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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
People crowd around a Super Bowl XLVI logo on Monument Circle in Indianapolis on Friday.

Indianapolis shines as host of sports’ biggest game

– So, Indiana really is God’s favorite.

I say this as I’m walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium in my shirtsleeves on Super Bowl Media Day, Jan. 31, and I am not the least bit uncomfortable. It is, after all, 61 degrees out here. On Media Day, like I said. And did I mention it was Jan. 31?

Did I also mention what some guy named Nestor Aparicio said the other day about Indianapolis and the way it’s conducting the Super Bowl this week?

He’s a talk-radio guy out of Baltimore who goes by the handle “Nasty,” but he’s been anything but nasty this week. Reportedly he has an effigy of the late Robert Irsay at his spot along radio row, but that’s the extent of his bile when it comes to Indy.

“I’ve attended 18 Super Bowls,” Aparicio blogged this week. “I’ve walked the streets, seen the energy, participated in the revelry at all of them. I’ve broadcast more than 500 hours of radio from Super Bowls from San Diego to Miami, from Detroit to Jacksonville, from Tampa to Minneapolis, and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a better site or a metropolis that’s taken to throwing a party quite the way Indianapolis has this week.”

So, there you have it. Even someone nicknamed “Nasty” has gone all gooey thanks to the milk of Hoosier kindness.

All those hand-knitted scarves and the handwritten notes of welcome from Indiana schoolchildren and the provident weather (thanks, God) have pretty much disarmed the formidable skepticism of even hardened Super Bowl veterans, who viewed Indianapolis through the prism of Miami or New Orleans and saw it as the Gulag Super Bowl. Cornfields! Hayseeds! Giant pork tenderloins chasing you through the streets of Indianapolis on snowshoes, intent on stopping up your arteries!

Of course, that was before they discovered St. Elmo and its nuclear shrimp cocktail. And the Super Bowl Village downtown. And the lively nightlife, downtown. And the fact that everything was, yes, downtown, within walking distance.

Suddenly you looked up one day, and there was Al Roker riding the zip line high above Capitol Avenue. Suddenly you were reading an Arizona Republic columnist, Dan Bickley, calling the “urban Super Bowl” a “huge success” and quoting the chairman of Arizona’s 2015 Super Bowl Host Committee.

“We’re going to have a village similar to what they’re doing here in Indianapolis,” he said. “There is going to be more of a concentration, a chance to capture some of the things we’re feeling here.”

And now comes the real test, the game itself.

That Indy will carry it off as effortlessly as it’s carried everything else off in the past week is the safest bet in the room, because the secret to all this is that Indianapolis probably has as much experience putting on big shows as any city in the country. If you can do the largest single-day sporting event in the world, the Indianapolis 500, for 95 years, you can do a Super Bowl. That goes for all the Pan Am Games, Final Fours and U.S. Grand Prix it’s done over the years, too.

After all, pleasing Roger Goodell is cake after you’ve managed to please Formula One capo Bernie Ecclestone for eight years. And so little wonder that even the Boomer himself, ESPN icon Chris Berman, seemed smitten this week.

“Indianapolis has already broken the record for kindness,” he said on Media Day.

Get that man a scarf.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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