Learning to Love Football (all over again)

For a decade now, Colts fans have gotten used to making the playoffs and being considered a contender. We’ve gotten used to historically fast starts and having our team bandied about with the greatest teams of all time. We’ve gotten used to insane arguments with Patriots fans who couldn’t seem to understand what made their own team so great. Somewhere along the way, a lot of the joy of the week to week was drained out of the game for us. Colts fans in general became more concerned with only winning titles rather than celebrating and enjoying each win.
Then came this season. We were all geared up for another title run with what Bill Polian called ‘the most talented team’ he’s ever had. Then, disaster struck. One injury after another decimated that talent, and left the Colts in trapped in a coffin gasping for air while many outsiders prematurely danced on their half dug grave. It was easy to get despondent when watching the Colts play because their flaws have been so obvious and consistent almost every week. It was like watching the fall of Rome from your barcalounger every Sunday.
Then, almost shockingly, something clicked. The flaws? They didn’t disappear, but suddenly they didn’t matter as much. The offensive line gelled just enough. Manning gritted his teeth a little more firmly. Freeney spun out of one extra hold. 88 picked up just one more first down. Without warning or reason, a team that had been torture to watch started to win games. They haven’t won them pretty, but they’ve gone up against some of the most talented squads in the conference and walked away on top.
The 1995 Colts are on the top of most long time fans’ lists of favorite Colts teams. They repeatedly pulled off amazing comebacks. Their quarterback defied logic with his play. They entered the playoffs as a wildcard team, and beat a poor west coast squad, before knocking off the best team in football, and walked into Pittsburgh and should have left as conference champions. There was no burden of history with that team. They just wanted to win every game they could and make the playoffs. Then when the time came, they were battle tested and ready to win in any way necessary.
The 2008 Colts seem to be their natural brothers. In 2007, Indy played a total of 4 games worth watching out of 16 (@Ten, NE, @SD, @Oak). Already, in just 11 games, the Colts have played seven games that went down to the wire (winning 6). They have played 4 different games that could challenge for our Greatest Wins list. I can’t find a way to rank the Minnesota, Houston, Pittsburgh and San Diego games because they were all thrilling. Finally, it dawned on me yesterday…I love this team. They are make all the wrong kind of mistakes, but somehow 18 and 4 and 93 and 98 and…always seem to make the one play they have to. No team this beat up should be 7-4 against a tough schedule. This Colts team has made it fun for me watch football again. Forget championships for a minute and just appreciate rooting for a team that won’t quit.
I really look forward to the games now; gone is the nagging dread of a loss. I’ve accepted that this team isn’t the best in the NFL this year (NY Giants have been from week one). They still might win it all, or at least more than they ought, but they don’t have to in order for me to feel good about this year. It’ll take a nice playoff run to unseat 1995 in heart, but if a team ever had the chance to, this is the year it could happen.
Thanks 2008 Colts. You made it fun again.
Links:
This isn’t really a link, but here are the updated projections for Manning and Cassel:
Cassel (link to last week’s post for comparison)

Comp Att % Yards YPA TD INT Rating
346 522 66.3 3804 7.3 19 12 90.5

Manning

Comp Att % Yards YPA TD INT Rating
387 617 62.7 4106 6.7 28 15 87.2

The biggest change for 18 is that his completion % is now within normal limits. The only number he has that won’t fully recover by the end of the year is his YPA.
SI’s Playoff projection is sort of lame.
IU gets off without anything worse happening. That’s all that matters.
Never in the history of man has anything been more predictable than Easterbrook’s comments on Sunday’s game.
18to88.com makes another appearance in Walk Through. He confuses Demond and I because of the whole Facebook presence, but whatever. It’s a great piece anyway, and mostly my fault he was confused.
Demond Sanders: Mostly your fault? LOL. You created a Facebook account with my name and operated it as if you were me. Yes, I’d say the confusion was mostly your fault. For the record: I don’t believe in Facebook as a concept. I thought awkwardly bumping into people you only know tangentially or haven’t seen in 20 years was a bad thing. . .
DZ responds: It’s not my fault that Facebook wouldn’t accept Zombie as a last name. They are bigoted against the undead.

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