Sunday, January 14, 2007

After All these Years Indy Needs a Winner

I’m sitting here in the Abbey coffee shop on a Sunday morning, just finishing up my breakfast of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and cream cheese, still feeling good about the Colts playoff victory on Saturday.

Now, I’m not a big sports fan. I typically don’t watch football on Sunday afternoons, except for Colts games. I can’t stand baseball except for the occasional Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field. And I haven’t even watched a Pacers game this year, since I lost all respect for the players after the late-night strip club antics of several of them during the preseason.

I never played sports when I was in school. I wouldn’t have been any good anyway. I did enjoy the mechanics of the game, especially football. It intrigued me. Just after I graduated high school, I officiated a few Bantam League games. And in college, I was one of the officials for their intramural football and basketball games. Unfortunately, I really stank up the proceedings.

I was quick on the whistle and often didn’t see what officials are supposed to see. But I still liked doing it.

In my teens and early 20s, my favorite sport was football and my favorite teams were the Bears, Cowboys, and Packers. That was long before Indianapolis got a team. It was still very much a minor league city, with the Indians and the ABA Pacers.

I liked only professional football, not college. And I didn’t like the AFC. So when the AFC Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984 I was a little ambivalent. I was really pleased the city now had an NFL team, but I would have been happier if it had been from the NFC. I also would have much rather the team be renamed. I firmly believe that team names should remain with the city.

Still, I suddenly became a Colts fan. Indianapolis now had two major league professional sports franchises, the NBA Pacers and the AFC Colts. But simply having the teams didn’t garner instant respect from the nation.

We almost lost the Pacers in 1977. If it hadn’t been for a major season ticket drive and even a telethon hosted by then Channel 8 sports anchor Chet Coppack the Pacers would have been history.

The team struggled throughout much of its history following the NBA-ABA merger. Attendance was so low at Market Square Arena that Pacers management had to bribe the fans into attending by putting on rock music shows following the games.

Finally, though, the Pacers started getting noticed. In the late ‘90s and throughout much of this decade the Pacers have been a contender. The Colts, too, whose name used to stand for “Count On Losing This Sunday” started to gain national respectability. With Peyton Manning at the helm, they have almost become America’s Team, replacing the Cowboys. At least that was the perception last season and the year before.

But, alas, a Super Bowl appearance has remained elusive. They almost got in once, but the Hale Mary pass to the end zone as time ran out fell to the ground.

Well, despite a less-than-spectacular end to this season and a defense that ranked dead last during the regular season, the Colts are poised for another Super Bowl bid. All they have to do is win one more game. It won’t be easy, but it will be possible. And if the team has proven anything during the playoffs, it is that they are now driven.

After 23 years of ups and downs, mainly downs, the Indianapolis Colts might actually be Super Bowl bound. Hopefully, this will be their year to go.

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