It’s appropriate that Victory stands astride a star-adorned ball while her flanks are guarded by statuary of Union soldiers. At about the time Victory was hoisted over Indianapolis’ emerging industrial skyline, the wars on the North American continent drew to a close. Americans were to take up their domestic quarrels and settle issues of pride on Big Ten gridirons and basketball courts. The war between the states became New Years Day dramas between Notre Dame and Alabama, or Butler and Duke as March Madness churned into April. Indiana and Illinois don’t shoot howitzers at each other. We shoot treys at our assembly halls. Our bombers are named Mount, Skiles, Alford and Macy.
The stars on the ball underneath Victory’s foot in the minds of Hoosiers could be sports heroes named Robertson, Wooden, Bird and Miller. Or our patriots in the foreign battles we fight, Medal of Honor recipients named Antrim, Biddle, Shoup, Sterling and de la Garza, or a reporter named Pyle.
We project our values in our arenas where our athletes emerge from places like Plymouth, Bedford and French Lick.
On our benign fields of battle, individuals emerge who inspire us. Or agitate us.
Some become transformative figures. Drew Brees left Purdue University only to rally a city and bring triumph a few years after the New Orleans Katrina catastrophe. There’s Evansville native and Purdue grad Bob Griese, who suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle in the fifth game of what would be an undefeated season for the Miami Dolphins. He would return that January and lead them to a Super Bowl.
Knute Rockne still inspires legions of young athletes more than eight decades after a plane crash took him from Notre Dame. Bob Knight revived the glory at old IU, Brad Stevens brought the echoes of Tony Hinkle back to Butler.