Welcome to Indiana. My Indiana. 

March Madness in Indianapolis (Photo: Aerial Imaging Resources)

The eyes of the sports world will be on Indianapolis this week, as the city prepares to host its seventh NCAA Men’s Final Four Basketball Championship.

March Madness is in the air…and by the time the calendar turns to April, it’ll be game on!

It’s true. We’ve had a little controversy here. You may have heard about it. Like a family, we Hoosiers have our differences and we’re working through them. But this is the Final Four, and right now…it’s all about basketball!

If you’re heading to Indy this week, here’s what you need to know:

We’re pretty easy to find. If you’re coming from Kentucky, go north…Michigan, south…Wisconsin, get to Chicago, then go south…North Carolina, head west. And watch out for potholes, or as they’re known in Indiana…sinkholes.

Once you get here, just head downtown. That’s where all the action is. And park your car, because you won’t really need it. You’ll find everything you need right there. And some things you don’t. Like a creepy statue of John Wooden. You’ll know it when you see it.

We decorated for you. There are basketballs and Final Four signs everywhere. There’s even a giant bracket (the biggest in the world, I’m told) covering one whole side of the JW Marriott hotel. No, you can’t burn it if your team loses. But you can cry. There’s a lovely canal that runs through downtown to catch your tears.

We have memorials everywhere. Indianapolis is second only to Washington, D.C. when it comes to the number of monuments dedicated to veterans. And no, there’s no statue of Peyton Manning. Not yet, anyway. We’re working on that.

While you’re here, you should really visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IndyCar was born in Indiana and the season is in full gear. The month of May is right around the corner and they’re preparing to host the biggest sporting event in the world and the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indianapolis 500. So, how can you not visit the Racing Capital of the World while you’re in the Sports Capital of the World? They’ll even take you around the track on a bus or better yet, in an IndyCar! And it’s only about 15 minutes from downtown (by regular car).

Hoosiers are friendly folks. Most of us will talk to anyone about anything. If you’re looking to start up a conversation with a local, here are two safe bets: “What’s up with the weather?” and “When is Paul George coming back?” No one knows the answer to either, but they’re sure to give you an opinion. And if you want to chime in, just say “spring.” It works in either case.

You’ll also find many helpful Hoosiers around town to assist you and direct you on your way. Hundreds of people have put in thousands of hours (most of them unpaid) to welcome visitors here with the warm Hoosier hospitality we’re known for. Why? Because we love our city and we love to share it with you. Also, we don’t have any teams left in the tournament and we have to make ourselves useful somehow.

This is what Indianapolis lives for. This is what Indianapolis plans for. This is what Indianapolis does (and does better than anyone else).

So, my plea to visitors and media members and sports figures in Indy this week is this: Judge us on our actions. Not our politics.

Because I promise you, for all the stereotypes created by one bill, there are millions of Hoosiers ready and waiting to prove them wrong.

This is Indiana. My Indiana.

Take some time to get to know us. And we’ll extend the same courtesy to you. Because in Indiana, we’re open to all. Just like we always have been. And nothing makes us happier than seeing visitors enjoy our city the same way we do.

Welcome to Indy!

It’s win or go home…

But, we hope you’ll want to return regardless.

Now, let’s watch some basketball!

Win Tickets to the Blue Breakfast!

Blue Breakfast at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center

Have breakfast with me, Carlie Irsay, Colts offensive lineman (and Hamilton Southeastern graduate) Joe Reitz, RTV 6’s Rafael Sanchez, and hear how Coburn Place is changing the lives of Indiana women and children.

Believe and achieve…there’s no better way to start your day! Join us April 2nd from 7-9 AM at the home of the Colts.

And enter our giveaway for two free tickets!!

Hope to see you there…

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Everyone Deserves a Safe Home

Imagine fleeing your home with only the clothes you have on, holding the hands of your children and little else, leaving everything you know behind…and with no idea where you’re going.

These aren’t refugees fleeing dictatorship regimes. These are women and children right here in Indianapolis escaping abusive relationships, in search of a safe haven — a place to exhale, a place to call home.

I’m happy to be partnering with Coburn Place to help women and children get the fresh start they desire and deserve. To hear more about this organization and get an offseason update on the Colts, I hope you’ll join me for the Blue Breakfast at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on April 2nd.

Written by the Coburn Place team for the Blue Mare:

entrance

Coburn Place Safe Haven

As we watched nine-year-old “Sam” walk down the halls of Coburn Place for the last time, he traced his fingers along the bricks in the wall. He stopped every few feet and cried. “I don’t want to leave. This is my home.”

For two years, Coburn Place has been Sam’s home, his safe haven. He played here, grew here, and healed here. He raced down these halls to homework help, therapy and art classes. We’ve seen him touch those same bricks countless times on his way to catch the school bus or to come back home at the end of his day.

Sam’s mom, “Alessandra”, faced many challenges. In addition to the abuse, language has been a barrier. Her English has improved, but she still struggles. And Sam is a special needs child. His behavioral issues were made worse by the abuse he witnessed.

To deal with any of these issues alone would have been overwhelming. Can you imagine trying to deal with all three and not have a home?

Fortunately, Alessandra didn’t have to. Because of Coburn Place supporters, they had a fully-furnished apartment to call home – just like this one.

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Coburn Place Apartment

With a safe place to live and a whole team of professional, caring advocates behind them, they were able to rebuild their lives and move forward.

We said good-bye to Sam and Alessandra with both tears in our eyes and joy in our hearts. It’s always bittersweet when a family moves, even when it’s to a safe, permanent home like theirs.

But we know they will succeed, because our supporters gave them a brave new future. Very soon a new family will move into their Coburn Place apartment. They deserve the same chance at a new life.

Find out more about donating and see what your dollars can do by checking out the Coburn Place website.

Hope to see you at Blue Breakfast on April 2nd!

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NFL Free Agency is Like Wedding Crashing

The NFL free agency signing period is a lot like dating. There are all these available players and all these potential suitors and they’re all looking for their perfect match.

The first few days are a cocktail party. Everyone is dressed up, perfectly coiffed, and dripping in expensive cologne. Some drinks are had, eyes are made, and eventually (for better or for worse) people start to pair up.

The deals that are sealed during the early hours of free agency are often with the players who are first to catch your eye. Now, the blonde with the over-bleached hair and too-tight dress may be just what you’re looking for tonight. The question is, do you really want to wake up with her in the morning…three years from now?

And that, my friends, is where we’re at in this process. Let the gold diggers (Ndamukong Suh), head cases (Brandon Marshall), and attention whores (Dez Bryant) go.

I picture Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson as Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers. Isla Fisher? She’s hot. And a complete psycho. Let Vince Vaughn (Jets GM Mike Maccagnan) deal with her. You know who we want? We want smart, we want driven, we want grounded. We want Rachel McAdams.

So, let the party continue. Let the other NFL general managers drink til dawn, dance on tables, and make some bad decisions.

As the week winds down, the crowd thins, and the lights come on, there she’ll be…standing by herself waiting for a cab.

And that’s when Ryan Grigson will swoop in, sweep her off her feet, and if it works out…put a ring on her finger.

A big, fat, shiny, Super Bowl ring.

But until then, be patient. The right one (at the right price) just hasn’t come along yet.

These things take time.

And while the Colts may kick themselves over the one who got away…

Tying themselves to the wrong one will cost them much more.

So…go get our girl, Mr. Grigson!

I mean, our guy.

Go Colts!

Nothing But Love for Reggie Wayne 

(Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

We watched him grow up in Marvin Harrison’s shadow, then bring other players up under his own.

A team player in every possible way, Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne didn’t need social media to connect with his teammates or his fans.

Before the start of every home game, Reggie would trot over to the northwest corner of Lucas Oil Stadium, affectionately known as Wayne’s World, and salute the fans.

In return, Colts fans had a chant: “REG-GIE…REG-GIE…REG-GIE!” They used it often…in recognition, in celebration, and in love.

As much as Peyton Manning was the brain of the Indianapolis Colts, Reggie Wayne was the heart. He pumped blue blood through the veins of the organization, the players, and the fans.

In an age where athletes are often subjected to (and subject of) bitter and hateful sentiment, Reggie Wayne was an anomaly. No one disliked him. No one had an unkind word to say about him. There was nothing to say. It was nothing but love.

On Friday, news that the Indianapolis Colts would not resign the 36-year-old Wayne left Colts fans saddened. We weren’t ready to say goodbye. But then again, we were never going to be.

Bidding farewell to Reggie Wayne is yet another reminder that above all else, the National Football League is a business. And that sometimes the business side of the NFL can be tougher than the playing side. This is one of those times.

We’ll feel a loss when training camp rolls around and there’s no Reggie to make a grand entrance by tank or helicopter or IndyCar.

There will be a gaping hole in our hearts when Reggie doesn’t come running out of the tunnel during the first Colts home game.

And the lack of “REG-GIE…REG-GIE…REG-GIE!” chants filling the air at Lucas Oil Stadium will be deafening.

What we had with Reggie Wayne for 14 seasons was special, unique, and irreplaceable.

How do you say goodbye to a player like Reggie Wayne? Don’t even try.

Instead, say thank you. And cherish the memories we made with one of the most accomplished and beloved players to ever wear the horseshoe.

Forever a Colt. Forever our heart. Forever our Reggie.

Nothing but love.

Thank you, Reggie.

You never forgot us.

And we’ll never forget you.