Today's a big day for Jim Irsay and his "new era" Indianapolis Colts.
Aside from the fact that today is Irsay's
52nd 53rd birthday (happy b-day, boss man), this is the day that the Colts will hold their free, open practice for the fans (and media) at Lucas Oil Stadium. This is the first time many fans will get to see No. 1 pick Andrew Luck, new head coach Chuck Pagano, and the distinctly Peyton Manning-less Colts of 2012.
This open practice is less of a football-related event and more of a HUGE public relations push. Irsay lost 13% of his season ticket holders when he kicked Peyton Manning and his four neck surgeries to the curb last March. That 13% loss reflected badly on him, his franchise, and the fanbase that supports both (no matter how Irsay and his cohorts try to spin it otherwise). Irsay has bungled his rebuilding message several times this offseason, just as he bungled the divorce from Manning up until the goodbye press conference. Those things likely did not sit well with the 13% either.
At today's practice, the roughly 3,000 or so season ticket seats still available will be highlighted in the stadium. This will allow potential new customers to come to the free practice, sit in the seats, and consider buying season tickets.
It's a smart move.
It's a move supposedly "great" franchises do not have to make if their team has a strong connection to the community, but we've already established Indianapolis' quirky vibe towards the Colts (and any other team in the metro area).
Maybe the ticket shortfall will be made up during this practice, or perhaps a rather significant dent will get put into it. I certainly hope so. Fans who are "mad" at Irsay for cutting Manning, and who now refuse to root for the Colts, are the same sort of silly people who were "mad" when former Indiana Pacers G.M. Donnie Walsh drafted future Hall of Famer Reggie Miller over Steve friggin Alford in '87. Personally, I would very much like to make these people irrelevant to the greater fanbase at large. They are conditional fans, more in love with a certain player (or players) rather than the team. Unfortunately, Indianapolis is littered with them.
Going forward, if they want to jump on the bandwagon, fine. However, when times are tough, it would be great if local pro franchises did not have to cater to these bitter, incompetent yahoos. Maybe today's P.R. push will be a positive step in the right direction. I'm skeptical, but I yearn to be pleasantly surprised. Regardless, for the fans who do show up, it should be a fun practice.
Tweet us at @StampedeBlue if you want to update us on what's happening there.
Today's practice starts at 2:00 PM ET and is free to the public at Lucas Oil Stadium. I personally encourage you to go, if you can. There won't be much football between now and late-July. Take it in while you can.