David Hoppe

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:: Michael Jordan in Indy


by David Hoppe

Talk about a mighty whiff. Just before the holidays the Indianapolis Business Journal reported on how one of downtown’s oldest buildings is being renovated in order to house a pair of art galleries. The building, at 42 E. Washington St., will feature galleries on two floors, one of which, Second Floor Art and Entertainment, will have a sports theme.

The IBJ story went on to say that the centerpiece of that gallery will be a permanent replica of the Michael Jordan sculpture that sits outside the United Center in Chicago.

Michael Jordan.


Not surprisingly, the story drew a stream of reader comments about as long as my arm expressing incredulity at the decision to give Michael Jordan, Chicago’s greatest basketball star and nemesis of Indiana’s Pacers, pride of place at a prominent downtown location. Jordan, you may recall, drove a dagger into the heart of one of Indy’s greatest teams during an epic playoff series in 1998. That team, led by Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, battled the Bulls down to the wire in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Those games were electrifying and brought Indianapolis together in a way unrivalled by any other sports event until, of course, the Colts’ Super Bowl run.

Reggie Miller, it should be noted, has yet to get his statue in Indianapolis.

Now I have to admit that while I love the arts and sports, I’ve never really been moved by most efforts to combine the two. Sports deal in the literal. You win, you lose; a play is made or it isn’t. Statistics, quantification, means a lot in sports, from batting averages to quarterback ratings to the time it takes to run a mile.

The arts tend to gather their strengths from other sources. They find meaning in what can’t be measured, in experiences where something may be deeply felt but, until an artist finds a means of expressing it, virtually invisible.

This is why, at its best, art concerning sports tends to take the form of nifty illustration, and why work like that Georgia St. sculpture of John Wooden surrounded by a bunch of legs cut off at the thigh can strike so many of us as ludicrously misbegotten.

That said, there is no question but that sports have made a large and lasting contribution to Indy’s sense of place. Celebrating this legacy is a great idea. In fairness, it should be noted that Second Floor Art & Entertainment has commissioned pieces depicting Reggie Wayne and Paul George for resale.

But Michael Jordan?

On permanent display in downtown Indianapolis?

Perhaps the people behind Second Floor Art & Entertainment are Michael Jordan fans. That’s understandable and, in Chicago, homage to Jordan would be good for business. Not here. Indianapolis is not a suburb of Chicago.

No, Indianapolis is its own city, with its own history and heroes. Come to think of it, where’s the statue of Larry Bird?