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Know Your Colts History: Final Lesson

<a href="">Good times...</a>
Good times...

[Note: This is going to be the final installment of Know Your Colts History.  I can't get into specifics yet, but SB Nation has given me the opportunity to do something really neat, and it's something that I really need to put all my blogging efforts behind, which is why I came to the tough decision to stop writing this column.  I'll still be lurking around in the comments section and posting FanPosts and FanShots here and there and if you desperately want to keep up with my aloof thoughts on sports, you can always follow me on Twitter, if for no other reason than to soothe my ego.  Only 134 followers?  Weak sauce.

I would be completely remiss if I didn't thank BigBlueShoe, not only for the opportunity to write on this great site, but for his insights on the Colts and also for helping me develop my voice as a writer in more ways than he could ever know.  Also, a big thanks goes out to mgrex03, shake n bake, and LovinBlue for all of their insight which has enriched my understanding of this team.  Finally, thanks to you, the readers for all of your great comments, which have challenged me to think about issues from this perspectives, which is always a good thing. 

Hopefully, at one point or another something I wrote here entertained you in one way or another.  If it didn't, please accept this video of Bob Sanders with my apologies.  -Jake]

In one way or another, just about every post I've authored at Stampede Blue has revolved around Peyton Manning in one way or another, where directly or indirectly.  I don't need to explain why Peyton comes up in so many posts.  If you've ever heard the man's name you know exactly why he comes up so often.  Yet, in so many ways, I still have to explain why Peyton Manning comes up in anything related to Colts, or their history.

With all due respect to all the greats who have worn the horseshoe on their helmet, Peyton Manning is Colts history.  He's the defining player of the Indianapolis era and top two in the complete history of the franchise.  After two decades of irrelevance, Peyton didn't just make the Colts matter, he made the Colts a draw.  Lucas Oil Field was packed to 105.6% capacity.  The only team that was able to pack a higher percentage of fans in the stands was Dallas, thanks to their massive party deck.  

But Peyton isn't just a local draw.  When the Manning show hits the road, the crowds follow him, even in the most apathetic cities in the league.  The Jaguars only sold out one game this season, and it was because Peyton Manning was coming to town.  

After 11 years in the league, Peyton still has the 4th best selling jersey in the NFL, and it's not like the Colts have gone through radical jersey changes since he was drafted.  The #18 Colts jersey you could have bought immediately after Peyton was drafted is, by in large part, the same jersey you can purchase today.  Yet Manning still has better jersey sales than LaDanian Tomlinson, Sam Bradford, and Tom Brady, among others.

And why wouldn't people want to see him?  He's the only player who has led his team to victory after being down by 17 with five minutes to play, and he's done it twice.  He's the only player with four MVP trophies on his mantle.  He manufactured the biggest comeback in AFC Championship game history.  He's thrown for at least 250 yards in 58% of the games he has played in as a pro.  He's thrown for at least one touchdown in 86% of his games.  And if you're a Colts fan, you've seen him win 2 out of every 3 games he has played in as a professional, with 35 of his 140 wins coming thanks to 4th quarter comebacks.

Peyton's presence is a danger to every team he faces, but he also poses a threat to us as Colts fans.  He has desensitized a generation of Colts fans to greatness.  Case in point: Last season, Manning carved up the Cardinals' defense for 379 yards and 4 touchdowns, totals that only two other quarterbacks reached in a game last season.  How did people at Stampede Blue respond?  WE GAVE THE GAME BALL TO DWIGHT FREENEY!  Manning makes the magnificent look mundane.

If there's only one thing you remember from all of my nonsensical ramblings on this site, let it be this: Cherish the moments you have left where Peyton Manning is the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.  I hate to spoil it for you, but the truth is that you will never root for a better athlete in your lifetime.  Oh, and he happens to be 34.  In the absolute best-case scenario, that means you have a decade left of Peyton Manning before he retires, but odds are you have less than that.  Sure, you might have all of Peyton's games archived on DVD, but nothing will replace the feeling you get when you put on your Peyton Manning jersey and you know the best quarterback in the NFL on your team after he's gone.

If you've been taking Peyton's career for granted, let this be your wake up call.  Because when you're grandchildren come up to you someday and ask you what it was like watching the best football player you've ever watched, you better make sure they understand that Peyton Manning was as good as it gets.  And you better make sure they know greatness doesn't come often, and when it does, you better soak in every second of it while it lasts.