Indiana sports 2010: Singing the tune of #2

After this past Monday’s heartbreakingly close loss to Duke, the Butler Bulldogs have made their place in history as the would-have-been perfect underdog story. I was sitting at Chadwicks with some friends, screaming in one of their ears every time they caught up with the Blue Devils and pounding the counter in frustration every time a shot was missed. Needless to say, I scared him. Big time. The other friend and I screamed at the T.V. over the more obnoxious Duke fans, taking me back to the days when I would cheer on the Indianapolis Colts during the playoffs when everyone was cheering for the Ravens, the Jets, and…sigh..the Saints.

It was an exciting game of pull and push, to say the least, but the epic half-court shot rolled from the back of the board, over the basket, and onto the court with the sound of the buzzer–and with it the hopes of another disappointed Hoosier crowd.

Yes, I know there’s nothing really wrong with being #2. But being that close…having success depend on one tripped foot…one failed shot…one bad call…or one humiliating interception, makes it that much tougher.

Butler did a great job, considering it’s a small, private school in Indiana against a hawk like Duke. Many of my friends go to Butler and were sitting at bars within earshot of the stadium, joining together again for the love of the game. But this story–the story of #2, is one Indiana is still recovering from since this past January.

I often liken following The Indianapolis Colts to dating a “tease” (generally speaking). They give you ideas of victory, lead you on for months, make you spent a lot of money to be with them, give you a few preliminary wins, but when it’s finally game time, they freak out at the last minute and ask to cuddle instead. The Colts have done this for years with the exception of 2007.

My brother has a much more sports-oriented explanation for this: They push hard and play their best all season, but then they rest their players near the end, not preparing them for the rigor that is to come. Apparently, 2007 was the only year they kept their starters in through the season and the playoffs. I am by no means an expert nor do I even watch ESPN, but the social aspect of loving Indianapolis sports is what intrigues me.

I am embarrassed to admit that I shed a tear or two with this loss, and not only because I had to do the metro ride of shame in my blue colts jersey, but also because I knew millions of my fellow Hoosiers back home were sad that our one chance in the spotlight was gone. It was something that brought strangers together on the snowy streets during Christmas break and put a smile on faces of people who had endured a lot of financial struggles from the past year. I would be walking down Meridian St. towards the giant X-mas tree downtown and receive a series of friendly “Go Blue’s” as I passed by. I know it’s cheezy, but it really brought the spirit of our city up.

It’s an emotional roller coaster and one my parents refuse to ride. When games come on (games=Purdue or Colts are playing) they record them and deliberately do some isolating activity so no one spoils the score for them (think: How I met your mother episode where they missed the Superbowl). One day, I asked my dad “Why….why don’t you watch with all of us.”

“Because…he said…”I don’t want to get my hopes up and have them let me down. I only want to watch it happen if they win. Otherwise…I just can’t look.”

His attitude reflects that of many diehard fans of Indiana sports. Indy isn’t a huge or vibrant city, especially for young people, and it often is the butt of criticism from people living in the East or West coasts. “I gotta get out of here,” is often echoed from the lips of college students upon graduation. Some of us leave (like me), but many end up staying (all my friends but like three or four). I personally didn’t leave because of my dislike for the state I’ve lived in for about 22 years (and almost 1 year here in DC). I left because I felt this is where I could pursue the job I always wanted, and I still believe that. But I do miss Indy quite often and think about the open roads, quiet Carmel neighborhoods with the pools we used to sneak into a night and $2 beers on weekends. But more importantly, I miss being with all the people I love back home…sitting at a restaurant, curled up on my couch, and donning our Colts (or Purdue) Santa hats watching the game with my dad trying to tune it out in the next room.

I didn’t care about the Final Four until I heard Indiana teams were doing well. I watched Butler win last Saturday and hoped to see that spirit revived again Monday. I looked in the audience and saw my hometown cheer with all their might and suddenly wished I was there.  The spirit was definitely present, but again, we were back to #2.

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