INDIANAPOLIS — Leaders of Indiana's capital city spent years gussying up their downtown by building big sports and convention venues and luring nice hotels, popular restaurants and a four-story shopping mall to locate here.
By the time 5,000 credentialed media rolled into town for the spectacle known as Super Bowl XLVI, those leaders were convinced the city had long outgrown its derogatory nickname: "India-no-place."
But reputations die hard.
On the Sunday before Super Sunday, an Indianapolis-embedded reporter with The New York Times opened his story about the city with not-too-kind references to tractors, homespun scarves and heartland values.
Indianapolis, he wrote, was a "useful antonym" for glamour.
The newspaper story — like a multitude of ones just like it in recent days — posed the basic question: How did an un-hip, super-square city like Indianapolis score a Super Bowl?
The answer: By letting Indianapolis be Indianapolis.
As two East Coast teams — the New York Giants and the New England Patriots — get ready to play in Sunday’s game, the city hosting the event seems to be embracing its Midwest identity.
"I wouldn’t want anybody to take this wrong, but we don't ever want to be New York," said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Letting Indianapolis be Indianapolis is what may have landed the city the Super Bowl on its second try.
Five years ago, the NFL's 32 team owners who pick Super Bowl sites four years in advance were impressed with Indianapolis’ pitch: It included a new $720 million stadium built mostly with public money; a long history of hosting big sporting events, from the 1987 Pan Am games to multiple repeats of the NCAA Final Four; and the availability of 18,300 hotel rooms within walking distance to the downtown stadium.
But they weren't impressed enough. Indianapolis lost out on the 2011 Super Bowl to Dallas’ super-sized promise of hosting the best and biggest Super Bowl event in history.