Tonight, the playoffs begin for the Indianapolis Colts.
Unlike previous years, where Colts brass and the coaches have viewed December games as little more than a second pre-season before the playoffs, December football for Indianapolis this year is the difference between playing on or staying home in mid-January. Regardless of whether Indy gets into the 2010 post-season or not, whenever your team has a run of eight straight years of being in the playoffs, it's something to sit back and take note of. And if indeed this is the year that run ends, so be it.
So, in general, I appreciate FanPosts like 88horsepower's, which provides a 'let's take a step back' approach to things. Thank you for that write-up, good sir.
However, one thing I will take issue with not just in that FanPost, but in many things I'm reading around here, is this sentiment that the Colts fanbase is 'spoiled.'
Seriously, stop it.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with expecting a team like the Colts to make the playoffs, and if or when they don't, a fanbase that isn't disappointed is a loser fanbase. If not losers, then they are suckers for having loyalty to a franchise that, quite honestly, could give two smelly farts about them.
The expectation to win is double-emphasized when the team is playing in a taxpayer built and maintained stadium with a $75 million dollar retractable roof that never opens. That's not being spoiled. That's expecting the service (aka, the Colts) to provide the customer (the fans) what the customer is paying for (wins).
If the wins don't come; if the same old mistakes keep happening; if the glaring personnel weaknesses fans were screaming their heads off about in March are hurting the team in December, there is absolutely NOTHING 'spoiled' about demanding some sort of accountability or moniker of change.
When it comes to winning, Colts fans absolutely should expect a playoff birth every year, no matter what. Like it or not, the expectation set by management and ownership is very high. From what I understand about making money in the NFL, that's the goal. I know people like to say, 'Well, ask Lions fans, Browns fans, Bills fans, and Bengals fans how they feel.'
No offense to those respective fanbases, because this really isn't their fault, but the reason their teams suck is because their owners are incompetent boobs. When the owner of the team is a yutz, the team is likely a loser.
With the Colts, they have a great owner. They have the right kind of owner, and since that owner has taken over, this franchise is on par with some of the elite franchises in the NFL the last 18 years.
Since as far back as 1992, four franchises have truly dominated the NFL. Consistently, these teams have either made the post-season or had winning records year after year. Those four teams are the Green Bay Packers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots, and the Indianapolis Colts.
In 19 seasons, these franchises have done the following:
Green Bay Packers: 13 playoff appearances, 17 winning seasons
Pittsburgh Steelers: 13 playoff appearances, 14 winning seasons
New England Patriots: 12 playoff appearances, 14 winning seasons
Indianapolis Colts: 12 playoff appearances, 13 winning seasons
I have 1992 as the benchmark because it was the year Brett Favre took over as the starting QB in Green Bay; the year Bill Cowher replaced Chuck Noll in Pittsburgh; the year Bill Parcells took control of the New England Patriots, and roughly two years before Jim Irsay assumed ownership control over the Colts after his father, Robert, suffered a stroke.
The one thing each of these three dominant teams have in common is strong ownership. While Lions fans have to contend with the stupidity of the Ford family and Bengals fans continue to get fleeced by the cheap Mike Brown, Steelers, Colts, Packers, and the Patriots all have strong owners committed to winning.
Now, I have lots of friends and family members who are die-hard Steelers, Packers, and Patriots fans. When their teams don't make the post-season, they are PISSED OFF! What the team did the year before, two years before, ten years before... it all means nothing. When Chuck Noll was replaced in Pittsburgh, Steelers fans cheered. Noll had given Steel Town four titles, but by 1992 (thirteen years after their last title), the fanbase was tired of simply making the playoffs. They expected more, and in their minds, the Steelers franchise was something bigger than Coach Noll. They were right.
When Pete Carroll was getting the Patriots to the playoffs, and winning playoff games, it didn't satisfy that fanbase. They expected playoffs. They demanded rings!
Are Patriots, Packers, and Steelers fans ever called 'spoiled?' No. You know why? Because they demand, and receive, greatness.
When you are the fan of an elite franchise, the people who work for that franchise are secondary to the ideal of that franchise. Just as the Steelers are bigger than Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin, the Colts are bigger than Tony Dungy. The Colts are bigger than Bill Polian. The Colts are bigger than Peyton Manning. Long after those people are gone and retired, the expectation of this fanbase should be for a titles.
Losers settle. Suckers shrug their shoulder and accept mediocrity. Winners demand the best, especially when their tax money is paying for it.
This is an elite team to play for, and the #1 person who made that happen isn't so much Bill Polian or Peyton Manning, though they deserve a ton of credit. The person who makes this franchise truly great is Jim Irsay. And as long as he is running the show, it doesn't matter who is the GM or the QB. The fans should expect wins.
The day we don't expect post-season births and titles is the day we become suckers. It's the day that multi-gazillion dollar stadium becomes truly worthless.
So, for my money, should the Colts make the post-season, don't throw any parades. Don't celebrate. That's par for the course. That's the general expectation, especially when one has Big P under center. If the team doesn't get there, we should be pissed off. We should demand accountability. We better damn well see some changes! These changes don't necessarily need to be players cut, coaches fired, or Bill Polian sent into early retirement (even though there are valid reasons for all three).
And please, save the injury excuse.
Everyone who isn't carrying water for the Colts knows that injuries are not solely the reason why the Colts currently sit at 6-6. Bad coaching, horrible drafting, stubborn ineptness in free agency, and poor cap management all played significant parts in the team's current three-game losing streak.
But it is clear that the way things have been conducted within this franchise the last four years haven't been working. When just about everyone and their mother says that 'Without Peyton Manning, this team is very average,' that tells you someone in the front office isn't doing their job. And just as it is fashionable now to say Peyton is 'losing it,' maybe the same could be said for the Polian Family.
But, that aside, let's cut out the stupid 'we're a spoiled fanbase' nonsense. Fans who expect wins aren't spoiled. Fans who berate fans who expect wins are the ones who need to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves why they even bother paying attention to this whole NFL thing. I'm not writing all this to say 88horsepower's FanPost is an example of that, because it isn't. However, other Colts blogs, and sentiments expressed by fans in comments here and in emails to me, reek of having this loser mentality of 'shut up and be thankful for what we have, because we used to suck.'
We don't suck anymore. That was decades ago. The desire and expectation to win should be inherent in all elite fanbases. The day that desire vanishes is the day the fanbase becomes irrelevant. The day we accept losing is the day the franchise becomes a loser. Here's to never letting that happen. Demand wins. Demand greatness! Lord knows we've earned it, and we're paying for it.
Go Colts. Go Colts fans.