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This is not going to degenerate into one of those "where sports truly fit in society" sermons. We'll leave that for greater minds. But this much we know: Sports have their place. Otherwise, newspapers wouldn't have sports sections, ESPN wouldn't exist and three minutes at the end of the 6 o'clock news would be further dedicated to fires, murders, idiotic, man-on-the-street reactions to said fires and murders and fatalistic weather forecasters.
But it was only through leaving our state for a few days this week that yours truly could foster a new appreciation for the dizzying levels of how pathetic we are, sports-wise.
It's just that we're so provincial, nobody realizes it.
So come long and let's talk.
It was Sunday night in downtown Indianapolis, the night before the Connecticut Sun and Indiana Fever would play a classic playoff game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Camden Yards of basketball. The day's work was done. That meant one thing: Time for the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo's, the landmark steakhouse on the same piece of real estate since 1902.
And so this was a good three hours now after the Colts had just rallied to beat the Packers at Lucas Oil Stadium. The city was still awash in Colts blue. People, people everywhere, jamming restaurants and bars. Strangers high-fiving on sidewalks. A real downtown that for this day was of one purpose: to celebrate a great win for the Colts.
I sat at the bar of St. Elmo's watching the end of the Pats/Broncos game. They still root for Peyton here. I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me, wearing his Andrew Luck jersey and drinking Woodford Reserve, illustrating good taste all around. We both agreed the cocktail sauce on the shrimp belonged in Cooperstown, with enough horseradish to melt stainless steel.
My new friend was beaming. He spoke of how work tomorrow just wouldn't be such a hassle, not while riding the rainbow of Sunday's memories. His team won a great game. The day was an event. Bet many others felt that way, too.
I thought: Wouldn't it be great if we had something like this? Because we don't. Not anything close.
Now I know a few dullards will offer a well, duh. We don't have professional football. Noooo. Really?
Hardly the point. The point: We have no rallying point. We have nothing that encourages community, all wrapped around a team.
We don't have a city that people view with pride and not as a punch line (hello, Hartford). A city easily maneuvered on foot, with uninhibited folks not afraid to wear their colors and see no need to look over their shoulders. A city that pulsates three hours after the game.
Please don't tell me it's UConn football or basketball. The football stadium, rather than built at Adriaen's Landing, is isolated in East Hartford. Think about it for a minute: If we had a politician with some juice - just one - and the stadium was built at Adriaen's Landing, could you imagine the scene in the city on a football game day?
And I get that basketball games are on cold, winter nights. Some of them are in Storrs, where there's nothing. Still does downtown Hartford truly bustle on game days? People wearing their jerseys and sweatshirts on the sidewalks and in the establishments, making merry? I won't even suggest after the game. They have to beat the traffic and get home.
They all love the Colts in Indy. They all don't love UConn here. Half the dolts make fun of women's basketball and thus wouldn't be caught at a game without a bag over their head. The other half complain about ticket prices, parking rates, traffic and whatever else comes to mind.
And yet in Indy, people flocked downtown, paid the money for flights and hotels and used a sporting event the way it's intended: to forget about life for a while, participate in the joyful stress of rooting for your team and then talking about it with perfect strangers after.
Wouldn't that be fun if we could do that once?
You'll scoff when I suggest the closest we get in Connecticut is Mohegan Sun on game nights for the Sun. Lots of folks wearing Sun stuff in the bars and restaurants before and after games and walking about the mall area outside the arena.
Which, of course, wouldn't be a bad idea come Thursday night when the Sun will need their loyalists en masse when they play a game for the whole Heineken truck.
But I digress.
I left with a hearty appreciation - and palpable jealousy - of Indianapolis, the perfect sports city.
Meanwhile, let's all stay as uptight as possible here.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.