Colts vs. Giants Preseason Game 2: Fast Start…Not So Fast Finish.

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Colts WR Hakeem Nicks with his former Giants quarterback Eli Manning. (Photo: Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

The biggest thing that struck me watching the Colts preseason game against the New York Giants is this: If I were Tom Coughlin, I would give Ryan Nassib a closer look. Seriously. He was my favorite quarterback from that draft class. And I think he earned the position of backup quarterback. And former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Curtis Painter may have finally earned his walking papers.

I know the Colts blew a 26-point lead. In the fourth quarter. But you know what would concern me more? If my team was down 21-0 in the first quarter, as the Giants were.

Preseason is preseason. You judge your team when the starters are on the field. And again, the Colts starting offense looks downright dangerous, even without the likes of Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Andrew Luck to Hakeem Nicks is starting to look like a thing. And Nicks looked like he was having a little too much fun against his old team. So much so, that he was called for taunting. Griff Whalen reestablished himself as a dominant candidate for the Colts Preseason Ring of Honor. Now, let’s see if he can deem himself ineligible by becoming a regular season star.

The Colts defense looks scary. They’ve started both preseason games with three and outs against the opposing team. The running backs are getting stuffed. And the man partially responsible for that, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (who the Colts signed from the Cleveland Browns in the offseason) got his first quarterback sack on Eli Manning in Lucas Oil Stadium. The home crowd responded with a good, warm Hoosier welcome.

There are still a few things we’re looking for. While certainly improved, I’d like to see more from the Colts running game. And ya…not giving up 27 points in the fourth quarter would be nice.

But, if what we took away from Saturday night’s second preseason game is that the Giants third string team is better than the Colts third string team…well, I’m just fine with that.

Go Colts!

Former Star Reporter Phillip B. Wilson on His New Gig at Scout.com

Phillip B. Wilson with the Famous Chicken

Phillip B. Wilson with the “Famous Chicken”

After two decades at the Indianapolis Star, sports reporter and videographer Phillip B. Wilson is embarking on a new venture. And he’s hoping Indy sports fans will join him.

“It was emotional. It was much more difficult than I thought it would be. You wonder for two months whether you could walk away from 20 years at the Star. In the end, I think I wanted a chance to just do my own thing and I thought I wasn’t getting my voice out there.”  -Phillip B. Wilson

Wilson is starting up a Colts and a Pacers page at Scout.com, where he’ll have the opportunity to cover the local teams along with the freedom to do it his way. Part of Wilson’s appeal (or “Phil B” as he’s known to fans) is that he views himself as a voice for the fans. And he says he’d rather answer to them than someone looking to turn a profit. Ultimately, it will be the fans that determine his success.

“I’ve got a two-year deal with a third year option and if enough people don’t support it, then it’ll go away. But I guarantee you in the time that I’m doing it, the fans are going to love what I do because I’ve got a lot of ideas and I’ve got the freedom to explore and I have an open mind.”

Growing up in Northwest Ohio, Wilson was a fan of many teams. He says he had to put aside his fan side when he started covering sports, but he hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a fan.

“You remember The Immaculate Reception, the minute Franco caught the pass. You remember the Steelers winning Super Bowls. I rooted for the Steelers, I rooted for the Cincinnati Reds, I rooted for the Ohio State Buckeyes, I rooted for the Los Angeles Lakers because I thought Magic Johnson was personality plus. And above all, I rooted for the Detroit Red Wings too. I’m still a hockey fan to this day.”

Wilson can also relate to the real (and sometimes raw) emotions fans feel while watching their teams and says it’s a reflection of how much they care and how much they have invested.

“I think for a lot of people, we identify with the wide receiver over there or the quarterback, or we want that player to succeed. We want to feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.”

And in the end, that’s what it’s all about: wanting to be inspired, capturing something that’s bigger than yourself, and delivering it to a grateful audience.

“I’ve had people say to me, ‘You make me a better fan.’ What else could I ask?”

You can find Phillip B. Wilson at ind.scout.com and subscribe to his site, which grants you access to everything on Scout, including his Pacers page which is in development.

I’ll be checking in with Phil B. from time to time to deliver a woman’s perspective on some of our favorite stories. Because with so many passionate female fans, Indianapolis sports is no longer a man’s world.

And Phillip B. Wilson will be the first to tell you that.

Good luck, Phil B!

Colts Camp in Rear View Mirror, Start of Season on the Horizon

The final play of Colts camp  2014

The final play of Colts camp 2014

It’s a wrap.

Actually, it was a kickoff (from the JUGS machine) caught by special teams coach Tom McMahon, that signaled the end of training camp for the Indianapolis Colts.

Head coach Chuck Pagano put McMahon and assistant coach Brant Boyer in the end zone and told players if either of them caught the ball, he would release them from the remaining 40 minutes of practice.

It was a lot of pressure, but McMahon made a clean catch, which was followed by raucous celebration. And praise from Pagano, who called him “a gamer.”

90 players. 22 days. 30 practices. 34,000 fans. And (what felt like) four seasons.

From here, Pagano says, they take it one week at a time.

“We’ve got a long way to go. We know that. It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint. And we’re going to keep working hard to get better every single day.”  -Coach Chuck Pagano

After Wednesday morning’s practice, the next step was packing up. And heading back to Indianapolis. I asked players the first thing they were going to do when they got home.

Andrew Luck: “Unpack, laundry, take a nap…I’m in no hurry to leave though. I’ve got loose ends to tie up. It’s been nice here in Anderson.”

Matt Overton: “Probably take the dogs out. Then I’ve got an awesome (ALS) ice bucket challenge to do.”

And then, there are the Colts tight ends. Who are…tight.

Coby Fleener: “Hang out with Dwayne Allen cuz he’s the coolest guy ever.”

Dwayne Allen: “Hang out with Coby Fleener, who’s the second coolest guy ever.”

Weslye Saunders: “The possibilities are endless, but probably just hang out with my girlfriend.”

Jack Doyle: “I’m gonna hang out with Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Wes Saunders, and his girlfriend.”

No matter who they spend time with or what they do, football won’t be far from the players’ minds.

Cory Redding: “Kiss my babies, kiss my wife…have fun with them and take care of my body, just rest and get on my iPad and continue to look. You get away from football, but you are not really away. You have to stay connected somehow, so stay connected mentally. Just get in my book and go over my plays and just relax.”

Because some ends aren’t really an end at all. They’re more of a beginning…the start of something bigger, better, and bolder.

I know months from now, I’ll look back at training camp and feel nostalgic. Because when the season ends, no matter how it ends…the story of the 2014 Indianapolis Colts started right here. In Anderson, Indiana.

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And the goal is to finish in Glendale, Arizona.

Go Colts!

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Closes Out 2014 Season with MotoGP

The RedBull Indy Moto GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The RedBull Indy MotoGP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Summer is winding down. The days are getting shorter, the kids are going back to school, and football is making its long-awaited return. Before we know it, there will be a chill in the air and leaves on the ground.

But before bidding summer farewell, there was a little more racing to do at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And it did not disappoint.

I never thought I would watch a sport that made IndyCar racing look safe. But that’s exactly what I thought when I saw my first MotoGP race at IMS on Sunday.

IndyCar drivers fly around the track at speeds over 200 miles per hour, but at least they have seatbelts on. And a steel frame around them.

MotoGP riders go almost as fast, while straddling a machine. They lean into the corners, practically rubbing their knees and elbows against the asphalt. And sometimes, they even pass that way (which is when I close my eyes).

Watching them maneuver is breathtaking, and may force you to hold your breath…as I did every time they took the sharp turn in front of me.

We lost two riders on the very first lap. I didn’t even realize I caught it on camera until I got home and checked my pictures. Thankfully, no one was injured.

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Walking into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the MotoGP felt almost like stepping foot in a different country. The crowd was different, more international. And I have to say, I love what they did with the garage. There was upscale dining complete with tablecloths, umbrellas, and potted plants. A few outdoor lounges were added with comfortable seating and fashionable decor. It looked less “man cave” and more “sidewalk café.” Leave it to the Europeans to bring charm to the concrete jungle.

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The MotoGP also felt like more of a family event. There were activities for kids and I even spotted some toddlers in the stands. The 27-lap race lasted about 45 minutes, making it a little more child-friendly.

Kids test their skills on mini moto bikes at IMS on Sunday

Kids test their skills on mini moto bikes at IMS on Sunday

All in all, the MotoGP is a great way to enjoy a different, more worldly event at the racing capital of the world, but with all the excitement you’d expect. And without the 500 crowds.

The MotoGP closed out a great season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I spent more time at the track in 2014 than I have in all of my prior Indy years combined. And every visit brought me something new, exciting, and memorable. Thanks to the great people at IMS and IndyCar for the countless opportunities to experience first hand, the thrill of racing in the most storied setting in sports.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has long been a significant part of Indianapolis. And now, it’s a significant part of me.

Boom Baby! Bobby Slick Leonard Into the Hall of Fame

Slick Leonard giving his induction speech in Springfield, MA. (Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Slick Leonard gives his induction speech in Springfield, MA
(Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bobby “Slick” Leonard is a hall of famer. And if you think that will change him, well…you don’t know Slick.

Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night, Slick opened in typical Slick style…his own brand of humble and folksy:

“Well, I may not be the oldest guy that’s ever been inducted into the Hall of Fame. But I’ll bet I’m in the top five.”  -Bobby “Slick” Leonard

And only because it was long overdue.

With Pacers President Larry Bird and former player Mel Daniels standing by, both hall of famers in their own right, Leonard talked about his days growing up in Terre Haute, Indiana. He talked about his experience at Indiana University, where he was captain of the 1953 national championship team. He talked about his professional career playing with the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers, and he talked about his coaching run, where he led the Pacers to three ABA titles.

Leonard also reflected on the time he and Nancy held a telethon to save the Pacers. And it occurred to me, there are many people we credit for Indianapolis’ status as a sports city: the Georges, the Simons, the Irsays, but the man we should really thank is Slick Leonard. Because without him, there would be no Indiana Pacers. And without the Pacers, there would probably be no Indianapolis Colts.

Slick closed by thanking those nearest and dearest to him. His family. His wife, Nancy, with whom he just celebrated a sixtieth anniversary. And the people of Indiana.

“I’ve had a love affair with the fans and the people in the state of Indiana. We call ourselves the Hoosiers…and I wish it could last forever, but I know better than that.”

From the people of Indiana…congratulations, Slick. And thank you.

Our love and gratitude will last forever.

Boom baby!