HOWEY: The Hoosier inspiration in front of us, among us

The coast of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Park. (Photo: WTHR/Steve Rhodes)
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Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS — I’m tired of what’s his face, you know, the guy with the orange hair who lives in a White House in Washington sucking the oxygen out of everything. They’re trying to get rid of Mr. Orange Pushup with impeachment proceedings this week, and I’d rather write about anything else.

And so, why not? It’s time for some good old-fashioned Hoosier inspiration!

Like Coach Walter McCarty’s Purple Aces. Who would have believed that the Evansville basketball team would go into Rupp Arena and upset the No. 1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats? They did it at Coach McCarty’s alma mater. Let’s give the Purple Aces a Howey Blue Star.

Since we’re in sports mode, how about the Indiana Pacers, missing their top three stars, starting out the season 0-3, then rebounding to a 7-4 record even with their stars still recuperating? They get a Howey blue star. I can't wait for Victor Oladipo's return. If the Pacers can stay healthy, I believe the sky is the limit for this team.

I must cite the 7-2 Indiana Hoosiers football team, which cracked the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in a quarter century. Coach Tom Allen and Athletic Director Fred Glass get a couple of stars for pure perseverance while enduring a long, long slog to relevance dating back to the nutty decision to fire Coach Bill Mallory.

So, too, does third-string Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell, who came into the Northwestern game cold and tossed two TDs to pull out a victory. Hand him another Howey blue star.

One final sports note: To the Indianapolis Colts for sticking with future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri, who is going through a rough patch. A real rough patch that has cost the Colts a couple of Ws. The easy thing to do in the win-at-any-cost NFL might have been to retire him early and bring in Cody (Double Doink) Parkey. Something tells me Vinatieri still has some game winning spark left in his sunset season. There's something about the concept of loyalty that overrides a temporary crisis, even in the brutal NFL.

All Hoosiers should rise in appreciation of Jim McClelland, who was poised for retirement in 2015 after a stellar 45-year career at Goodwill Industries. Instead of riding into the sunset, Gov. Eric Holcomb tapped him to head the state's effort to get a handle on the opioid/heroin epidemic that has been hammering the state, a disaster that has claimed thousands of lives. This became the most challenging job in Indiana. I personally know of a half dozen families who have either lost a son or daughter, or who have struggled with recovery with this insidious scourge. The epidemic isn't over, but McClelland spent three years getting a handle on this situation and deserves our never-ending thanks.

We've just gone through the municipal elections and we have some new mayors coming into office, including Tyler Moore in Kokomo, Jerome Prince in Gary, James Mueller in South Bend, Rod Roberson at Elkhart, Emily Styron in Zionsville, Dan Ridenour in Muncie and Sue Lynch in Portage. Several of the out-going mayors like Kokomo's Greg Goodnight, Auburn's Norm Yoder and Bluffton's Ted Ellis made a real difference in their cities and deserve our thanks. They've set a high bar for the 2019 class.

Then there's Mueller's boyhood friend, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who did something real crazy, like seeking the presidency as a 37-year-old running a city of 100,000 people. Many Hoosier Democrats I know thought he was (pick one: crazy, over ambitious, nuts), and yet here we are and Mayor Pete is leading recent polling in Iowa and surging in New Hampshire. It's far too early to tell whether he can become the first Hoosier Democrat to win a presidential nomination, but at this point he has a real shot.

I love it when politicians recalibrate and recognize a problem even if it doesn't fit in their party's policy portfolio. Freshman Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun just formed a Climate Change Caucus in the Senate with Democrat Sen. Chris Coons. There is a great deal of scary data coming on this front with ocean levels expected to rise and warm much more rapidly than experts thought just a few years ago, so it gives many of us great hope that Congress will approach what could be a generational hurdle in a bipartisan manner.

Another Hoosier lawmaker deserving of our appreciation is U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, who announced the day after the municipal elections that he's hanging it up at 36 years. Visclosky devised and then executed the Marquette Plan, which took the industrialized southern Lake Michigan shoreline and transformed it into a series of parks, trails and wildlife habitats. The crowning achievement was the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore being transformed into the state's first national park. If you haven't paid a visit to Indiana Dunes National Park, check it out and give Rep. Visclosky your thanks for the vision to create one of Indiana's most beautiful habitats.

With so much discord and rancor in places like Washington, it was good for my soul to write a column about the inspirational things happening around us. Send me an email with other examples you see in your communities and I promise a future follow up column. In the meantime, I’m heading to the fridge for another Orange Pushup.

The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.

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