Happy Sunday Afternoons

I spent three conflicted hours at Lucas Oil Stadium yesterday, torn between my head and my heart

My head knew that the best thing for the Indianapolis Colts was to lose to the Panthers. I knew that a loss would all but seal the first pick in the draft and a bright future with a new quarterback.

My heart just wanted to see the boys in blue win.

I stood with tears in my eyes and one fist raised at half time as Marvin Harrison, the last link to my two favorite Colts squads (the ’96 and ’08 teams), passed his first hurdle in football beautification.

You see, Marvin gave me something week in and out that has mostly been missing from 2011…joy.

There are people who see the NFL as completely binary. It’s a championship or bust. Every season that doesn’t bring a title is a failure. It doesn’t matter what happens week in and week out, only the final roll of the playoff die counts. These people see no point in celebrating ‘just another regular season win’.

I’m not one of those people.

I’ve sat through some of the worst football imaginable in my life. The funny thing is that this 2011 isn’t even close to the worst I’ve seen in Indy. Oh, the quarterback play is off the charts bad, but the rest of the team can’t hold a candle to how bad the ’91 or ’97 team was. You want miserable? Go watch game film on the ’86 Colts. When you watch that much horrible football, you come to appreciate the wins. You come to realize that every Sunday afternoon is about the chance to be happy for the next week.

The best measure of a team and a career isn’t to tally up the vagaries of chance and fate that is the Babylonian Lottery of the playoffs, but to remember how many happy Sunday afternoons they brought you.

Football is meant to be fun. A win can carry through the week like a little shot of Prozac to spike your Monday morning cup of joe. No fan should have to dread going to the game on Sunday. For a decade now, Colts games have been a treat, not an obligation. Watching this team struggle while Manning and Harrison and Moore smile and wave and pose for pictures is like attending a weekly funeral for a better time and place. I’m ready to add a black arm band to my jersey. R.I.P. “The Manning Era”. Now more than ever, we need our weekly dose of the ultimate anti-depressant: victory. Instead, we’ve been handed a bottle of sugar pills labeled “Caldwell and Painter”.

Yesterday, Freeney, Mathis, and Wayne played their guts out. They clawed for our attention, as if to remind us that all too soon they too will be shaking hands with Mr. Irsay and staring up at the facing of the 600 level. Their world has moved on though, and they are men out of time and place.

Over time, I’ve come to accept the meaning of an 8-8 or better yet a 9-7 season. It’s all about the balance of happy Sundays. Do your happy Sundays outnumber the miserable ones? Those numbers don’t represent mediocrity to me, they represent a promise fulfilled. The team will pick you up more often than they let you down.

I know it was best for the Colts to lose yesterday’s game.

Honestly though, I just wanted a happy Sunday afternoon.

For old times’ sake.

  • I don’t know how much more I can say about Reggie Wayne. God bless him. He desperately wants to win.
  • Again, the fans are really behind this group. Everyone knows it’s hopeless, but the crowd really pulls for them. That’s been special to watch.
  • Cam Newton has a gun. When he rifles a ball, it’s a cannon shot. He really struggles with accuracy issues and reading pressure. I don’t know what kind of career he’ll have, but I wasn’t wowed by him.
  • The Panthers have the worst defense in football. Curtis Painter looked like crap against the worst defense in football. He’s just not ever going to be good. Remember how people begged for him saying, “Give him a chance! How much worse could he be than Kerry Collins?” We’ll we have our answer…much, much worse.
  • How was there no pass interference on the deep ball to Garcon? Manning gets that call.
  • Don Brown. Ahem. You’re welcome. Sometimes the facts just don’t fit the narratives. Inconvenient for some to say the least.
  • I saw so much undisciplined play from the defense. Way too much over-pursuing. Corners diving for balls rather than making tackles. Linebackers abandoning their edge. I still contend that much of what ails this defense could be fixed by better coaching. Not all of it, obviously. But a lot of it.
  • What’s this team’s record with Manning? 7-4 at worst. 8-3 probably. I’ll spot you the Houston and New Orleans games, and you find me three other losses. I mean, they’ve had the ball with a chance to win or tie 7 games in the fourth quarter.
  • I’ll never understand why the Colts were throwing on the goal line. Yes, time was running out, but :40 is enough time to run a run on second down, a pass on third and still have a fourth down play.
  • Like I said before, I’m not against swapping Painter for Orlovsky. I just don’t care and refuse to get emotional about it. I don’t believe Orlovsky is any better, so while the Colts should probably do the move just placate the masses, I doubt it leads to any different outcome.

Patriots week. Ugh. It’s not going to be a happy a Sunday afternoon. Belichick will make a point to make the Saints game look like a sewing circle. I literally expect the Pats to score 70.

Yeah. I know. Happy Monday.