When I was growing up in Northwest Indiana, I was never really exposed to Indianapolis (or any Indiana, for that matter) news or sports. I knew what the Indy500 was, and I knew the Bulls played the Pacers every so often...But I never knew the governor (even until I moved to Indianapolis two years ago), or what the hell a Hoosier was. I lived within the range of Chicago's overpowering broadcast system, in "Da Region", if you've heard of it. Once I joined the ranks of a mid- to lower-level collegiate sports program, I discovered this whole new world (unfortunately not on a magic carpet...) of sports and back burner - if that's even as far up as we get - importance.
The media, of course, is the main culprit behind this relegation to seemingly nothingness.
The Colts are THE talk of the town. Always. Forever. Well, since Peyton showed up. Rightfully so, I suppose: They have the best record of any decade ever; They haven't won less than so many games since he arrived, et cetera. They can do no wrong. Even losing the Super Bowl was an amazing accomplishment. On game day, downtown IS blue. I mean BLUE. BLUE as BLUE can get. If someone isn't wearing a jersey (which is rare), they have a blue ribbon in their hair or blue sneakers on. There's always something. (Even the fountain downtown has blue lights that shine on game night.)
The Pacers are there, but because they haven't been good in...a long time...they are on a back seat journey through the media world. However, they are never talked THAT negatively about. In fact there is an article up right now on Indy Star that says the Pacers should take care of their business without involving the public as much as possible. Eventually, once football season is over, the Pacers are still in the back seat but their head sticks between the seats so they can talk to Mommy and Daddy Colts. A win over the Celtics is met with cautious praise, usually because it's followed or preceded by giving up a 27-point lead to the Knicks or someone equally as terrible. But those terrible losses are never met with any anger on the side of the fans. Disappointment, sure. But I've never heard a single Pacers fan get MAD. Just...indifferent, saying one day things will get better because, after all, this is the club Reggie Miller built! Even with names like Brandon Rush, Danny Granger, and Tyler Hansbrough the Pacers still have trouble getting any sort of decent buzz on way or another.
Then come the universities of central Indiana. The famed Indiana University and Purdue University. (Oh, I know there are more than those two. But listening to any sports station would lead you to believe differently.) These two schools are more "entitled" than the kids on "My Sweet 16" or "The Hills". I actually heard a group of IU fans talking downtown during the Big10 Tournament that, get this, if they were to win the tournament they could expect a good seed (eventually discussed to be an 8 or 7 seed), and if they lost an NIT bid was obvious. Yes, the 10-21 (4-14) Hoosiers of Indiana University have fans with their heads so far up their...well, in the sand...that they actually believed they could secure either a high seed or a bid to any post-season tournament. (This idea doesn't pertain to all IU fans, but when I told a few friends down at IU what I had heard, they weren't exactly opposed to the idea...) Purdue fans are a little better, just now re-acclimating themselves to success. Most are fairly decent about what goes on, but even without their star player (and I mean STAR player) Robbie Hummel - who I've watched for 5 years, both against my own high school and for Purdue - they were convinced a Final Four birth was inevitable. When they were knocked out of the tournament, Purdue fans everywhere were beyond confused and made their feelings quite apparent.
Butler, sweet dear Butler, is only now getting some semblance of recognition. While TROUNCING their Horizon competition (by 10+ points per game), the local stations and news coverage would simply mention "Hey Butler won" and move on. If you go to the Indy Star website, their sports section has links to Colts, Pacers, IU, Purdue, and high school prep pages, but NOT Butler. Not little 'ol Butler. And true, there was talk around Indy during the Final Four of the "City turning Blue for Butler" and what have you, but after they lost, where did all of those fans go? Back home...wearing their IU this, their Purdue that, or their Colts something-or-other.
IUPUI is seen on the same level as Butler...pah! Who am I kidding. They aren't seen on any level. They are nothing. The occasional write up is done on Ron Hunter's work with Samaritan's Feet, but besides that the only write ups all season were following games at Conseco Fieldhouse (home of the Pacers) and while IUPUI played in the post-season. IUPUI is, quite literally, in the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium. It is even visible from the far Northwest corner of campus, Ball Hall (our one and only residence dormitory on campus). I called in to 1070 The Fan one time to ask the "radio hosts" what they thought of an IUPUI player suiting up for the Pacers. They said "well all of the camps are open to anyone who thinks they are good enough to play", followed by muffled snickers.
What does all of this mean though? Doesn't it make sense the city's most successful program be on the tip of everyone's tongues? What about IU and Purdue?
CBI to watch IUPUI because, well, they were supposed to win...but how many will come next year? The Pacers and Indians wrangle people in during stretches of good fortune, but have trouble getting die hard (or even die soft) fanatics. IU and Purdue fans aren't fanatics, they are just slaves to the machines that are Big10 propaganda and power. There are students from each school who don't even know IUPUI exists. There are students at Butler who don't even know IUPUI exists. (It sounds like a hyperbole, but I can't make this up folks.)
Are there exceptions to each rule? Totally. There are a few Colts-cars that drive around, completely decked out in white horseshoes. There is a barn near my apartment that is completely covered in Pacers artwork. There are season ticket holders for IUPUI and Butler, even for the Pacers and Indians. But all in all, the number of people who really care about sports is slim at best.
IUPUI is truly living in the dark, cold, gloomy shadow of the Sports Bubble, and there's no getting out. Any story line of mid-major success has gone to Butler (rightfully so, don't get me wrong). Baseball fans, the best and most loyal fans in sports, are seemingly absent from the MLB-less city. Every day that goes by that the Colts control the media (both literally and figuratively), IUPUI suffers. And there's no getting out. There's no escape. Even members of the Red Zone, IUPUI's own student section, show up in Duke or Ohio State shirts. There are nearly (literally) no TRUE IUPUI fans, and the bubble created by the Colts, Pacers (ish), Hoosiers, and Boilermakers - and the media fawning over them - has created an impenetrable bubble.
(I must make a note here: I was raised a Michigan fan, and I will always be a Michigan fan...But it never interferes with my love and devotion for IUPUI like so many others feelings for the Jaguars. I don't root for IU transfers against IUPUI when they play for Ohio, I don't root against IUPUI when they play IU, et cetera.)
Every day I come to campus, I drive by Lucas Oil Stadium. I thank it, sarcasticly, for creating struggle that I will never win.