INDIANAPOLIS -- Here at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Airport, there's magic in the air. Mid-Majority headquarters, usually empty on account of the airport moving away two years ago, has turned into a bonafide basketball mecca. The median height has shot up past the 6-foot mark, and the number of bald spots in the atrium viewable from the fifth floor has increased considerably. The coaches are here, so many that this is a designated NABC Convention shuttle stop. The front desk staff is all wearing striped referee shirts, but the official uniform elsewhere is the logo sweatsuit.
They say that in 49 states it's just basketball,
but this is Indianapolis, the center of the one state where not liking hoops is an actual felony, punishable by jail time. It's been a year since we moved Hoops Nation's capital to the Circle City
, and we have never been more proud of that decision. Since Season 6 started, we've spent a total of 22 nights at the CPIA, which may actually qualify me for an Indiana driver's license. So as the entirety of Hoops Nation (and all of the world above the Red Line) descends upon our fair capital today, I say this to all: welcome to our home.
Visitors will discover Indianapolitans not only wear their hearts on their sleeves, they will turn themselves inside out for you. You are guaranteed to leave town with at least a handful of life stories; in fact, within the past 24 hours, I've learned about a bricklayer's marriage problems, a CPIA waitress' mother's pancreatic cancer, and I had to flatly decline the advances of a gay environmentalist engineer. I used to think that this was strange behavior, that people here were really lonely and just wanted someone to talk to. I've come to realize that Indianapolitans simply hate being strangers. And this weekend, every visitor will have a million new friendly friends.
To celebrate this mass influx into our kindly adopted city, we've put together a short list of things to see and do and eat when you can't get into the RAM
(the official headquarters of Butler fans), or when you're simply tired of all the sanitized corporate events like "Bracket Town". We've enlisted the help of a fellow tour guide -- recently converted Indianapolitan, Basketball Prospectus
pro, and interim pinch-hitting superstar
John Gasaway.Cafe Patachou4911 North Pennsylvania Street
On February 18, 2007, I took a skeptical vegetarian cosmopolite named Kyle Whelliston out to brunch at the Cafe Patachou at 49th and Penn. Within 90 minutes he was tossing his beret skyward in jubilation and thanking me heartily for a delicious repast. Just a few blocks from Hinkle, Patachou is where Butler students commingle most thoroughly and noisily with the surrounding town. Their cooks are to omelets what Ronald Nored is to defense. And for you visitors there's even a Patachou at the airport. Adjust your tray table and seat-back for delicious!The Flying Cupcake Bakery
5617 North Illinois Street | MapKyle:
Patachou can't be beat for breakfast, and the patio at Plump's Last Shot
is probably going to be full all weekend, but if you're like me and all you eat during the NCAA Tournament is made of refined sugar, the FCB is the place for you. We personally recommend the Auf Wiedersehen and the HoHo, but maybe later. You're going to need something special for your Butler viewing party. Ask for "The Bally," and if they look at you weird, just show them this picture. They'll know what to do.Indianapolis Canal Walk801 West Washington Street
Nothing says "irrational early-republic exuberance for ill-conceived transportation improvements" like a 171-year-old canal that was abandoned 288 miles short of the Ohio River. But just because Martin Van Buren presided over two economic Panics in one term doesn't mean you have to lose your head! Take a relaxing stroll along the banks of Indy's Central Canal. Whether you're downtown near NCAA headquarters or uptown in the vicinity of Hinkle, the Canal is a reassuring dash of diagonal in an otherwise grid-dominant landscape.Westin Indianapolis
50 South Capitol Ave. | MapKyle:
While most bored fans will flock to the NCAA Hall of Non-Vacated Champions, the real basketball cognoscenti will make their pilgrimages to the Westin -- the real place where student-athlete dreams live and die. Make the trek up all the way to the top to the 15th floor; not since Lee Harvey Oswald held a rifle has one cross-section of one building held so much meaning. Be sure to snap pictures of yourself outside the conference room... or if you bribe the staff, maybe they'll let you step inside to feel the magic for yourself. Years and years of Tournament lore are in this room, the weeklong home of the Selection Committee every March. When you get home, you can tell your friends that you went to the place where they made Northern Iowa a No. 9 seed.Do you have any Indianapolis places we've missed? Send them in through The Form™.