There's an old commercial for Hanes Socks in which a middle aged mother comes home to find her husband dipping their son into a tub of "special paste invented to replace socks." The wife asks the obvious question, "why?" and the husband replies "cause we can't find socks that shape to our feet and we're sick of it." The gooey son adorably repeats his father's sentiment: "Sick of it!"
Colts Nation feel free to repeat after me. I'm sick of people saying "We are a fair-weather city." I'm sick of people questioning whether or not we will continue to support our team. I'm sick of people saying that we are "not a Colts town, but a Peyton Manning town." I'm sick of random sub-media outlets telling me that I am not a true football fan.
Sick of it!
Season tickets didn't sell out in April, and now I'm not a football fan? Speak for yourself. I live 2547.8 miles from the nearest city with an NFL team, but my soul breathes football. I celebrate the NFL Draft like it's Christmas; I celebrate the Hall of Fame Game like it's Easter.
I live 4290.6 miles from Indianapolis, Indiana where I was born. I suffered through some terrible Colts teams when I was young. I was 14 years old when Jim Harbaugh made the Colts relevant for the first time in my life.
I was 25 years old when I made the decision to spend $2545.00 that I didn't have on a ticket to Super Bowl XLI. I was 26 when the game was played. I knew that my dedication to the Colts would redefine my dedication to Ramen Noodles for the next three years of my life.
You know why I did it? I truly believed that if I attended the game I could affect the outcome by screaming and yelling like a terrified infant on the back of a turbulent airplane. I tried to inspire the Colts fans around me to do the same before, during and after every Bears offensive snap until I could speak no more.
I have never been able to afford season tickets, so I represent a constituent of Colts fans that goes unmeasured by season ticket renewals. Judging fan passion by the 13% of fans that didn't renew their tickets in April, during a recession, 5 months before the start of the season, doesn't take people like me into account.
People like me live all over the place. We buy DirecTV packages, jerseys, coffee mugs, etc; all the things that make the Indianapolis Colts the 19th most valuable sports franchise in the world according to Forbes Magazine. That is the 11th most valuable NFL franchise despite being located in the 34th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States. And unlike several NFL teams that have a much larger local region to attract fans, the Colts are located within a few hours drive of 4 other franchises.
4000 miles away, in Kihei, Maui, Colts fans are unexpectedly well represented. In addition to myself, there is a truck parked daily in my apartment complex with a Colts horseshoe bumper sticker. Yesterday at Kamaole Beach Park III, as I walked about looking for an unoccupied charcoal grill, I stumbled across a full camp of tourists in which every chair, cooler, and umbrella proudly sported the Colts insignia.
The closest watering-hole to my humble abode has two die-hard Colts fans on its staff, outnumbering their Patriots fans two-to-one! They even have a Colts sign hanging behind the bar. None of us have season tickets, but we'd probably be willing to make the commute if we did.
The Yahoo article that is linked above claims that Colts fans have never been "football-crazy" like supporters of the Cleveland Browns, but I have never seen a single Browns t-shirt or hat or anything in the year that I have lived in Maui, nor have I ever met a Cleveland Browns fan. If football-crazed means "ashamed", then I guess I'm just too proud to abandon the Colts.
Peyton Manning deserves significant credit for the Colts fan-base. Bill Polian deserves credit too. It is logical that while one of the greatest football players in the history of a sport is on a team, sales will rise. When he is gone, sales will fall. The profit of every NFL franchise is directly related to the team's wins and losses.
But what makes the NFL great is parity. And the parity that the salary cap provides means that the best player in the NFL is not as valuable as the best contract in the NFL. In order for Andrew Luck to be as valuable to the Colts as Peyton Manning, he has to be 1/4th as good on the field because he costs the team 1/4th as much.
Will he be 1/4th as good as Peyton Manning next year? Probably not. Will he provide that value over the course of ten years? That is much more probable. From a football perspective the gamble is a solid one.
One of the employees at Moose McGillycuddy's, the bar I mentioned above, became a fan of the Colts strictly because of Peyton Manning. Her name is Amanda, and she isn't from Indiana originally nor has she been listening to Bob Lamey every Sunday since 1984.
Out of curiosity, I asked her if she was going to become a Broncos fan now that Peyton is gone.
"I'll definitely root for Peyton," she said. "But I'm a Colts fan for life."
I don't think it's Colts fans that are fickle, band-wagon, fair-weather sports fans. A lot of the football-obsessed Colts addicts are hard at work in airports and Irish pubs and semi-trucks and have well-fed families instead of season tickets.
It's not fair to insult the entire fan-base due to the financial decisions of 13% of season ticket holders, because the entire fan-base didn't elect the season ticket holders to represent us. The Colts faithful that I know are excited about the new defense and excited about the rookies, even if they're sad to see Peyton Manning in a different shade of blue.
I will root for Peyton Manning in every game that won't negatively affect the Colts with a Broncos victory. But I will be an Indianapolis, Indiana, Crossroads-of-America Colts fan for life.