Indianapolis is coming off a 10-day high after hosting Super Bowl XLVI. Four long years of anticipation paid off in what has been hailed by media and visitors alike as one of the best Super Bowls ever. I have never loved my city more than I did during the Super Bowl festivities. I enjoyed every minute of volunteering in the NFL Experience, taking in the concerts in the Super Bowl Village, visiting IDADA’s TURF exhibit and walking around downtown with a beer in hand (because we could!).
But below the surface of the Super Bowl excitement, a situation has been brewing that, quite frankly, I’m not ready to fully acknowledge yet: Peyton Manning might not be returning to the Indianapolis Colts.
I am a die-hard, non-bandwagon Colts fan. When people tell me we’ve been spoiled as fans, I come back with stories of the days of Jim Harbaugh and 3-13 records (oh wait, that was this year too…). I mention the 1995 playoff game against the Steelers and the controversial call that crushed our postseason dreams. I talk about the seemingly never-ending days of Pick-6 Peyton and our perpetual one and done playoff runs.
But the truth is we are spoiled. We’ve had season after season with a 10-0 or better record and postseason action. We experienced what I consider to be the single best game in my history as a fan: beating the New England Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship game. That game led us to our first Super Bowl victory, followed by a repeat appearance two years later.
In that time, we also enjoyed great consistency on the field. We haven’t had to deal with a lot of turnover like some teams. Sure, we’ve lost some players throughout the years, but Manning has always been a constant. We have always been able to count on #18 to suit up and lead us to victory. When he’s on the field, there’s always hope. No matter what the score. No matter what the situation.
So yeah, I get it. We’re spoiled. And this season our world was turned upside down as Peyton was benched due to a neck injury. It was devastating but I stood by the team and faithfully cheered them on each week, not knowing if or when he would come back.
Now that the last Super Bowl banner has come down and the city awakens to reality, we have to face the unbelievable truth that Peyton may not dress in Colts blue again. I understand the finances of it all. I understand that it’s not personal, it’s business. And I understand that this crazy chain of events put us in a position to draft Andrew Luck, who let’s pray to the football gods doesn’t end up being the Ryan Leaf of the 2012 draft. But from a die-hard crazy Colts fan standpoint, it just plain sucks.
If this sounds like a weird love letter to Peyton, well, it kind of is. The man has done so much for the city of Indianapolis and for Colts fans. I can’t imagine him playing for anyone else. And until I hear the words from his own mouth, I will continue living in denial and hoping for the best.