How Your Blood Turns Blue (Part 2)

Yesterday, I shared some stories of how Colts fans were made.  Several more stories came in from other readers, and I want to share them here.  If you have a story you want added to the chronicle, just add it to the comments and I’ll make sure it gets in the body of the text.  This article can be found permanently in the fixtures section to the right.  Thanks to everyone who has chimed in with how they came to have Blue Blood.

This project hits home with me right now because I’m preparing to head back to Indianapolis on Wednesday.  It’s been two years since I’ve been home.  My baby girl still hasn’t met her grandfathers yet.  I love my job and know it matters, but being away from Indy breaks my heart.  The Colts have helped me feel not so very far away from my dad, my brother, and the rest of the people I love.  Hearing your stories of how you joined the family that is Colts’ Nation has been awesome.  Keep them coming, please.

Bob Man tells us how he came to be a Colts fan in unlikely way.

My Colts fandom is aged and wizened and started when I was five–the Colts lost SB III. I have no real memory of this event, and my dad flew down to FL for the game, so I am not even sure there was a big party at home. But I have generally disliked home town teams, despised Jets (and Mets and Islanders) fans and, well, there was Johnny U with that hair and those shoes. What’s not to love? And cocky, show-boaty, media created Broadway Joe…. ugh.

The Bert Jones years were good to me (who doesn’t love Marchibroda?) and that worked well because in the mid-late 70′s I played a lot of Strat-o-matic football with my Vikes fan brother and his Rams fan pal, and all three teams were good but not great at the time.  A few years later, I hated watching the team play in half empty Memorial Stadium before the move–I felt that the city of Balt had quit on the team long before the team quit on the city. (and that’s pretty evident in the attitude of many Ravens fans who hate all things Colt today.)

The move to Indiana…?  Well, I had driven through it once and it was prettier from the freeway than Baltimore, but I was neutral. It was the organization, the players, the colors that I followed, not the stadium or the other fans or the city.  If they played on the moon I’d probably still be a fan.  The exact flip-side of Jags fans who say “Well, if they played in my backyard, I’d probably watch them, but if they played a whole block away… why bother?”

Ron H rooted for his home team before they were the home team!

I grew up in Indianapolis. Born in 1951.  Sometime in the fall of 1960, I (9 years old at the time) was being cared for at some friends house.  As I was playing in the front room (it must have been a Sunday afternoon) the TV came on for a game between the Baltimore Colts. All I remember is the announcer talking about the “2 time defending world champs Baltimore Colts led by Johnny Unitas.” I became a Baltimore Colt/Johnny U fan right then and there. And became a fanatical one almost from the get go. I had never seen a football game before (as my dad had no interest in sports. I charted my own fan path.)  I was a fanatical fan until the Colts finally won Super Bowl V, by which time I had burned out on pro football. For the next  15-20 years I followed football with minimal  interest. I still rooted for the Colts, but just didn’t pay much attention. I probably had a number of years in there where I watched maybe one Superbowl  out of ten.  (I was, during most of this time, a fanatical IU basketball fan. )

I was living in Seattle when the Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis and thought how ironic that was for me. A year later I moved to Iowa (for an approximate 20 year stay) and every once in a while made a trip to Indy to visit family or old friends. The Colts were pretty bad and I just wasn’t into football that much.  I remember one Sunday on the 5 hour drive back to Iowa hearing the Colts game on the local radio- they were playing the 49ers I think- early in Manning’s career. I started to get the juices flowing again, as I realized that this guy was pretty good. And I started to get more and more interested. By the time I moved to Ohio in 2004 I was again a Colts fanatic.  Moved on to my current home in Albuquerque  in 2005 and am proud to say I am about as fanatical for the Colts as I used to be for my Hoosiers.

Occasionally I will still refer to the Baltimore Colts when I mean Indianapolis Colts- just out of habit from the old days. I guess I was lucky enough to become a Colt fan for my hometown team 25 years before they became my hometown team.

AJ remembers the rough years after the team had just arrived.

There’s a small but recognizable number of us Colts fans who remember the days of not seeing any preseason – or even many regular season – games until after nearly midnight because there was a blackout due to ticket sales. There are quite a few of us who remember when the QB position was a joke for Indy. There are many of us who recall the games where Indy simply looked flabbergasted, incompetent, outmatched… where Jeff George, a player every bit as heralded a pick Peyton Manning – managed to convince everyone that nothing could lift Indy out of its doldrums. Where it was amazing to make the post-season. Where winning was not expected. Suffering through the days of Bob and Tom not shaving until a game was won (and getting really hairy as a result), through Duke Tomatoe singing his lament, and being shamefaced when asked about Indy’s football team really hammers in a perspective that these current accomplishments should be appreciated, not taken for granted.

It doesn’t take much to topple a team and send it on a terrible decline (look at San Francisco for an example of this). And while it’s simply human and sports-fan nature to live entirely in the moment, I think it’s important to recognize where the franchise has come from and what it has gone through to get where it’s at.  It’s weird, but being a long suffering fan builds in a sense of perspective about so many of these things that were distractions and big stories about the Colts; little of it truly matters in the long view because what does matter is how far the franchise has come. And how amazing it is that a former cellar dweller is now a league leader in terms of wins and accomplishments.

Dan has been a fan from a distance.

I’m a Colts fan from California. I’ve lived here all my life. I’am 51 and became a Baltimore Colts fan in the 7th grade, 1971. What really attracted me to the Colts was Johnny Unitas. Kurt Warner, though not half as accomplished, is a fairly good modern day example of Unitas. I especially identified with his persistence, stick-to-it-ness, adversity, loyalty, practically everything. He definitely didn’t have Peyton Manning’s pedigree, but I admire Manning for his commitment to excellence. Heck, I love the 58 & 59 Colts, even though I wasn’t born until 59. Here they are, an upstart team going into N.Y., going against the establishment, Shea Stadium, amazing. Raymond Berry, how can you NOT admire him? One leg shorter than another, small hands, slow, I kind of acquate him to a Larry Bird. He busted his butt, never rested on his accomplishments, incredible.

Part II. Tony Dungy, he’s taken so much heat for what (who) he stands for, such a humble, others-minded man. I know, this site only claims allegiance to the Indianapolish era, and I understand that, but I love the whole history of the Colts, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Garrison remembers a classic game being the turning point.

I’m told it happened to me in 1992. My dad and one uncle (and a 2 year old me) were helping another uncle move in to a new place during a week 7 Colts/Dolphins game (like that would happen nowadays!). Colts were improbably leading the then unbeaten Dolphins 24-20, but the Dolphins were driving in the 4th. It was then that Steve Emtman came up with an interception and took it 90 yards all the way for a game sealing touchdown. During all of this the adults were all shouting/screaming/yelling and jumping up and down and all of that. I’m told that I had a look of abject terror on my face because I didn’t know what was going on. After it became apparent that they were in fact happy I’m told my 2-year old response was just “oh you guys…”

Now of course I don’t really remember that, but by all accounts, my blood was blue from the earliest of ages. I remember one family gathering where we were watching a Colts game. I remember wondering aloud why everyone cared so much. My dad told me I had to… and that was that. Since then I’ve been blessed to have an uncle who has had season tickets (which I usually get to go when I’m home from school) and family who goes to the occasional game so I manage 4 or so games a year- and countless hours devoted to thinking about the team.

Flores tells the story about how a new kind of football fan was born.

What finally sealed the deal, oddly enough, occurred after I graduated college and moved to DC.  One of my roommates was an Indian (the kind from India) who spent many years in Philadelphia and became a rabid Eagles fan, bonding with the guys who waited at the Laundromat waiting for their laundry.  Just before the football season got underway, I had an extremely painful, acrimonious end to a relationship.  My roommate and a few other guy friends took me with them to local sports bars to get me out of the house on Sundays.  Prior to that, I typically only watched during the post season.  That would be the year I began watching the regular season.  Naturally, my team of choice was the Colts.  It had been years since I lived in Indiana, but I had stuck with the Pacers – I’m obsessively loyal.  Until Reggie Miller retired in that heartbreaking final season, I still watched only them.  School was busy and I rarely could follow them during the regular season or sometimes even the postseason, but I never rooted for another team.  The natural choice then for a football team was Indiana’s team, the Colts.  It helped that my Packers fan loved Peyton and hated the Patsies.  And so it happened, that someone who spent 10 years of her life in Boston, became a rabid Colts fan.  And I will never forget that in those cold winter months post-breakup where at times I never knew when I would fall apart in tears, I always knew, Sunday – Sunday I would be ok.  Sunday, my mind would be fully occupied by something else (and eventually Mondays, and towards the end of the season Thursdays and Saturdays!).

As you can deduce, it took years for me to fully appreciate the NFL.  And I became a Colts fan late in the Manning Era.  When I mentioned to my old boyfriend, the Broncos fan, he was shocked I finally came to see the light.  And when he heard about my adoration of Manning, he immediately mentioned Unitas.  My response was a, huh?  And his response was a dead silence.  That’s when I realized, despite the fact that I understood the basic rules, the history of the game was still lost on me.  So I began to read what I could – the Wikipedia articles about the old football legends, every article I could get my hands on about the Colts.  My old workplace in DC probably would not want to know how much time I spent browsing ESPN, SI, and Colts blogs (what a joy it was to find those!).  Eventually, I became determined to understand football strategy – what announcers were talking about when they mentioned things like “man coverage”, “blitz”, “screen plays”, “play-action”, “shotgun formation”.  Reading your blog helped so much, as did your repeated endorsement of Football Outsiders.  Once when I was mentioning a few articles they wrote about corner play, my Packers friend was silent for a while and said, “I think you know more about football than me now.  What a long way you’ve come!”  I laughed.  I told him I spent so much time reading about football I easily knew more than most guy friends I have.  I even briefly dated a guy who referred to me as his person ESPN.  I looked affronted and told him he was getting better analysis from me than ESPN.

Matt S tells his story

I became a fan of the Indy Colts (and football in general) at the age of nine.  The game was one of beauty, tension, and heartache.

I remember watching this game like it was yesterday.  My older brother was a swimmer, and a darn good one.  He was at a major swimming invitational at a high school on the outskirts of Indianapolis, and it happened to be the same day as the 1995 AFC Championship Game.

I remember watching the game because we were watching in the school cafeteria, with hundreds of people standing around the television sets.  I did not know a single player, but I knew everyone around me was cheering for the Colts in white.  I soon joined in, as if I was born to cheer for this game.

We all know the end of the game was classic.  What let me know it was something meaningful.  This swimming invitational took a break from their meet to allow all swimmers, parents, and fans to go to the cafeteria to watch the last 2 minutes.

We watched the hail mary, cheered as we thought we won, then silence spread as we realized it was incomplete.

My greatest memory as a Colts fan was that first day, standing with hundreds in defeat–being a fan means more in a loss.

If you’ve got a share a story about how your blood turned blue, please share it.

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