There’s a lot to complain about in this world, and we as humans certainly love to do it, but with Thanksgiving approaching (unless you’re Canadian, in which case we don’t care about you) I thought it would be a good idea to take a moment and reflect on just how lucky we are here in the Crossroads of America.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not going to sit here and tell you that the Indianapolis Colts are thegreatest franchise in the history of American sports, or that we should feel privileged to pay our money to an organization worth more than a billion dollars (how you spend your money is totally up to you of course), but I think it’s worth pointing out just how fortunate we’ve been to root for a great team over the years.
Let’s do this. You know the drill, 5 reasons in order of ascending magnitude.
5. The Stadium
The RCA Dome was a bit of a mess, uncomfortable seats, slippery concrete floors, ugly aesthetics, and disgusting bathrooms. In 2006 it was announced that the Colts, in partnership with the city of Indianapolis, would be building a new stadium to replace the aging dome; the Luke was conceived.
Since its opening to begin the 2008 season, Lucas Oil Stadium has won multiple awards, including the Grand Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies for the technical achievement of the building itself. In 2012, a review for the magazine “Stadium Journey” claimed that watching a Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium, “may be the best sports experience in the world.” And they aren’t even Colts fans.
Miles of tailgaters, state of the art facilities, award winning architecture, classic yet modern aesthetics, the experience of enjoying a game at the “Luke”, as it’s affectionately referred to, is like few in the world. Whatever you may think about the financing of the stadium itself, you’ve got to admit, it’s one heck of an achievement.
4. The Owner
He’s been called the “Mad Tweeter” but to most of us here in Indiana he’s just our owner. Jim Irsay took some serious flak, and deservedly so, for his handling (or mishandling as the case may be) of certain aspects of the Peyton Manning departure, but what he sometimes lacks in social tact, Mr. Irsay more than makes up for with fan appreciation and solid organizational decision making.
Irsay took over ownership of the Colts upon the death of his father in 1997. What has followed has been a decade and a half of winning football. A lot of that credit certainly goes to Bill Polian, Peyton Manning, and Tony Dungy, but if not for Jim Irsay pulling the strings to bring those guys in the Colts might have gone the way of the San Diego Chargers, drafting Ryan Leaf, employing the most hated GM in football A. J. Smith, being coached by Norv Turner, struggling through one disappointing season after another, and now dealing with talks of moving the franchise to Los Angeles. Irsay saved us from that fate, and now we have Andrew Luck to carry the torch for the next decade and a half.
Aside from his organizational decisions Jim Irsay is known for his unprecedented level of fan interaction for an owner of a major sports franchise this side of Mark Cuban. He frequently gives out tickets and prizes (sending two fans to the Jets game with free tickets, a ride on the team plane, and even some spending money), and even organized a raffle to give away Super Bowl XLI rings to help raise money for charity. The man is many things, goofy, eccentric, and socially awkward even, but he’s got his heart in the right place and has been as a good an owner as any fan could hope for.
3. The History
I was born in 1986, two years after the Colts moved to Indianapolis, so my knowledge of the Baltimoreera is wrapped in lore and mystique more than reality or personal experience. Johnny Unitas, considered by many to be the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL, took the Colts to national prominence (before Johnny-U they had not recorded a single winning season), and in the process became a legend of the game. That Baltimore era is filled with Hall of Fame names and memorable moments, the Colts of that era serving to shape the future of football in many ways both subtle and profound.
Here in Indianapolis things got off to a rockier start. From the early-80’s to the late-90’s it was pretty rough going. Robert Irsay struggled as an owner and put together one miserable team after another. They had a couple Eric Dickerson led competent teams in the late 80’s, and Jim Harbaugh gave us some memorable moments as the quarterback of an overachieving ragtag bunch in the 1995 season, earning the nickname “Captain Comeback” in the process, but fell one play short of the Super Bowl on an infamous hail mary attempt that was nearly completed. It wasn’t until the drafting of Peyton Manning in 1998 that the Colts really regained their place in the pantheon of great NFL franchises.
With Manning at the helm the Colts saw unprecedented levels of accomplishment, winning the most games ever in a single decade (115), making the playoffs 11 times in 12 seasons, recording seven consecutive 12 win seasons, playing in two super bowls (winning one), and putting the Indianapolis Colts back in the collective consciousness of national sports fandom (ranking #2 behind the Dallas Cowboys as the country’s most popular team at one point in the 2000s).
Most fans would kill for that level of franchise success, here in Indianapolis we didn’t have to.
2. The Players
History is one thing, but what about the present? Well here in 2012 we have the honest-to-goodness Midwestern pleasure of rooting for players we actually like. The NFL, in some circles, has come to be known as the “National Felons League” because of the ridiculous number of players who seem to get arrested each and every season (34 NFL players and counting have been arrested so far in 2012). Here in the Midwest we value integrity, and the Colts reflect those values, the franchise gaining a national reputation for choosing character over talent, and it’s worked pretty well so far.
This 2012 roster is littered with players full of character and charisma. Reggie Wayne turned down more money to come back to a rebuilding team because he loves the city and the fans. The new franchise QB, Andrew Luck, has proven himself humble and self-deprecating, as talented as he is intelligent, every bit the savior we all hoped he’d be. Chuck Pagano, a player’s coach if there ever was one, came to Indianapolis, won over the team, was diagnosed with leukemia, and then turned it on its head, creating a positive out of a negative through courage and self-sacrifice. The story lines could go on and on with this team, player after player with interesting backstories and fan friendly personalities. We are truly lucky to be rooting for such a great group of men.
Sports fans will willfully engage in all manner of mental gymnastics to root for players they would otherwise likely detest, a difficult position to be in no doubt, but it’s quite a refreshing change to like the players on the field without even needing to try.
1. The Quarterbacks
I’ve already mentioned them but let’s take a moment to reflect on this good fortune more specifically.
Starting with Johnny Unitas, a pioneer of the forward pass and winner of three NFL Most Valuable Player Awards. Johnny U, as he was known, won’t appear in the top 5 of any of the modern passing chart we’ve come to accept as normal, but in his era he was the single greatest quarterback that ever put on the uniform. Finishing his career with nearly every passing record recorded at the time, “The Golden Arm” was the personification of excellence, his competitive fire and will to win now legendary. He pushed the game of football forward and helped usher in the era of passing that would define the NFL for decades to come.
With a shout-out to Jim Harbaugh’s “Cardiac Kids” of the mid-90’s, and the 6 excellent seasons of Bert Jones (and one MVP) in the 70s, the next great Colts quarterback was Peyton Manning. A worthy successor to the great Johnny U, Manning proved that it isn’t always the most physically talented player that is the best. Through sheer strength of will and an undying desire to be the best, Manning took the NFL by storm with his unique brand of no huddle play calling and at the line of scrimmage adjustments. No quarterback in the history of the NFL has been able to read a defense the way Manning does, and his uncanny knack for making the right read and the perfect throw places him smack dab in the middle of the Greatest Of All Time conversation.
It’s one thing when you have two great quarterbacks separated by decades (Johnny U retired in 1974), but to have one stacked directly on top of the other would be like going from Michael Jordan to LeBron James, it just doesn’t happen in sports. Well this time it has. Which brings us finally to our latest super star, Andrew Luck, the European raised, soccer loving, Stanford educated quarterback from Washington D.C. While he may not have the aww-shucks southern charm of Peyton Manning, which plays so well here in the Midwest, his own brand of humble-to-a-fault never good enough attitude is endearing in its own right. While it’s way early to put Luck in the conversation with Manning and Unitas, early signs point to another great quarterback, his physical gifts and mental acuity providing nearly unlimited potential.
Should be a fun ride.
Here are some awesome Peyton Manning commercials to really set things off. Have a great day and, as always, thanks for reading.
You wrote, "It’s one thing when you have two great quarterbacks separated by decades (Johnny U retired in 1974), but to have one stacked directly on top of the other...it just doesn't happen in sports." You're too young to remember this, but the late-1980s 49ers started Hall of Famer Joe Montana...and had Hall of Famer Steve Young riding the bench. True, in the salary-cap era this would never, ever happen (which means it won't happen again)...but still. (Oh, and we also have the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers thing, but in that case, it's not like Rodgers was immediately awesome.)
Always good to be positive.
"But genius burns for distinction" - so lets keep improving.
(stay on topic .. stay on topic.. fuck it)
Cut that meat! Cut that meat!
Man, really makes me nostalgic watching those old Manning commercials. Still love watching his laser rocket arm in Denver, though, and no denying I love rooting for Luck. I just hope Andrew makes as dryly funny of commercials (I guess he's probably a few years away from his SNL skit).
One more pro-Bert Jones comment. He indeed had a cannon, and sadly little touch. When playing football in the street, friends would rib me by saying Hey, it's "Bert Jones" and drill an uncatchable 60 MPH fastball to a vctim/receiver 5 yards away. Ouch. Any Marchibroda-coached team is okay by me--mid-70s Colts, Mid 90s Colts. Okay, except the Ravens....
We really really really are spoiled. I think back on the 1991 1-15 team... sheesh! I remember wearing my Colts ball cap home from work one night in NYC. As I approached the elevator, the CEO called out from behind, "Hey, is that a Giants hat?" I turned around with a big smile and just pointed at the horse shoe. "Colts?!?! Did they even win a game last year?" "Yeah, just one, beat the Jets. Hah!" (Giants fans and other AFCE fans could at least agree that the Jets were odious). I remember when an 8-8 or 9-7 year felt pretty good. I was 31 when the Harbaugh and the 95 Colts nearly made me cry with pride. Colts fans have so much to be thankful for. I especially like your choice of Irsay--it all starts from the top. Ask any Raiders fan.... (or, I grudgingly add, Pats fan) a good owner is a precious commodity.
"With a shout-out to Jim Harbaugh’s “Cardiac Kids” of the mid-90’s, the next great Colts quarterback was Peyton Manning..."
What, no love for Jeff George?? ;)
Can't agree with all of your self important hype! Probably because you are too young to have seen him play you are quick to dismiss Bert Jones because he only played 6 years. However, in that time and with the players he had available to work with, he elevated the Colts to serious contenders like no one else save John Unitas, himself, who as you almost begrudging admit deserves to be recognized as the true pioneer of modern QBs
As to your comment that you 'do not care' about Canadians, it only underscores how isolated you are by your own sense of self importance. There is a much bigger world out there. Get out and see a bit of it and you might come to appreciate that NFL football is a very, very small pond to play in compared to true global sports such as soccer where the players do not get a rest every 20 seconds but must run up and down the pitch non-stop for an hour and play both ways. We could go on and on about hockey, rugby and lacrosse but won't belabor the point.
As much as I have enjoyed watching the Colts with there terrific QBs including the newest, Andrew Luck, reality is that NFL Football is more hype than action. Turn off the sound on your TV, watch a game in person and you quickly come to appreciate how ponderous and lethargic it really is. Want a truly exciting football experience? Check out the CFL, that's right, the Canadian Football League where there are only three downs, the field is 10 yards longer and considerably wider, no place for big, out of shape run stuffing linemen as predominate in the NFL.
Nice article you left out one of the great quarterbacks Bert Jones I know he was before your time but the guy had a cannon and won a lot of games
Wait. You were born in 86? I have underwear older than you. All kidding aside, nice article. And some day you'll read an article written by someone who wasn't alive to see Peyton play. I hope they appreciate the Colts QB history too.
@mrpenney You have a very good point. Montana to Young was pretty comparable, as was Favre to Rodgers. So I guess to say it "just doesn't happen" is a bit untrue, should probably read "very rarely happens" but that doesn't sound as impressive. As people have been pointing out to me, even Unitas to Bert Jones was a pretty good QB transition. I guess I could argue that neither Young nor Rodgers were rookies when they took over for their HOF predecessors, but that doesn't really change the equation all that much. It's certainly rare for a #1 overall pick to take over for another #1 overall pick, but that's a different discussion and based entirely on the Colts unfortunate circumstance last season.
@7IHd Haha, yeah, probably is. I bet Luck has a good sense of humor, though according to some of the reports I've read from teammates his falls more in the "goofy" category than the understated dry delivery of Peyton Manning. Manning might be the best actor of any athlete in the history of sports, the guy is genuinely funny. Him and Eli together is the best, that old Sportscenter ad always makes me chuckle.
@Bobman1 I love this. Thanks for setting me straight on Bert Jones. I would have loved to see him play.
@AJ_ As a former Viking fan, I did love the year Jeff George played in Minnesota. Glad I missed his stint here in Indy though.
@AJ_ I almost considered it. He did have a winning season as the QB in 1992, so that's something right? Granted he only played 10 games.
@Bouchette Bob With all due respect, not sure what I said that was hyperbolic or self-important, if that's the case it was certainly not intentional. I am definitely not quick to dismiss Bert Jones, he just didn't ping my radar when writing this article, I'm sure he was as amazing as people are saying he was, I just have never seen him play, can't change that I'm afraid. I also don't think I was begrudging about my praise for Unitas or crediting him as a pioneer of the forward pass, in fact I'd call it effusive if anything.
The crack on Canadians was a lighthearted jab at Greg Cowan who resides in Canada, nothing to do with their version of football (which I'm sure is fantastic) or some kind of xenophobic commentary on Canadians or the world generally, just a joke, nothing else. I grew up in St. Petersburg, that's Russia not Florida, in a missionary family and have been to many foreign countries, love to travel, and have great respect for all varieties of sports (in fact I'm a huge fan of Australian Rules Football or "Footy" as it's called, which is easily as labor intensive as any of the sports you mentioned, which is kind of a bizarre point to make anyway, what does physical exertion have to do with anything? Iron man competition is probably the most labor intensive sport, that doesn't make it fun to watch).
I don't recall claiming that the NFL is the best sports league in the world or that football is the best sport... this is a blog about the Indianapolis Colts, who play in the NFL, which is a professional football league... why would I write about rugby, lacrosse, soccer, or footy on a blog about an NFL team? I'm sorry but that criticism makes no sense to me. You're certainly entitled to your opinion.
@HowardH Fair point, though in my defense Bert Jones, as brilliant as he may have been (and I admit I have never seen him play), had a rather short career. He played only 6 full seasons as a professional (compared to Johnny U's 15 and Manning's 13 going on 14).
@smonroe I was indeed. Thank you for the kind words. Fortunately for those future generations, digital distribution and HD technology should at least give them the opportunity to watch all the greats from this era... not as easy with Johnny U and Bert Jones I'm afraid.
Can't add anything when its perfect.
@ECB What I don't get was why he dickered around in signing with them. Had he just played halfway good citizen, he could've carved out a decent career with them. And he had Moss of all people speaking well of him.
It's just mind blowing. No one's ever denied his athletic talent; had he stayed with the Vikes, I could see a situation where Moss might have stayed too, and Minnesota not having to have drafted Culpepper. Could you imagine a George to Moss and Carter combination playing together for years?
@Colt_Following I was joking. I have too many clear memories of that time to actually be serious about the Colts fanbase according George any respect.
I mean... last I heard, he's mellowed out and become rather likeable. So I *am* talking about the past. But it seems to have happened only after all the setbacks (plus his poor mother's cancer... honestly, truly very sad). In his playing days, probably only Jason Whitlock liked him, and that's because they grew up together. Everyone else thought of him the same way people nowadays think of Moss or TO: Very talented, but cancerous in the locker room and therefore not worth considering.
As an aside: This is why I'm counting lucky stars for getting Luck. Supremely talented *AND* not a jerk? That's a perfect fit for the Indianapolis fanbase. And no, not all fanbases work like that, much as they'd like to pretend they do; do you see the Jets fanbase actually taking a liking to a goofy personality like Luck (not the player, the personality)? They don't want a respectable player, they want an antihero to jeer. If he's got no color or swagger, he's a pale shadow to them. But for Indy: Perfect fit.
Blah, I'm starting to ramble. Anyway: I was kidding about George, and man we're all lucky to get Andrew Luck.
Eh.. I don't really care per history.
You forget part of the reason the texanss are so great.. are because the colts they've played since 'they've risen' have been shit (peyton manning-less).. every variable is connected to others. I dont know the teams johnny u had in his dvision, nor how great he wouldve been if he was stuck on a cellar dweller.
Also part of the "Greatness" of our current quarterback is based on having reggie wayne.. take away him and it takes him down a notch. Also put the patriots in our divison and wipe out the terrible titans and jaguars and we're a 2 or 1 win team.
Challenge your preconceptions.
Its easy to say.. "ah.. yes.. today we are so grand.. and you sir.. are missing that gem from 1980 who was a mediocre quarterback but played to some good level on year by the name of jones since I am old".,,. but the fun is peering behind it all.. and noticing that luck next year and who we are as a team is based on going around mel kiper and the pundits.. and uncovering diamonds (rihanna baby). vick ballard is that type of excitement I dig. will be interesting to see which players today are unnoticed that go on to be franchise corner stones which bloggers write about in their spare time in future. "and this too will fade with time" (I think that was polians advice to Dmitrioff when he asked?)
Kept it on topic for a paragraph there
no worries man. hope your fine.
gotta do the sculpture report which should b interesting. work soon too. so hooray.
That's one way of looking at it. Nobody is suggesting the Colts stop getting better. I barely even addressed this years team performance in my comments, I am simply reflecting on the fortune of being a Colts fan over a lot of other tortured franchises. Nothing controversial about that I wouldn't think.
@ECB Oh. I thought Culpepper was taken later. My mistake.
@AJ_ Culpepper was already on the team when George was there. My understanding was that George was very eager to re-sign, but they were unwilling to offer a multi-year contract, and didn't have cap space to offer much in a one year deal. Basically they wanted to get the QB of the future onto the field.
Too bad as I recall they went to the NFC championship game with Culpepper and probably would have gone further with George, who was a much better QB by that point in his career. Having a QB with his arm throwing to Moss & Carter with a solid O-line and RB was amazing.
@Colt_Following Oh, I missed that you got it. Heh (*blush*)
And: Man, quit making me feel old!! >:-( My high school played his when he was their QB, and I remember a play in the 4th quarter where our team got sick of getting the beatdown, so they put in an All Out blitz and knocked him down HARD. It was enough to keep him on the ground for a good, honest 3 or 4 minutes. I remember that everyone was silent, but afterwards - yes, AFTER the game - I heard some adults and damn near every student speak with zero regret about it.
The students I could understand; all of us felt negatively about him back then, and yes, he was still only in high school! But it shocked me to hear the adults basically saying the same thing.
But yeah, his pro career... when you've got Bob & Tom's crew laughing at you, you've lost the city. Those of us who got Q-95 remember the Mr. Obvious skits with Dean Metcalf lampooning him. I recall 2 of them outright, but I don't remember the Jeff George wine one.
@AJ_ I knew you were kidding, so was I. Jeff George was playing when I was still in grade school, so I can't really claim to know much about him, but I will say that I recall listening to a Bob and Tom skit (my elementary school bus driver used to play it on the radio, though perhaps not age appropriate, was always good for a laugh) called "Jeff George Wine" that was all about how horrible he was as a human being. It has stuck with me to this day.
@smonroe Claiming that a team can only be good if their division is good makes no sense to me. Your argument that the Colts would be a 1 win team with New England in the division kind of implodes on itself when you consider that New England also makes it's hay playing terrible division opponents in the Jets and Bills, as well as the below average Dolphins. Not to mention the fact the Colts only have 2 wins (and 1 loss) in their division, their other 4 wins came against non-division opponents, what does the division have to do with that? At worst they would be a 4 win team then, using your own logic. The Texans haven't even played the Colts this season, so they're 8-1 record has nothing to do with playing us... I don't follow your reasoning.
Saying Reggie Wayne is the reason for Luck's success is very simplistic, sure he's helped but Wayne is having a career season with Luck throwing him the ball, consider that he had a decade of getting passes from Peyton Manning but is having his best year with Luck, it goes both ways, trying to say who gets credit for what is pointless, they are both playing excellent football.
Football is a team sport, absolutely, but nothing you said even addresses my central points, I will recap them for you: 5. The Stadium, 4. The Owner, 3. The History, 2. The Players, 1. The Quarterbacks.... what about those 5 points do you take issue with? It seems like you are just arguing to argue, and about things I never even bring up.