- Hometown Heroes: The 2009-10 Butler Bulldogs
Epic Bulldog run
In a year full of exciting, but ultimately disappointing second-place finishes for Indianapolis athletic teams, Butler's run to the Final Four was perhaps the most epic. The tournament ended with the same pangs we seem to feel each January when the Colts finish their season, and this year's loss in the Super Bowl was still entirely too fresh in everyone's mind when the Final Four came around just two months later.
Regardless, Butler and Duke put on the best national championship game of my lifetime.
Gordon Hayward's three-point heave at the end of the game will be played on college basketball commercials for the next 50 years, and I'll never be able to shake that familiar feeling of emptiness as the ball spun off the rim and onto the floor.
Every time I see the replay I hope it's going to go in somehow.
But the team's success was far more lasting and meaningful than the final game itself. The way that the Bulldog squad played the game reignited the passion for basketball of an entire state.
Brad Stevens' players have been a mainstay on Academic All-American teams ever since he took over as coach, and last spring the entire country saw the impact that academically-based recruiting can have on a program's success.
No matter how the rest of the country remembers it, the quiet charisma of Coach Stevens and the 2010 team is the best Indiana sports story of the new millennium.
- Marian University's Sinead Miller
Sinead Miller dominates
The word "domination" is often thrown around in sports, but in regard to Sinead Miller's performance in August's Mass Ave Criterium it's an understatement.
Miller arrived in Indianapolis for the race just a couple days after returning from Italy where she had competed in the Girod'Italia, a 10-stage race that is widely regarded as the women's version of the Tour de France. She was unfazed by jet lag and she utterly crushed the entire field — winning by such an extreme margin that on the final lap she crossed the finish line in front of the Chatterbox, continued around the corner past Old Pointe Tavern... and the crowd waited for an awkward several seconds for any of her competitors to even appear on Massachusetts Ave. for the final straightaway.
An hour or so later, she decided to strap on her cycling shoes yet again to compete in the men's race. She did very well — especially considering she had just finished an entire race of her own — and finished in the middle of the pack, outlasting several of the male riders.
It's scary to think of what would have happened if she'd had fresh legs for the second race, but the Men's Criterium ultimately belonged to NUVO/Cultural Trail phenom Eric Young, who was also red-hot all summer in criteriums around the Midwest.
- The Pacers' Mike Dunleavy.
The most hotly debated sports headline of 2010 was the infamous Pacers bailout, a nightmarish scenario in which the Simon family pulled off a sheepish, gluttonous deal that not even J. Wellington Wimpy from 'Popeye' could have haggled. Herb Simon decided he will gladly pay Mayor Ballard Tuesday for 30 million hamburgers today, without collateral, interest or precondition... and the city accepted it without a fight.
The terms of the deal were lopsided, to say the least.
The Pacers received a $30 million loan over the course of three years, without interest, along with an additional $3 million of walkin' around money to buy some swag for the stadium. In return, the Simons agreed not to leave for a couple more years — which is small comfort considering that a lockout is likely for the 2012 season.
It's difficult to imagine the deal being negotiated any worse, especially considering the team's current prospects to develop into a contender any time in the next few years.
The Pacers are fun to watch again and the players are mostly behaving like human beings for a change, but no franchise — especially one that has had more indictments than playoff games in the last five years — is worth the economic sustainability of an entire city.