Horseshoe Diaries, Volume 3

In this week’s installment of the Horseshoe Diaries, we hear from Todd. Todd happens to be a Colts Authority “employee” – the man who brings you all of the links, does a lot of work on twitter, and is the personal cheerleader for the Check it to Pancakes program. After the jump, we’ll read Todd’s story.

As a child of the 80s the world was filled with many fears. We lived under the spectre of a nuclear winter, the looming drug war (and Nancy Reagan) and the painful economic impact of rampant inflation. There was something to fear around every corner but those that hurt the worst are always those closest to home.

In the winter of 1981 my mother and father broke the news that we were moving to Illinois leaving behind our small Indiana town, our friends, our family and the comfort of that small, isolated world I knew. My father had been laid off and offered a job in southern Illinois. We had no choice and while we were thankful for what little we had, I spent countless nights worried that we’d be forced to move again perhaps to somewhere even more removed from my grandparents, cousins and friends.

For every one of those years in southern Illinois I was the new kid, the outsider no one really knew. I was short, skinny, comparatively poor with few friends. I was different. Being from Indiana wasn’t necessarily a good thing in the 1980s either and the other kids let me know. They had Chicago, the Bears, real culture while Indiana was that weird cousin who lived down the street and “didn’t know any better.” Aside from the Indy 500 there was little anyone in Illinois identified with Indiana. Even our beloved high school and college basketball traditions mattered little to the kids who mercilessly ostracized me. For all they knew I didn’t exist. 

On a long weekend home to visit my grandparents in April of 1984 all of that changed, at least in my mind. My mother had taken us to JC Penney’s at the Honey Creek Square Mall in Terre Haute. Terre Haute wasn’t exactly a wonderful oasis but in my little world it was a wonderful break from Illinois. It was at that woefully beige and brown JC Penney that I spotted a little grey t-shirt that would change my life. It had only been weeks since the Colts had abandoned Baltimore for Indianapolis and the shirts had already arrived.

Football? In our beloved basketball haven? But this was a big-time moment. It was something new, strange and utterly magnificent. Indiana not only had a professional basketball team but an NFL team. Aside from the Cubs and White Sox, both of which stunk, what did Illinois have on Indiana now?

It was at that moment that my Hoosier pride took over and I found an identity. It was a moment of pride to have an NFL team. I understood nothing of Bob Irsay’s troubles with the city and state governments or John Elway’s 1983 embarrassment. It didn’t matter that the team was horrible and had little hope of success in the Hoosier Dome. There was no hesitation to love an unlovable team–they were our team and that’s all that mattered. That t-shirt (which I owned for years) gave me a little bit of pride and an inkling of who I wanted to be.

Once my family had returned to Indiana I suffered, like all of you, through those unbearable seasons. The Dickerson years, the 1991 1-15 season, getting robbed by Kordell Stewart and the Steelers and finally this glorious era we’ve enjoyed for more than a decade. Yet through it all I’ve always been thankful for my Colts. Over those years so many other pieces of Colts memorabilia have replaced that original shirt including my favorite “Let ‘er rip” sweatshirt, Harrison, Freeney and Manning jerseys and countless others. No piece of my collection will ever much as that first t-shirt.

Thank you for sharing, Todd! We’ll back back next week with Volume 4 of the Horseshoe Diaries, keep your stories coming!