Indy Rallies in Support of #JakeStrong

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Jake with Officer Jason Palumbo (Photo: IMPD Mounted Patrol)

At 17.1 hands, Jake is a big horse with high energy. He likes people, even if he’s not overly affectionate with them. He’s got a soft spot for children though, and will stand quietly for hours while they pet, play next to, even run underneath him.

A Percheron/Thoroughbred/Appaloosa mix, Jake has spent the past 11 years patrolling the streets of Indianapolis with officer Jason Palumbo, who calls him “the best partner you could ever ask for.”

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To protect and serve was a way of life for Jake, until he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer. Then, he needed the public to return the favor.

And did they ever.

Sergeant Allan Whitesell, commander of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, says they’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support. “The amount of emails, the amount of phone calls, the phone’s blowing off the hook, people wanting to hear how he is, how they can help, where they can send the money to.”

The cost of Jake’s surgery couldn’t be covered under the guidelines of basic veterinary care in the city budget. And the IMPD Horse Patrol Association, a private group formed to support the mounted patrol, didn’t have excess funds. So, they had to do something they’ve never done before…go to the public for help.

Whitesell set up a Go Fund Me account to pay for Jake’s care, which is ongoing. “It’s just great knowing how much they support us. And we support them. And that’s why we’re out there. We call ourselves the approachable police.”

Excess funds will be used to replace Fred, a senior horse the patrol lost in November and possibly add another. Over the years, the mounted patrol has gone from 14 horses to seven. Ideally, they’d like nine. But at $4,500-7,000 per horse, they also need help from the public to grow.

IMPD Mounted Patrol plans to hold a contest to name the next horse. But Whitesell says anyone who comes up with the funds can name it whatever they like…within reason. “As long as it’s not ‘Buttercup’ or something,” joked Palumbo.

The mounted patrol has a unique and visible presence during large sporting events hosted by Indianapolis, including the Super Bowl, NCAA basketball tournaments, and the Indy 500.

Big event or small, the horses of the IMPD Mounted Patrol serve a purpose that’s both useful and unique. Whitesell says they can see, navigate, and get through a crowd faster than anyone. And they also tend to attract a crowd.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m in the heart of East District or in Broad Ripple. It doesn’t matter. The kids, parents, adults, everybody comes out to talk to us and pet the horses.”

After undergoing successful surgery on Wednesday, Whitesell hopes to have Jake back in the lineup in time for Indianapolis to host the Final Four April 4-6.

Jake turns 13 on Sunday. For his birthday, he’d like you to join the IMPD Horse Patrol Association.

After all, we have a thing for horses around here.

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And we do love our boys in blue.

Go horse!

#JakeStrong

Silver linings come into play for Pacers

(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

I’ve been thinking about it all season.

That game against the Heat. The one the Pacers weren’t supposed to win because they didn’t have Danny Granger in the lineup. Only, they did win. And it was in that moment that we realized what the Pacers had in Paul George.

It happened again on Friday night.

On a 12-game winning streak, the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers made their first trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Paul George sat courtside in a busy suit (a little too busy for my taste, but that’s neither here nor there). Starting in his place (which also meant guarding James), forward Solomon Hill. Who, until this year, hadn’t had any significant playing time. And up against the best basketball player in the land…he shined.

It was a true team effort. George Hill, just a few games back from significant injury himself, was back in his role as the hometown hero. C.J. Miles had a hot shot. And David West was the always reliable veteran.

But the story of the night was Solomon Hill.

I asked head coach Frank Vogel about it when he spoke to the media on Thursday. Could he see some good for his team coming out of Paul George’s injury? He talked about silver linings. And how every time you lose a guy in a lineup, it creates an opportunity for another guy. He talked about Solomon Hill. And how with a healthy lineup, he didn’t get much of a chance to play his first year.

“He’s playing a ton this year and he’s making mistakes and he’s making great plays and he’s growing and he’s developing and that’s definitely a positive of Paul being out.”  -Frank Vogel on Solomon Hill

And he was a big contributor to the Pacers’ biggest win of the year.

That’s the thing about silver linings. They don’t always appear right away. But when they do, it’s obvious.

It was obvious the Pacers had something special when Paul George stepped in for Danny Granger. And it was obvious again on Friday night, when Solomon Hill stepped in for Paul George.

In the words of Napolean Hill, “Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune.”

The Pacers have had their share of misfortune this season. But, there’s plenty of opportunity left.

Anything can happen…

And that may be the biggest silver lining of all.

Pacers center Lavoy Allen hosts bingo night for fans

The holidays are over. The decorations have long been put away. But Pacers center Lavoy Allen is still giving.

On Thursday night, Allen wrapped up his part of the Pacers’ Season of Giving campaign by hosting a bingo night for fans at the Carriage House Glendale Senior Living Apartments.

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Pacers center Lavoy Allen officiates a game of bingo at the Carriage House Senior Living Apartments in Indianapolis

He brought his family, Pacers mascot Boomer, and prizes, including sheets, towels, a foot massager, and a new 32-inch TV.

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A relative new-comer, Allen landed in Indianapolis after a Pacers trade with the Philadelphia 76ers last season. He says he’s enjoying the Midwest and the Hoosier hospitality.

“I’ve only been in Indianapolis for almost a year now. Last season I didn’t get to do much, coming in so late. This year, getting out there, connecting with the fans, everybody’s real nice out here.”

Allen says his favorite part of giving back is seeing the smiles on the faces of fans, especially the kids.

“When they come to the games, they don’t really get to connect with us. We’re on the court. We’re working. So, just getting out here, seeing them, connecting with them, I think that’s what they like the most about us.”

It’s what Lavoy Allen says he likes the most about his job.

“Getting out in the community, reaching out to our fans. Our loyal fans. The best fans in the NBA. By far.”

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And it looks like he gained a few more this week.

This is Indiana: My Love Letter to The Hoosier State

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You can barely see it when the leaves are on the trees. But one day, I saw it. And I went over to take a look. And then I took a picture.

An old basketball hoop. At the end of a gravel lot. That backs up to a wooded lot. Next to the old white house across the street.

And a little piece of Indiana history.

Who used to play there? Did they go to Broad Ripple High School? And go on to play in college? Where are they now? Do they know the hoop is still here? And how long has it been since someone stood under it trying to put up a shot? As I ponder this, I can almost hear the sound of the ball bouncing, the bang of the rim, the swish of the basket…

Now there’s an orange public hearing sign in front of the white house. Which makes me sad. Because it tells me that someday that rusty old hoop probably won’t be there.

It’s not that I’m against progress. If it weren’t for progress, I wouldn’t live in a neighborhood like this.

But it still makes me sad.

It was love that brought me to Indiana. But in the process, I fell in love with Indiana.

When I first moved to The Hoosier State, I didn’t know what a Hoosier was. And no one could really explain it to me. Indiana University defines a Hoosier as:

“Any person who has spent at least part of his or her life in the great State of Indiana.”

By that definition, I am a Hoosier.

But, what I’ve discovered over the last decade, is that Hoosiers are honest, hardworking people who love their God, love their families, and love their basketball.

Now, when people ask me what a Hoosier is, I tell them, “It means something a little different to everyone. You kind of have to figure it out for yourself. But caring enough to figure it out is a good start.”

For me, it took something I walked by every day, but never saw. And now, I can’t stop looking at it.

Because every day it reminds me what Indiana is.

This is Indiana.

And I am a Hoosier.

Deflated footballs got me over the Colts loss

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It was a strange medicine that got me over the crushing loss by my Indianapolis Colts to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.

I went to bed a hot mess on Sunday night. On Monday morning, I got up, listened to sports talk radio, and wrote about the five stages of grief for Colts fans. I felt a little better. I put myself somewhere between bargaining and depression. By Tuesday, I was done bargaining and it was just depression. I figured I’d be there for a while.

But when the report came out from ESPN that the Patriots were playing with deflated footballs, everything changed. Not because it had any impact on the outcome of the game. I make no excuses for the way my team played and neither do they.

What changed was how I felt about it. Initially, I was angry and disappointed, but also a little embarrassed about the 45-7 spanking the Colts took at the hands of the Patriots. But, as I watched allegations of another Patriots cheating scandal unfold, I couldn’t help but feel anything but grateful.

Because win or lose, I’m proud of my team. And I’m proud to call them mine. I wear my Colts pride on my sleeve (and many other places) and I never feel the need to justify it.

That matters to me. It always has. It’s one of the things that makes me such a loyal and passionate fan. I love that my fandom defines me and that it’s one of the first things people talk to me about when they see me. And much of that goes back to who my team is.

The Colts lost badly in the AFC Championship game. They aren’t going to the Super Bowl. But the future is bright and I know they’ll get back there soon enough.

More importantly, I know they’ll do it the right way.

I have now made peace with the fact that this Colts season is over. And even how it came to be over. Strangely enough, it took the team that ended it to get me to acceptance.

Football is life. And life is all about perspective.

Being disappointed in your team’s performance is one thing. Being disappointed in your team is another.

The Colts may have lost the game.

But the Patriots lost much more.

Go Colts!