INDIANAPOLIS - This heartland city is ready for its closeup.The most important one-day sporting event on the planet is here, America's unofficial national holiday, the Super Bowl. And in what state is the local NFL entrant? Utter and complete disarray. It's transcendent superstar, Peyton Manning, the man who made Indianapolis matter and put the city on the country's lips, is on his way out. The Colts paid Manning 26 million in 2011 and he was unable to play a snap because of neck surgery just before the season. The Colts are on the hook to pay him another 28 million on March 8. He's 36. His body may not allow him to play again. The Colts hold the first pick in the draft and Stanford's Andrew Luck is getting "can't miss" hype that hasn't been seen since 1998 when Peyton Manning was coming out. It's not a matter of "if" Manning and the Colts divorce occurs. It's "when." Bob Kravitz, an excellent columnist for the Indianapolis Star, spoke at length to both Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay. He was the media's Mills Lane in an eye-opening dustup between quarterback and owner. I asked him Monday about the strange dynamic in which the world is being invited over for dinner in Indy while family problems are raging. "It's a really strange time because this is the big celebration and there's this sort of cloud that hangs over it," said Kravitz. "When's the other shoe gonna fall? When are we gonna find out that Peyton's either gonna retire or be cut? I don't think it's gonna happen during Super Bowl week . . . I know for a fact Peyton's gonna go underground during Super Bowl and Jim Irsay's smart enough to not open his big yap again."It won't be this week but the question is whether or not it happens before the Combine (also held in Indianapolis in late February)," said Kravitz.When Indy was awarded this Super Bowl, it wasn't far-fetched to think the Colts would be the first team to play for a title in its own stadium.But without Manning, the Colts went 2-14 and a housecleaning in which longtime team president. Bill Polianand his son, Chris, the team's GM, were fired soon followed. Then head coach Jim Caldwell was given the gate. Now Indianapolis has to smile and hold the door for the hated Patriots and their fanbase. And New Yorkers too? That's a brutal pill to swallow if you're from here. Kravitz says the event has seemed to trump the partisan football inclinations, though. "Even though (the disarray of the Colts) is a cloud in the minds of fans, I don't think it diminishes what's happening here," he pointed out. "What's been great here has been the community involvement. They needed 8,000 volunteers and they got 13,000 people sign up. They've really not used public money on this, it's all been private money. Really all corporate cash. This is their moment in the sun and they're gonna revel in it. I think (Peyton Manning) is on everybody's mind but I don't think it diminishes from what we've got going on."The demise of the Colts came faster than anyone expected, said Kravitz. "Everybody came into this year thinking they had two or three more years (of elite play) under Peyton," Kravitz theorized. "With Peyton, Reggie Wayne, Joe Addai, Dallas Clark. Everyone wondered how close the window was to 'closing' but we all thought two or three years. And then Peyton gets hurt. And it just keeps getting worse. And there hasn't been any good news that's come out of this thing in months. I think people realize that the glory days are gone."I asked Kravitz if the city is going to have a tough time entering football irrelevancy for a spell after being so prominent for more than a decade. "Once they get through the mourning of Peyton Manning, once the grieving process is done, they're really gonna embrace Andrew Luck because he's the next Peyton Manning," said Kravitz. "I think people are starting to understand how incredibly bleeping lucky they are," he stressed. "When you look at Miami and how long they've waited for another quarterback after Dan Marino, when you look at Denver and how long they've waited after John Elway. And we're gonna have in this city one bad year. And we're gonna go from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck and that's extraordinarily fortuitous."It is an amazing brightside to have. The curtain will fall on one superstar. And a new one will be born. Maybe Indy won't wind up irrelevant after all.
Amidst the current turmoil at the NHL level, the Bruins delivered a little good news about the future today . . . with more potentially to come.
The Bruins announced the signing of a pair of prospects/former draft picks -- Boston College forward Ryan Fitzgerald and defenseman Emil Johansson -- to entry-level contracts that will kick in next season. There will likely be another wave of signings with the Bruins from the amateur ranks once players like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson are finished up with their college teams in the NCAA tournament, though it remains to be seen exactly which players end up taking the NHL plunge.
There was some uncertainty as to whether Fitzgerald would definitely sign with Boston after completing his senior season at BC, but he will immediately join the Providence Bruins on an amateur tryout agreement after signing a two-year deal. Johansson will join the Bruins on a Professional Tryout Agreement with a three-year entry level deal that kicks off next season.
The 5-foot-10, 177-pound Fitzgerald was an alternate captain for BC in 2016-17, with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 34 games with 56 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating. Fitzgerald is also the son of Billerica native and former Bruins forward Tommy Fitzgerald, who took to Twitter on Friday to voice his overwhelming pride over his oldest signing an NHL contract. He was a fourth-round pick by the Bruins in 2013.
Johansson, 20, completed his first season with Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17, establishing career highs with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points with 26 penalty minutes in 49 games. The B's selected him in the seventh round in 2014.
With all attention focused on overtaking the Cavs for the No. 1 seed in the East, the offseason -- trades, the draft, free agency -- is on the backburner in Celtics Nation these days.
But that pot's still simmering,
And it began to boil a little today when Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, in the middle of a story on the Clippers being at a crossroad, threw a little accelerant on that old Blake Griffin-to-Boston flame . . .
But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start — perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win. The most intriguing fit might be if he were to go home to Oklahoma to join Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, but his interests in the entertainment industry make staying in Los Angeles a priority.
Not much of a thread to grab there. But that didn't prevent cbssports.com's James Herbert from looking into it . . .
Jumping to another contender on a max contract might not be simple. As CelticsBlog’s Keith P. Smith pointed out, Boston would have to dump Terry Rozier, waive Tyler Zeller and renounce all its free agents, including Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson, in order to even get near the amount of cap room that would be required to offer Griffin or someone like Gordon Hayward a max deal.
Then again, Herbert says the Lakers and Thunder, Griffin's supposed other two destination spots, are even less financially flexible than the C's.
For now, it's all just a temporary diversion from the battle for No. 1.
It's also a reminder, though, that a whole new season -- the offseason -- is just around the corner.