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Many in area worthy of Red Coat honor

June 24, 2017 GMT

The Komets have been playing at Memorial Coliseum for 65 years. The Mad Anthonys have been holding golf tournaments for 57. Yet it took until Friday night for the Mad Anthonys, a charity-driven organization of business leaders and professionals from northeast Indiana, to make such a significant recognition of Fort Wayne’s beloved hockey team.

The Komets’ ownership group : Stephen, Michael, David, William and Richard Franke, and Scott Sproat : received the Mad Anthonys’ highest honor, Red Coats, along with state Sen. David Long.

Moving forward, it would be great to see the Mad Anthonys continue to recognize the people who have, and do, impact local sports and charities as profoundly as the Komets.

While the charitableness of the Mad Anthonys is as good as it ever was : they raise money for the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House that provides lodging and support for the families of children undergoing pediatric and neonatal treatment : the size and scope of the golf tournament and Red Coat dinner has been scaled back through the years.

The golf tournament, which will take place today at Fort Wayne Country Club, no longer has the national celebrities from sports, film and TV, largely because appearance, travel and organizational fees became too much and detracted from the raising of money for charity.

Red Coats have been bestowed to so many household names, including Bob Knight, Neil Armstrong, Fuzzy Zoeller, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. And there certainly are deserving nationally famous people with Indiana ties who haven’t yet gotten a Red Coat. DaMarcus Beasley, one of the best soccer players in the world and a native of Fort Wayne, and Major League Baseball manager and Evansville native Don Mattingly come to mind.

After honoring mostly businesspeople from 2013-16 : Bruce Dye, Tom Kelley, Chuck Surack, Keith Busse : it would be nice to see the Mad Anthonys get back to honoring sports figures while drawing attention to the cause by acknowledging people that those reading this column will bring more familiarity.

The Komets’ owners run one of the most popular teams in minor league sports, but they had only one representative to receive a Red Coat before : late broadcaster Bob Chase. Fixtures in the community and people known throughout hockey, like Len Thornson, Eddie Long, Colin Chin and Colin Chaulk, have been sorely overlooked.

The Mad Anthonys have only scratched the surface of people who have benefited this great sports community in other sports. Yes, Saint Francis football coach Kevin Donley and former IPFW volleyball coach Arnie Ball have Red Coats, but wouldn’t it move the needle to honor people like former Mad Ants basketball player Ron Howard, who has affected countless kids off the court through his sports camps and won a championship on it?

Or, Bishop Dwenger football coach Chris Svarczkopf, whose return from battling cancer was as talked-about a high school story as any around here in the last couple years? What about Mike Nutter, who runs the hugely successful TinCaps?

Granted, it’s easy to say they should give the Red Coat to someone. But they would have to be vetted, available and willing to accept it. The point is, though, that the Mad Anthonys are onto something by honoring the Komets’ management because they are more a part of the fabric of local sports, and have done more to help local charities, than people like Isiah Thomas.

There’s nothing wrong with giving Red Coats to people like Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and former Indiana quarterback Trent Green, who both got the honor in the last seven years, but their ties to northeast Indiana are minimal. You don’t have to look far, at places like the Coliseum or the many universities in the area, to find people who should be honored, too.

Justin A. Cohn is a senior writer for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1997. He can be reached by email jcohn@jg.net; phone, 461-8429; or fax 461-8648.