pervert of some sort who hates us. The Pacers slid a bit back toward their norm, but only slightly. And the Colts eventually hit rock bottom in the most 2015 Colts-iest way possible: A blowout loss to a shitty team wherein backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck got his old-man ribs and spinal column and neck bones blown all to shit again, the poor bastard. What a disaster.
Keep in mind: when Andrew Luck was enrolling at Stanford, Hasselbeck was in his TENTH year in the NFL and getting the nerves in his lower back rearranged weekly, losing feeling in his legs and still reaching the playoffs. He is 40 years old at present and in his 17th season (although this time with an offensive line made out of balsa wood and yogurt) but Matt somehow still quarterbacked a team with playoff hopes while dodging a never-ending stream of defensive linemen with bad intentions. No, that is young man's gig for sure — or a crazy older person with a stroke wish, either one. Normal adult folk have no more time for such things, and Hasselbeck is not crazy.
Life will take over for him too, sooner rather than later. It always does. Adulthood blows, yes — but it's better than not getting there at all.
Anyway, Happy 2016! Go Cubs!