INDIANAPOLIS -- Just about everybody disagrees with me on this (and I don't blame them), but I'm all for putting events in one place and keeping them there forever. For instance, I'm all for having the Super Bowl in New Orleans every year. Sure, I know, the Super Bowl brings all sorts of revenue to various cities across the country. But I think the Super Bowl is just a better event in New Orleans.
I'm all for having the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach every year, and the British Open at St. Andrews every year (though this would mean
And, I would be perfectly happy to have the Final Four here in Indianapolis every year.
This is not to say I'm in love with Indianapolis. It is a very nice city ... but certainly other Final Four locales like San Antonio and Minneapolis and St. Louis and St. Petersburg have their charms too.*
No, what I think makes Indianapolis the perfect Final Four locale is ... well, it's Indiana. And yes, I buy into all the Indiana basketball stuff -- the Hoosiers poster of the sneakers outside with Indiana farmland in the background is enough to get me to tear up a little bit. This Final Four -- with little Butler playing in its hometown in some sort of Hoosiers remake while
Yes, I do buy in. Not so long ago, I went on a basketball tour of the great state of Indiana. The main reason was
There are just magical sports places. You think about just some of the baseball players from Alabama:
Or think about the quarterbacks from Pennsylvania -- how could one state give us
Kansas's wide open spaces stimulated more than its share of long distance runners. The texas humidity has given us plenty of hard throwing right-handed pitchers. A lot of great running backs learned their relentless styles in Georgia. And, of course. Florida and California -- being big and vast and so full of sunshine -- give us a whole lot of everything.
Indiana is just one of many places that takes pride in its hoops -- North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, New York City. But, yeah, I do believe there is something a little bit different about Indiana. Lisa was a reporter at a newspaper where I once worked, and she would play basketball with us sometimes. She was pretty good -- but what really stood out about her game was that she had the perfect jump shot form. Textbook perfect. Left foot forward. Elbow straight and close to the body. Hand under the ball. Wrist flick at the end. She wasn't especially quick or tall. But if she was open, she did not miss.
"Where did you learn to shoot like that?" we would ask her.
"I'm from Indiana," was her simple response.
So, my impression of Indiana was a whole state of little boys and girls wearing black Chuck Taylor Sneakers, bouncing warped basketballs on gravel driveways, and shooting perfect jump shots, time after time, against backboards with cracking white paint. I had to see if it was true. And so I drove the state -- from Milan to French Lick, from Indianapolis to Martinsville, from Bloomington to West Lafayette. And I found that my impression was not too far off from reality.
OK, maybe there wasn't a basketball on
Yes, maybe there is something about the autumn and winter hours here that push people to shoot baskets until the sun has gone down and you can't even see the rim and net anymore, you can only hear the ball clank or swish. Maybe there is something about the Midwestern stubbornness that makes people in the state practice shooting until, by gosh, they get it right. Maybe there is something about the Indiana courts where a young Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson and John Wooden and
Like, I say: There are a lot of great basketball places. But there is something about this place that, cliché as it sounds, cuts to the heart of the game. Once after a pickup game, I asked my friend Lisa if everyone in Indiana could make free throws. She thought about it for a second and said: "Well, everybody I know."