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Guys like Foyt, Mears, teams like IU had it made; those were the days

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The good old days. We hear about them, read about them and sometimes are exposed to film footage capturing them.

But when were they?

Good old days tend to be difficult to nail down simply because opinions vary. Furthermore, it’s safe to assume the good old days in the eyes of a 73-year-old sports fan differ from someone, say, 25, based on experience alone.


So with that, let’s get one person’s take — OK, it’s me — on exactly when the good old days were regarding some of our local teams and events:

Indiana Pacers: From a product/marketing perspective, it’s right now. You can’t swing a whiffle ball bat in central Indiana without hitting someone wearing a gold Blue Collar/Gold Swagger T-shirt.

Yes, the franchise made it to the NBA Finals in 2000. The bandwagon filled up fast for Reggie Miller’s mid-1990s heroics prior to that. And it would be foolish not to recognize Mel, Neto, Roger, Slick and the rest of the legendary ABA juggernauts of the early 1970s.

These days not only is the team a championship contender, there are gold shirts warming the 18,165 seats inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse hours before every home playoff game.

This season it’s nine and counting. This can’t be cheap.

Small white towels carrying the Pacers logo and those of a few local advertisers were occasionally part of the postseason ambiance, creating what looked like a snowstorm in the old Market Square Arena.

This is different. This is better.

Indianapolis 500: Pinpointing a specific three- to five-year window here is virtually impossible.

While the “500” is no longer the must-be-there spectacle it was in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the cars of today are much safer than before.

From 1947-64 a total of six drivers perished on Race Day, the gruesome exclamation point being the 1964 race that ended the lives of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald. Then came Swede Savage in 1973 and not a single “500” fatality since.

But it was the 1970s and ’80s giving us a fraternity of colorful drivers known simply by first name or nickname — A.J., Rick, Bobby, Al, Mario, Gordy, Lone Star J.R., etc.

This is tough, but let’s go with the early 1980s.

IU men’s basketball: Many contenders for this title, though it’s hard to beat 1975-81, a seven-season span in which coach Bob Knight’s Hoosiers were 169-49 (.775) with three Big Ten titles, two national championships (1976, ’81) and one NIT title (1979).

Old-timers insist it would have been three NCAA net-cuttings had star forward Scott May not broken his left arm against Purdue late in the 1975 regular season.

Either way, this might be the greatest run ever put together by a college basketball program not named UCLA.

Indianapolis Colts: Since coming over on the Mayflower(s), fans have witnessed some of the worst the NFL has to offer (1-15 in 1991) as well as some of the best.

The good old days aren’t that old, the 2006-09 frame in which the Colts won 80 percent of their regular-season games (51-13) and qualified for two Super Bowls.

This also is when Peyton Manning secured two of his five (so far) league Most Valuable Player awards and hard-hitting free safety Bob Sanders won Defensive Player of the Year.

Butler men’s basketball: The challenge of coaching some of the world’s greatest players eventually pulled Brad Stevens from his Hinkle Fieldhouse office.

No matter how his career with the Boston Celtics plays out, Stevens forever is Indiana royalty because of the Bulldogs’ magical Final Four runs in 2010 and 2011.

It’s neither a criticism or a reach to predict this will never again happen at Butler.

That it occurred in the first place continues to be the most pleasant of dreams to those who remember the program’s lack of national relevance beforehand.

Butler’s first and second NCAA Tournament appearances were bridged by 35 years (1962-97). Since 1998 the Bulldogs have played 27 such tournament games, winning 17.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to mbeas@dailyjournal.net.

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