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This morning, Roger Goodell, Jim Irsay, Greg Ballard, Mark Miles, Andre Carson, and Eugene White—for the uninitiated, see their lofty titles below—shared a dais. They appeared at the brand new Chase Near Eastside Legacy Center on the campus of Arsenal Technical High School, made possible by donations tied to the Super Bowl. This was the feel-good portion of the Super Bowl extravaganza.
As the men took turns addressing a crowd of local dignitaries, media, schoolchildren, and a handful of NFL players (Colts Antoine Bethea, Anthony Gonzales, and Brandon King among them), it quickly became clear that what I was watching was a bunch of powerful men in suit jackets having a full-on love fest. Carson the Democrat praised Ballard the Republican, saying he was “representing the city quite well.” James Taylor, an eastside community leader, thanked Carson for helping the Legacy project “overcome federal bureaucracy.” Irsay said Goodell “has done a lot for the National Football League,” and Goodell, speaking to Miles, said, “Mark, you have hit every mile marker you said you would hit four years ago—you’ve not only hit them, you’ve exceeded them.” And so on.
The building of the community center, which includes a gym and fitness center, greenhouse, gardens, and other amenities, is certainly worth celebrating. It’s an attractive, useful addition to an area that hadn’t seen a lot of attractive, useful additions in a long time. And as many of the speakers noted, it’s the first Legacy project in the nearly 20-year history of the initiative to be finished before the Super Bowl arrived, a testament to Indy’s bootstrap mentality.
But please forgive me if my description of the backslapping reads as cynical. I’ve lived on the near-east side off and on for longer than 30 years, just a few blocks north of the new center. And for most of that time, as vacant houses have rotted to the ground, curbs and sidewalks have crumbled away, and crime has ravaged the streets, it has felt as though no one of any importance even knew we were there.
I just hope the men with suits don’t forget about us again when all the bright lights are turned off.
Key:Goodell—NFL commissionerIrsay—Indianapolis Colts ownerBallard—mayor of IndianapolisMiles—Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee chairmanCarson—U.S. House Representative from Indiana's 7th District (Indy)White—Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent
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