INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 18: A Colts fan looks on during the game between the Indianapolis Colts against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Remember, this franchise has won 10-plus and made post-season for over a decade. That should buy them some goodwill, doncha think?
First off, this franchise has been to the playoff nine straight years, not ten.
Second, goodwill isn't accomplished by the Colts franchise simply 'winning' a lot over a ten-year period. Though winning regular season games is nice, in five of those ten years, the Colts were one-and-done in the post-season, meaning that, essentially, the trip to the playoffs was a worthless venture that provided little fulfillment to the fans.
In each of their one-and-done playoff loses, this club folded to a team they were favored to beat.
- In 2002, they were favored to beat the Jets, but ended up losing 41-0.
- In 2005, they were the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and lost at home to the No. 8 seeded Steelers.
- In 2007, they were the no. 2 seed in the AFC, and lost at home to Norv Turner, Bill Volek, and the Chargers.
- In 2008, after winning nine games in a row after a 3-4 start, the Colts lost to the Chargers again, allowing Darren Sproles to run all over them to the tune of 105 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner in O.T.
- In 2010, they had the lead with 1:00 left only to choke on special teams and allow Antonio Cromartie to return the kickoff inside Colts territory. A few plays later, Nick Folk kicks a game-winning FG, and the Colts are one-and-done, again.
Now, obviously, 'sprinkled' into that mix of nine years of making the playoffs are three trips to the AFC Championship Game, two Super Bowls, and one championship. That's nothing to dismiss. I've been a fan for nineteen years, and these last nine years (in comparison to the previous twelve) have been fun and, for the most part, very enjoyable.
However, during that same period of time, I've watched the front office act in a way that was unprofessional to media and indignant towards the fanbase. I've written about it constantly, and I've spoken about it until I was seemingly blue in the face. Time and again, we've been told by the Colts that the media are idiots and that no one cares what the fans think.
Gee, thanks guys.
I also don't buy into this silly and rather demeaning concept that winning is, somehow, doing a 'favor' to the fans, as if we should appreciate it, or something.
This might be a newsflash to some, but winning isn't a gift. It's f*cking expected. Fans pay good, hard-earned money to see their teams win, and when their team doesn't win, Indy fans expect accountability. Crazy concept, I know. We Midwesterns are known for our insanity.
Look, I'm not going to use this as yet another Polian Slam article. We're all going to get plenty of Polian bashing as the season progresses. The man and his family have built up a reservoir of bad blood with media and fans over the decades. This year, people will pile it on them, and it will be more than justified. They'll respond with their typical zombie mantra of 'Look what this place was before we got here,' forgetting the whole while that winning is kind of the reason they're paid their seven figure salaries.
One does not get smiles and handshakes for doing their job. One does not build up 'goodwill' when they do what they're handsomely paid to do. One builds up goodwill with fans when they exceed expectations, or when they do everything possible to treat the customer with dignity and respect.
The Colts haven't done that.
Despite the anger, fans would let it go as long as Peyton Manning could return and save the day. Peyton represents everything Colts fans love.
- Hard work
It also doesn't hurt that Peyton is the best QB on the planet. I mean, all five of those traits are inherent in Kerry Collins. But, right now, he's just not that great of a QB for this team.
Now, as things begin to unravel, and as the loses start to mount, one question that will get asked over and over is, 'Who is to blame for all this?'
By 'all this,' I mean the dramatic abandonment Colts fans are likely to do with their team. Bob Kravitz tweeted today that it would be embarrassing if, in front of a national audience next week, that Lucas Oil Stadium is full of yellow towel twirling Steelers fans. Yes, it would be embarrassing, but that embarrassment would be as a result of piss poor public relations by the Colts towards their fans, not 'flaky' fans turning away from the team just because they're bad.
Likely, when the blame game is tossed around, the team will point the finger at fans and use this as an example of how 'flaky' and 'ungrateful' they are.
Let's head this off right now by reminding everyone that:
- Fans and taxpayers paid 85% of Lucas Oil Stadium's $720 million dollar construction cost.
- Fans pay all of the operating costs ($27.7 million).
- Fans pay for parking, overpriced concessions, and the increasingly expensive gasoline that it take to get to games.
- The Midwest has been absolutely devastated by the mishandling of Wall Street and the recent financial collapses. Jobs are scarce, and people have to work more to earn less than what they did ten years ago. Asking these people (who are already paying higher taxes to pay for this stadium) to fork over $300 bucks a pop to watch this crappy team is an insult.
- Knowing the current financial state of many Hoosiers, if they can get serious money (perhaps an extra $100 or $200 a ticket) if they sell their ticket to a Steelers fan, they'll do it. In fact, they'd be stupid not to.
This isn't about loyalty. This is business. Bottom line. Cold, hard dollars and sense.
Business was the driving force behind the ridiculous NFL lockout this past Spring and Summer, a lockout that has been all but forgotten. If business is what motivates the NFL, why get all pissy with fans when business and money motivates them?
As I often say, it's the job of the front office and the coaches to make the team worthy of fan's time. If they can't do that, they shouldn't get upset if fans don't show. This, in turn , should help motivate the team owner to make changes within the coaching staff and front office so the fans don't leave.
Because, seriously, if there is no pressure to win, if there is no motivating force to get these businesses known as NFL teams to provide a quality product on the field worthy of fans time and money, then they won't concern themselves with making a winning product.
So, what we come back to is, 'Who is to blame?' My answer is not the fans.
Fans pay money they don't always have for a winning product. And, as we have consistently been told by the owner, the front office, and the coaches for years, the expectations in Indy are for winning. Nothing else. This isn't Detroit, Houston, Tampa Bay, or Jacksonville, where fan expectations are measured in the team not sucking as much as fans think it will.
In Indy, expectations are for greatness. That's what we're all paying for, at least.
Coming into this year, the expectations weren't for Andrew Luck in 2012. I understand that Peyton's injury was not planned for, but part of the reason fans are mad is because it probably should have been planned for.
I guess my point in this rant is to say that we, as fans, have been conditioned and encouraged to have high expectations. When those expectations aren't met, when they fall so short that it seems laughable to have had them in the first place, I don't think it's correct to blame the fans for having those expectations, or to dismiss them as not being 'realistic.' Once you start doing that, it just alienates them further, breeding more resentment.
Again, fans pay for winning football. When they don't get it, teams and owners shouldn't expect fans to show up. It's just that simple. Nothing personal, mind you.