“Sports is the toy department of life.” – Howard Cosell
While there were no shortages of great local sports stories in 2012, I have answered the editorial call to list the top five ones. Here is the way I saw it and hopefully you may agree.
1. The overhaul of the Indianapolis Colts.
Did anyone really think Jim Irsay would have the moxie to jettison both Peyton Manning and Bill Polian in favor of No. 1 pick Andrew Luck and Ryan Grigson? Tired of Polian’s draconian ways and realizing Manning was just one hit away from serious neurological damage, the Colts owner rolled the dice with a housecleaning and it paid huge dividends.
Luck benefitted from being the No. 1 man in training camp and led the Colts to a playoff berth. Irsay also bid farewell to head coach Jim Caldwell and brought in Chuck Pagano whose debut was derailed when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Pagano then inspired our community by battling his way back to coach in the regular season finale. Grigson drafted wisely and then took the money saved when Manning was cut and spread it around to put together a spirited cast of players that most of us had never heard of. Despite the constant changes due to injuries, the Colts became the story of the year.
2. Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
Sure, a Super Bowl would normally be the big story, but not with the aforementioned Colts developments. Regardless, hosting the NFL Championship was still a huge ordeal and for the most part it went off without any major hitches, largely due to some unseasonably warm weather during the week leading up to the game.
3. Tamika Catchings finally tastes the championship champagne.
For more than a decade, Catchings has been recognized globally as one of the premier players in the game. Many skeptics have foolishly pointed to the lack of a WNBA title on her resume as a deficiency in her career, but she exorcised those demons when the Indiana Fever captured its first championship in franchise history. In a fashion that has become typical for her, she deferred the credit to the coaches and her teammates. She also quickly squelched rumors of retirement and vowed to defend the title.
4. The resurgence of Indiana University basketball under Tom Crean continues.
You do not have to be an IU fan to respect the reclamation project that coach Crean has masterfully facilitated. He has succeeded on the recruiting trail and the dividends are starting to blossom.
After crashing the Sweet Sixteen party in the NCAA Tourney and falling to eventual champion Kentucky, Crean added more firepower with his freshman class and Indiana enjoyed a preseason No. 1 ranking for several weeks before being defeated by Butler University recently in Indianapolis. IU will go as far as Cody Zeller will take them and that could be the Final Four.
5. Larry Bird resigns but leaves something in the cupboard for Donnie Walsh.
The “resignation” of Larry Bird came as no surprise to me. Bird simply had enough of the financial limitations that owner Herb Simon insisted upon and thought he had done all he could.
Simon reached out to an old friend and colleague in Donnie Walsh, whose resume as a GM is impeccable.
The Pacers though have been inconsistent and disappointing this season. Injuries have played a part as Danny Granger has yet to play this season with knee problems.
Another problem for this team is a newly constructed bench that has produced little in terms of offensive firepower. As a result, Walsh has his work cut out for him and has looked less than pleased at recent games. Coach Frank Vogel no doubt feels his seat heating up.
Danny Bridges, who would also point to the exciting finish of the 2012 Indy 500 as a great story as well, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.