Despite the moronic, over-confident stupidity of the New York Jets (hint, hint guys: The Chargers lost to you because they took you lightly; making the same mistake they made will not bode well for you), the big winner in the 2009 NFL season's AFC Championship Game is the city of Indianapolis. Just like in 2007 (for the 2006 season), the city is hosting an AFCCG, which, other than hosting a Super Bowl, is an absolutely huge sporting event opportunity that brings big money into the city's coffers. At a time when the economy is crushing cities like Cleveland and Detroit, for a smaller city like Indy to have a sports event like this is a big deal.
Like some of you, I grew up in Indianapolis (northside, near 106th Street and Westfield Blvd.) and it has been amazing to see the city and surrounding areas change so dramatically over the last ten or so years. Near the house where I grew up, where my mother still lives today, corns fields rested to the south and east of the neighborhood. In one of the corn fields was an old drive-in movie theater. Now, the fields are gone, replaced by a golf course and a housing division. I guess that's progress. I still miss that old drive-in.
Downtown, where it was once quite a dangerous place after 10pm at night, there is a more vibrant nightlife with restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. Obviously, snobs and overweight schmucks with small genitals will take shots at the city even though those same snobs and schmucks have likely never set foot in the city limits. While Indy might not have the nightlife of NYC or the museums of Chicago, the downtown is a helluva lot better than Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, or St. Louis. Again, just my opinion on that. For years, Indy always lived in the shadow of those cities. Now, because of events like the AFCCG, the NCAA Tournament, and the Super Bowl bid in 2011, Indy has ascended a bit.
With the construction of The Luke, and with the numerous downtown changes over the years, such as Conseco Fieldhouse and the downtown shopping centre, Indy has built itself up to be a very good setting for sports events. Hotels are plentiful and within walking distance of most venues. I enjoy the restaurant at the Conrad Hotel, if anyone is looking for a recommendation. There are plenty of pleasant parks. Before games, I used to get breakfast at Le Peep (where I worked as a cook and waiter during college) and dinner at Palomino. Great places.
Hosting events like the AFCCG, and hosting them well, will open doors for more sporting events to set up shop in town. Again, most east coast snobs will scoff at this (like the douchebags at The Big Lead), but these people simply aren't relevant. It's important to that big events like the AFCCG to get hosted in cities like Indianapolis. The Midwest is pretty regularly dismissed and spit on by just about every major media outlet. Sports coverage is very unnecessarily east coast centered, which is a shame. Lots of passionate, intelligent sports fans live in the Midwest. Why big media markets don't try and tap into that passion, beat's me. Their reluctance to do so is why blogs like this one exist in the first place.
So, regardless of which team wins on Sunday, the big winner is Indianapolis. The city is gaining a wonderful reputation for hosting great sports events. Hopefully, the city will get to host more in the near and distant future.