How does the loss of Peyton Manning for the Indianapolis Colts relate to LeBron James' decision to leave the Cavaliers? Our friends over at Stampede Blue brought up the idea and it got me thinking. While the circumstances are obviously different, the teams are impacted in similar ways. Naturally, the mood of the Colts fan base is pretty depressed compared to years past. For much of the 2000s, the Colts and Cavs were both at or near the top of their respective sports. Furthermore, the success of these teams was quite obviously attributed to the presence of one player.
Once the team is forced to compete without their star player, that player's significance is that much more apparent. In the Cavaliers' case, the team was suddenly without the best player in the NBA in James. Similarly, the Colts now find themselves without arguably (it's not an argument for me, he's the best player in the league, hands down) the best player in the NFL. It is no surprise that both teams struggled mightily with an enormous void that no replacement player could fill. This doesn’t mean the organization or management is suddenly terrible. You built an entire franchise with the expectation that you would have your superstar and once he is gone, it all falls apart.
However, this is how a rational person on the outside looks at the situation. I know, that from a fan’s perspective, it absolutely sucks. And you know why it sucks? Because you’re spoiled. That’s the truth and I have no problem saying it because we were spoiled too. Cleveland fans were used to having the Cavaliers around as the one team that we knew could compete. Colts fans were used to having a top 5 offense and winning 10+ games every year. Now where are you, last in the power rankings? It doesn’t feel good to get thrashed on national television or to lose by 55 points. The good news is that it makes you a better fan. Sometimes you have to remember what it’s like to lose so that you can fully appreciate how awesome it is to win. It let’s you put things in perspective. So, next time the Colts lose a playoff game, it will still hurt, but you can look back and say: "Hey, remember when we didn’t even get this close?" In that same vein, this season will let you identify the true, diehard fans. Forget the guys that only show up when the team is winning. For the remainder of the season, your fandom is being tested; it’s your chance to show that you stand with this team through thick and thin. I watched twenty six straight losses for the Cavaliers this past season and do you know why? This is why. You know how in that moment when you walk into your house after being in the freezing cold for hours, you suddenly think that the radiator is the single greatest invention of all time? That’s the feeling. You can’t appreciate heat if you don’t remember what it’s like to be cold. And you can’t appreciate winning if it’s been a while since you felt the pain of a losing season.
Now, here comes to encouraging part: it gets better. One way or another, it simply has to get better. LeBron James is never coming back to the Cavs, but we’ve got some young talent to build around in the near future. Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, or somebody else will take the reins from Curtis Painter and bring the Colts back to prominence. It may not be next year or the year after, but that’s all part of being a fan. Unless you’re a crappy bandwagon fan, this is what you signed up to do: support the team through every injury, every free agent signing, every boneheaded coaching decision with the hopes that someday soon, you’ll be raising another banner. Cavaliers fans lean on each other and tough it out while we watch our young team develop. We pick out little things to get excited about and practice patience. Cavs fans know that they have a long road ahead of them before they can taste a championship. The wait for Colts fans may not be so long but believe me, once you make it through this disaster of a season, winning will be that much sweeter.