CHANTILLY, VA - MARCH 02: Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay exits a car after arriving for a meeting of NFL owners at a hotel on March 2, 2011 in Chantilly, Virginia. The NFL owners are meeting in Chantilly to discuss negotiations with the players union about a collective bargaining agreement that expires March 3, at midnight. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The blow up yesterday over the Colts thumbing their nose at the fanbase had a rather interesting side effect. Sure, lots of people were angry, including myself. I even had people tweet me that they were no longer fans of the team.
Extreme, I agree, but really bad news can bring forth extreme emotions.
Before we go calling these emotional types "fair-weather," the reality is the economy is crap. Regular fans in Indianapolis don't have the cash to spend on season tickets or, in many cases, regular gameday tickets. Even if they did, the experience at the stadium just isn't worth the dough.
While the Joe Sixpack fans were angry at the blackouts decision, it seems the season ticket crowd reacted to the news completely differently.
Fuss about possibility of #Colts blackouts had one side effect. Tic VP Larry Hall reported 3 times more calls this morning than recent norm.— Phil Richards (@PhilRichards6) July 11, 2012
#Colts now have fewer than 2,000 unsold season tickets so they're 97 percent sold out with first game nearly two months away.— Phil Richards (@PhilRichards6) July 11, 2012
So, basically, when Larry Hall pulled a stupid and told FOX 59 about the Colts blackout decision, the news motivated people with the money to buy season tickets to actually buy season tickets, effectively reinforcing the notion that blackouts work in scaring fans into forking over greenbacks.
Not sure how I feel about this.
On one hand, it's good news that, based on these numbers, the season will likely be sold out. This means no blackouts. Games will be shown at home to fans who cannot afford $8 slices of pizza and $15 Dixie cups of watered down beer.
On the other hand, this news essentially reinforces what I and Bob Kravitz have been saying for months: Many Indianapolis fans are very flaky and fair-weather. Yes, I'm sure reading that has you just as pleasant as a peach, but it is, unfortunately, true.
After a successful draft that gave us a dynamic young quarterback, talented offensive weapons, and a true nose tackle, these fans didn't buy.
After hiring some quality coaches, signing a few veteran free agents, and instituting a more open, friendly interaction between the front office and media, these fans still didn't buy.
However, when Irsay threatened them with local blackouts, they went all OH SH*T! GET ON THE PHONE WITH LARRY HALL! WE NEED TICKETS NOW!
Look, I get into all the time with fans because, when it is all said and done, Irsay is taking us all for a ride. His stadium deal is ridiculous (the man is making a fortune, people), and his interactions with fans border on insulting. He tries to make up for it with cheap Twitter prizes and online gimmicks that are so transparent they should make your eyes roll into the back of your head.
Oh, and for all his talk about denouncing "class war," it seems Irsay pretty actively engages in it himself.
At the end of the day, all this stuff doesn't affect me personally. I'm not credentialed for games, and I have no intention of shelling out money to watch something that is more enjoyable (and cheaper) to watch at home. The reason I have written so much on this topic is because I care about how we, the fans, are treated. This was not respectful treatment. This was a billionaire nutball squeezing people to get what he wanted, and it seems to have worked.
I don't know how this will play out long term, but I do know this: I have defended and praised Jim Irsay for years. When media and fans called him a flake and a phoney, I spoke of the many friendly exchanges he and I have had. I know he reads this blog (or read it at one point).
However, over these past few months, I've lost respect for the man.
Note: I agree 100% with his decision to fire Bill Polian, his lazy son Chris, and head coach Jim Caldwell. Cutting Peyton Manning was absolutely the right call, and drafting Andrew Luck over Robert Griffin III was a smart move as well.
It is how he has handled things, how he has interacted with his fanbase at a critical point in the franchise's history, that has rubbed me the wrong way. It's clear to me now that Bill Polian was half the problem. Irsay is the other half, and until we collectively, as a fanbase, become intolerant of his antics, he'll continue to get his way.
I root for the Colts because they reside in my hometown, and because I've followed them for over 20 years. I will, obviously, continue doing so. I'm just a little more jaded now, a little more cynical, and a little less trustworthy of the intentions of one Mr. James Irsay.