Some disclaimers before I begin:
- My brother and I are season ticket holders for the Indianapolis Colts. Currently, I live overseas and Demond attends all the games, but my name is on the tickets too.
- We sold our tickets for Sunday's game for a decent price. Ours is a working family. We knew the Colts were probably going to pull starters at some point. It's Christmas. We needed the money. I make no apologies for that.
The outrage over Sunday's debacle continues to wash unabated over Indianapolis. It is starting to drive me insane. Before I address the solution, let me make a couple of points:
1. Fans should not be allowed to run football teams. GMs and coaches SHOULD NOT EVER take fans wishes into consideration. That is not their job. Anyone who suggests that Bill Polian or Jim Caldwell should give two flips what any fan thinks is building a recipe for a losing franchise. Stuff your anger at them. They don't care what you think. They are smarter than you are. Bill Polian is one of the smartest front office men in the history of football. Jim Caldwell has a 14-1 football team. They know better than you. Accept it. I'm considered a knowledgeable Colts fan. I would take any one of you and anyone in the media in a throw down about Colts knowledge right now and beat you silly. I'm actually writing a book about the complete history of the Colts in Indianapolis. When it comes to football, I am a moron compared to those men.
2. The Colts made a purely football decision. They only considered the football ramifications of the decision. Good. That's what I want from my coach and GM. Ask the Jags what it feels like to have to make football decisions based on the crowd. They are going to draft Tim Tebow and ruin their franchise forever. We can debate the football merits of the decision. That's fair. Personally, I believe the decision had precious little football merit. There was some merit, which I tracked yesterday, but I will be annoyed for the rest of my life when I talk about Sunday's game. That being said, it was a football decision, and I trust those men to make good ones because they have for a decade now.
3. Only one thing matters. The problem, at its core, is that too many of us have started to believe the media. Here's a list of meaningless things:
- Team of the Decade!
- Greatest Team of All Time!
- Franchise rankings
- Most anything on ESPN voted on by writers
- Everything written on SI.com
- The '72 Dolphins
Most of us saw this season as a chance to get a leg up on the Pats. They have three rings. We have one. A perfect season, according to some, was worth two or three rings. I said so myself.
The Colts have said, "Nothing is worth a ring but a ring". Nothing matters but the Super Bowl. There is no value in the rest of it.
They are right.
You care more about Indy being the "Team of the Decade" than Polian and Caldwell because they know the truth:
The decade is an arbitrary (and wrongly calculated) time period. What matters is that the Pats have three rings, but none since 2004. They want another. So does Indy. The Chargers have no rings and would kill for one. Team of the effing decade?
They just want to be team of the year.
So does everyone else.
The Colts have thumbed their noses at "history" because they know that today's history is tomorrow's afterthought. The only thing that matters is the hardware on your finger. That you take to the grave. Anything else, and the media will just yank it away when the next flavor of the month comes along.
4. Colts fans are spoiled. You want meaningless games? Go to a game when your team is 1-14. That's a meaningless freaking game. That's a waste of money. I've done that. Before 1997, we paid for my grandparents tickets and went to the games. We bought our set in June of 1997. We started that year 0-10. I never want to hear anyone bitch about having to watch a 14-1 team. I know seats are expensive. I know it's real money. It was real money when the team sucked. I went to plenty of those meaningless games and watched first stringers worse than this team's backups. About 26 other fanbases would trade places with you RIGHT NOW. Bill Polian has given you more wins this decade than in the first 15 years of the franchise combined. Before Polian:
- We had won one division title. Now we have seven.
- We had won two playoff games. Now we have a Super Bowl.
- We had been to the playoffs three times. Now we go every year.
- We had three Hall of Fame Players (Dickerson, Faulk, Harrison and not all at the same time). Now we have Manning, Freeney, Wayne, and Saturday all at once.
Now, none of that is to say there is no problem. There is a problem. The decision to rest players was handled as sloppily and poorly as possible. People are angry. I don't blame them. I'm angry about it too. No matter how over the top and out of proportion the reaction is, the Colts have to recognize that it is a real reaction. The football side of the operation did not anticipate just how much the rest of the city wanted 16-0. They had no clue what a fire storm they had touched off. Why? It's not their job to worry about the fans.
It is Mr. Irsay's job.
Jim Irsay is a great owner because he stays hands off the football side. He should NOT have stepped in to mandate the Colts play their players. That would be a violation of every thing he stands for as an owner. He SHOULD have demanded they tell the fans up front they were doing it though. Listen, don't give me any bunk about "competitive advantage". The Colts went into the game with Curtis F. Painter as their #2. They intentionally lost that game. When you are trying to lose a football game, you don't get to claim the right of secrecy.
IT WAS TWO DAYS AFTER CHRISTMAS. There were scores of people who spent good money to take kids to games. That was a big event for a lot of families. They had a right to know up front was happeneing.
I have no sympathy for season ticket holders. We know the drill up front. We pay for 10 Colts games. We get 7. We pay for two preseason games and a meaningless last home game. That's the deal we've made for 10 years now.
But anyone who spent money just on this game as a single ticket, and didn't realize what was going to happen, you have my sympathy. The Colts were way too cagey about the decision. They did it for football reasons, but Mr. Irsay has to realize that his team was watched in a public stadium by people who paid real money and gave gifts of tickets. Those people had a right to know what they were seeing. The football people wanted to lose the game. That's their prerogative, but should have warned the rest of us. By the way, I don't buy the retarded conspiracy theory that they did it to sell concessions. That stadium was going to be full no matter what. The Colts had already sold all the tickets.
So now it happened. It's done. Polian is mad as hell because he doesn't think he should have to explain and justify a football decision to the fans. He shouldn't. They aren't his problem. Mr. Irsay on the other hand DOES have to worry about the fans.
Mr. Irsay needs to come out and apologize for the way the franchise handled the weekend. He doesn't have to apologize for the decision, just for the fact that they didn't give paying customers a heads up they weren't going to make an honest effort. And it was NOT an honest effort. An honest effort means a team does not:
- Run a practice squad caliber rookie QB on the field against the #1 defense in football deep in his own territory and ask him to drop back and throw passes
- Punt on 4th and 3 from the 47 knowing the offense only has two more possesions the rest of the game.
Right or wrong as a football move, it was a PR disaster and no amount of self justifcation is going to correct that. People don't care about the Super Bowl. They've listened to Deion Sanders and Keyshawn Johnson and Don Banks and Peter King and Rodney Harrison and now they want MORE. Right or wrong, that is the case.
Mr. Irsay needs to step in as a businessman and apologize that people weren't notified. He needs to show that he cares that people are mad.
Because I don't think this will just blow over come January.
Say you are sorry, Jim.
Even if you don't mean it.