Whether you love him or merely really really like it, it's impossible to deny the impact Peyton Manning has had on the Colts, their fans, and the entire state of Indiana. His first trip to Indianapolis in another uniform as elicited quite the emotional reaction from the fan base. Some made youtube videos, some tweeted their thoughts and some wrote.
Below our a few tributes written by Colts fans about #18 and what he meant to them.
This is one of the lasting sports memories of my life thus far. Despite the fact that it came during a playoff loss, an otherwise miserable moment, it was perfection. When Larry Brown calls the timeout and the Pistons all end up on the floor joining in the crowd’s standing ovation for Miller, I still tear up to this day. As much as eight points in nine seconds, or the game-winner against the Bulls, this is my lasting memory of Reggie Miller.
I always imagined Peyton Manning would have a similar goodbye in Indianapolis. He was (is? might still be?!) every bit as loved as Miller and he deserved the opportunity to be showered in love and adoration the final time he left the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. In victory or defeat it would matter not, because being able to witness the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis had been a victory for us all. The image of Peyton Manning walking off the field as we all said goodbye, recounting all of the good times and none of the bad, should have been our lasting memory of Peyton Manning.
Instead, my lasting memory of Peyton Manning in a Colts uniform is leading a game winning drive, in the playoffs, only for the victory to be snatched away from him 53 cruel seconds later as it so often had been. A tragic memory, but maybe somehow fitting (in a dark, twisted, unfair way).
Last spring there was an article on Deadspin titled “Have You Had Your Victor Oladipo Moment Yet?” For those of us who were fans of the Colts from 1998 to 2010, how many “Peyton Manning Moments” were we blessed with?
The New Orleans homecoming where he had more touchdowns (6) than he did incompletions (5). The Monday Night Football comeback against Tampa Bay. The Denver playoff games. The duel with Brett Favre. The six touchdowns in less than three full quarters on Thanksgiving. The record breaker to Stokley. The 80 yard bomb to Marvin to open MNF against Pittsburgh. The time Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson came to watch Manning and Harrison throw the route tree before a game. The 2006 AFCCG. The Sage Rosencopter comeback game in Houston. The final 9 games of 2008 watching an actual robot play quarterback. The “Time of Possession” game in Miami. The 4th and 2 comeback. The “height of his powers” game eviscerating the Jets in the 2009 playoffs (And that throw to Collie. Lawd.). Trailing the Jags through 12 games in 2010, only to finish off 4-0 to win the AFC-S in a year where winning the division was a monumental accomplishment. And a personal favorite, that bootleg against Oakland. And so, so many more.
Six straight years of having a winning streak that lasted at least two entire months. The comfort that knowing if we had a primetime game, Manning was going for 3+ touchdowns and we were going to win. Four MVP awards. Four hundred touchdowns. We had a lot of Peyton Manning Moments.
My favorite Manning moment was a recurring one. I referred to it as the “light bulb moment.” It didn’t happen in every game, but it happened in quite a few of them. One would most often notice this if during the first several possessions of the game Manning seemed a bit off. Maybe he wasn’t seeing receivers, maybe he was calling an audible into a wrong play, something just wasn’t right. Maybe the other team was building up a lead and getting Colts fans worried, CBS would show manning staring quizzically at the pictures on the sideline. Then Manning would come back onto the field and complete a pass. Then another. Then another. And pretty soon he’d throw a touchdown. He did it. He figured it out. You could always tell when “it” happened. And if you were anything like me, you relaxed a little bit because hey, we had Peyton-freakin’-Manning.
Since we were deprived a proper goodbye, these are the things we should remember. Instead, too many ask why Peyton Manning seemed to come up small in the big games, forgetting that the Colts had more playoff wins in the final seven years of the Manning era than all but two franchises, or forgetting other factors that led to those losses. There was always a whole list of reasons for a playoff loss, Peyton Manning’s level of play was very rarely near the top. Manning’s curse was being good enough to drag incredibly flawed teams to the postseason.
I really thought this week would go off without a hitch. We would reminisce all week. They would play the tribute video before the game, we would all cheer wildly and shed a tear or two, then the teams would play, and in the post-game interview Manning would say something acknowledging his time here and we’d all swoon. Now, after this mess, well, I don’t know what to expect.
My football cognizance didn’t begin until about 2000, obviously I’ve had it pretty good since then (don’t worry; I’m also an IU football fan, so it balances out nicely). As a result I feel a depressingly personal attachment to Manning and the 2000s Colts. They are the first sports team I obsessed over. I was a Pacer fan in the 90s, but I wasn’t yet old enough to really obsess over them. I could never quit on football now. NFL Sundays are truly the best 12 hours of my week. Manning is the reason for that.
I did my undergraduate studies in Chicago. For four years on Sundays I would walk around in my Peyton Manning jersey, beaming with pride. Am I from Indianapolis? You’re damn right I am (any time a Bears fan chose to needle me during the rare rough stretch, the retort was always the same: “29-17”). The Colts offered outsiders a look into Indianapolis, which had come a long way from when the spotlight was shown on the city during the Pacers/Knicks match-ups. When the Super Bowl was here in February of 2012 I had friends (from Chicago, Boston, LA, you name it) visit during the festivities and they were taken aback at how “cool” Indianapolis was, and how everything was run smoothly, and the people were awesome. They finally understood the sense of personal pride I had in Indy. I’ve lived in Chicago and Rome, Italy, and think Indianapolis is the greatest city ever. I think Indiana is the greatest state ever. That pride isn’t there without Peyton Manning.
Without Peyton Manning I’m not sure there’s an 18to88 or Colts Authority as we know them. Without Peyton Manning I probably don’t know/follow on Twitter Luke or Nate, or Greg, or Kyle, or hobo-blogger Roy Hobbson (and many, many others). Outside a few friends and family members, the 18to88/CA community is who I talk Colts with. How insane would I go if I were forced to talk football with people that spoke about football like cavemen, preaching the virtues of running the ball and stopping the run (you know, like the time Pep Hamilton tried to sell me some of his Glyco-Heroin. Without Peyton Manning I might be institutionalized.
My uncle is a season ticket holder and I have been lucky enough to attend games with him regularly since 2008. I’ve been fortunate to have many of my Peyton Manning Moments in person, and for that I’m eternally grateful. Seeing the pre-snap histrionics and the amazingly tight windows Manning threw into in person were amazing. I’m very glad I was old enough (and maybe young enough) to fully appreciate what I had the privilege of witnessing.
This isn’t a commentary on Andrew Luck. There will be no bigger supporter of Luck over the next 15 years than me. I hope he turns into one of the greatest of all time, puts up Star Wars numbers, and leads us to many more of these *points at Jim Irsay’s Super Bowl ring*. But my support for Peyton is about validation. Not just for him, but for me, and the city, and everyone that supported him against his most vicious detractors. I want him to win another Super Bowl or two so I can finally let his body of work speak for itself. No one remembers John Elway’s three Super Bowl losses; they only remember the two wins. I want that for Manning desperately. That would be sports nirvana for me.
Another lasting memory I have of saying goodbye to an athlete happened on December 22nd, 2011; oddly enough for a player that remains a Colt to this day. During the tumultuous 2011 season many fans could see the writing on the wall regarding the future of the franchise. One of the players it seemed would be leaving us soon was Reggie Wayne.
In this final home game of the season, as you may recall, Reggie caught the game winning touchdown pass (from Dan Orlovsky, obviously) with under 30 seconds to play. As fate would have it, the touchdown came in the same end zone that Reggie greets and pumps up before every home game. The people who sit on that end have a special connection to Wayne. He’s our guy. We’re his guys. Many of us thought that would be the final pass we ever saw Reggie catch in a Colts uniform. There were tears shed that day. Even during the worst football season, that marked the sad end of an era, I’ll always have that memory. When Reggie retires, as a Colt or otherwise, I’ll be at peace because I said my goodbye, even if it was a few years early.
This Sunday isn’t about welcoming Peyton back to Indianapolis; it’s about saying “goodbye.” Something we never got the chance to do. My cheers during the tribute video will say one thing, and one thing only:
“Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I truly enjoyed being your fan.”
It was April 18th, 1998. I was a little 5 year old kid coming off my first full season of going to Colts games with my dad. At this time I was excited about anything football but at that time even I knew that day was special because I could see it in my dad. He waited anxiously to see his beloved Colts, a team he’d been a ticket holder to since 1986, draft a goofy looking southern kid from Tennessee to play quarterback.
That first season was rough but I didn’t care because I was with my dad at the games. I wore his jersey with pride that season until the next August at a sparsely attended camp practice I got it signed by my new hero. I never wore that jersey again and it hangs in my room at my parent’s house to this day.
Over the course of the years my love affair with the team grew as did my pride. I would scream till I was blue in the face when kids said Colts stood for Count on Losing This Sunday. Because they weren’t just a team, they were my team. I lived and breathed Colts football; I would talk hours with my dad about the upcoming game and the possible game plan.
As the team grew and this quarterback grew so did I and my relationship with my dad. Everything about the game was special, whether it be walking to the game or getting there super early just to watch the players warm up. My dad would tell me to look at him, see how he acts off the field he was someone I should look up to. He was my hero and I wanted to be just like him.
Peyton Manning represents a lot for me. He represents everything that’s right with the league, he represents a gigantic portion of my childhood, but most importantly he represents countless memories with my dad. Whether it was him letting me stay up late on a Monday night in 2003 to watch the impossible happen, or skipping Halloween to watch them beat the stupid Cowboys.
But no game I’ve ever been to can top January 21, 2007. That game was a sample of every emotion I have ever felt as a Colts fan. That game was special because when Marlin Jackson picked off “the worst living American,” 8 seasons of frustration were lifted in a single moment.
I’ve seen my dad cry exactly three times in my 21 years. That was one of the three, when we hugged in that moment we both cried tears of pure joy. We cried because the Colts won but also because of the shared memories at the games and because our quarterback was finally going to quiet the stupid critics. Peyton Manning's years with the Colts mean so much to me because it reminds me of all the games sitting with my dad watching him achieve greatness.
So this Sunday I’ll be in my usual seat with my dad clapping for the man that made so many Sundays special.
December 9th, 2004, sometime around 7:30 in the morning, I pulled into my high school parking lot and had a cigarette in my Ford Ranger before I went in. Rebellious, I know. I wasn’t thinking about anything particular that morning. I can’t even remember what I was listening to, more than likely Dream Theater. But, I received a call on my Siemens cell phone from my sister. She was crying. I could hear it in her voice. She had something to tell me. My mind rushed. Did a family member die? Did she experience a break up? She kept asking if I was sitting down. My heart started pounding. Panic was washing over me. What was it?
“Nate… Dimebag was murdered.”
My heart stopped.
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I don’t even remember the rest of that day. My favorite musician of my favorite band, Pantera, had been murdered. Killed. Wiped out. Expunged. It was senseless. I was numb. I wanted answers.
This was years before Twitter and Facebook even opened to the public. No mobile phones, no internet access at the palm of your hand, nothing. It was later that day that I began to learn what happened.
It’s hard to write about this, but given what’s coming up this weekend, I feel I need to. To put into words what that band meant to me is even harder. It means I have to be truthful with myself. I became a diehard fan of Pantera almost instantaneously. I was 12 years old when I first heard The Great Southern Trendkill. I wasn’t a fan of music. I didn’t have a favorite band. I was even ok with this thought. But, all of that changed.
My family, meaning my parents and my older brother and sister, has always loved music. My parents’ taste derives from the late 60’, 70’s, and 80’s. My mom worked in a record store for most of her adult life. My brother grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s and experienced a major culture change with the influx of hip-hop and heavy metal. My sister grew up idolizing The Doors and later turned to Soundgarden and the heavier music of the late 90’s. Then there I was, the biggest Stone Cold Steve Austin fan this side of the Pacific Ocean. I didn’t have any interest in music at all. My brother and sister both played guitar and took extensive lessons. I body slammed pillows and performed The Stunner on pieces of furniture, all without lessons mind you!
Then it happened. My sister played The Great Southern Trendkill one day while we were at home and my life changed. It was aggressive. The singer, Phil Anselmo, yelled and screamed. The drums pounded through my ears like a freight train carrying heavy lumber and coal. The bass made the blood in my body rattle. But nothing compared to the sounds that the guitar was making. It growled, howled, screamed, and breathed ice and fire. It would lie dormant for a few bars only to squeal to life with a barrage of high pitched notes and deafening low chords. It scared you. It enticed you. It’s the rocket that explodes into a million pieces to only come back together again and leaves orbit, successfully. It was Dimebag Darrell. I was enamored. I was officially a fan of music. It happened that fast.
I went to middle school and was scared. I worried about fitting in. I worried about my perception of being different. I worried about things kids that age worry about all the time. Looking back I was normal. I just didn’t think I was at the time. I worried I wasn’t going to make any friends. I worried more often than not that girls wouldn’t like me. Some nights I couldn’t sleep because of it. Pantera was the only solace I could find. Listening to them was a lot like making friends with the biggest, toughest guy on the block. They had your back.
Whatever you felt, going through, or had coming up, they were there. The spoke about individualism, not buying into trends, having confidence, and best of all, they had the talent to back it up. This wasn’t some high school band that were throwing bar chords together and screaming about teenage depression. This was a group of seasoned and insanely talented musicians that at the moment you touched the play button, well, you felt like an army swarmed around you and protected you. Maybe it’s what Superman feels like donning the cape, or Tony Stark encapsulating himself in iron, they were my superheroes come to life and they gave me something no one else could at that time, my sense of self.
I listened to them nonstop. I gulped their albums like they were drinking water. I learned all of their songs by heart. I would take a meter stick that was out in the garage and run around my room trying to play like Dimebag. In my room I played to millions upon millions of fans, fans who didn’t necessarily adore me, but were there because they were like me. They wanted to have a good time. I grew my hair long and made it into an undercut. If you don’t know what an undercut is, look it up. Yeah, I had that. Because of this band, my outlook on life changed for the better.
In 2001, I began to play the drums. I can honestly say that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Pantera. 12 years later, I still play. I went to high school and made truck loads of friends. I dated girls. I wrote for the high school paper. I was a part of a Battle Bot team that won Nationals, seriously. I played in so many bands. I stayed out of trouble. I didn’t fight anybody. I made much more peace than discourse or violence, all the while being a strict metal head, although a refined metal head at that.
There were so many family members and friends to thank during that time for guiding and raising me, but whenever I severely doubted myself and couldn’t put it into words, I would listen to Pantera and it all went away, peacefully and quietly. Poof!
One of my favorite family moments actually involves going to the only Pantera show I’ve been to. My brother bought me a ticket and took me to the Pepsi Coliseum. We talked on the way up about various things, but I believe we had one of our very first conversations about football at that point. We sat in a section removed away from the floor of the venue. There was no way in hell either him or I were getting involved in Pantera’s moshpit. I’d rather play professional football, at least they have rules. But, my sister, attending the concert with her friends, made her way to the front of the stage, a talent of hers that really no one can equal, and enjoyed the concert from there while my brother and I watched from afar. I’m biased but that’s the best concert I’ve ever been to. They played all of my favorite songs, they told jokes, they ran around on stage, they brought members from the other bands they were touring with on stage to sing with them, they threw beer into the crowd during their intermission; the singer even talked football on the microphone in between songs. (He’s a Saints fan and Jim Mora was in his third year here in Indy), and they were the tightest band I’ve ever seen. I was lucky to share that evening and experience with them. I’ll never forget it.
Around the fall of 2001, Pantera decided to take an indefinite hiatus: No touring, no recording, nothing. I was angry. I was furious. I was in disbelief. I was also selfish. They were here for my amusement, my entertainment, my confidence. They started other bands. They released records with these other bands and even went on tour with them. It was devastating. But, I eventually got over it, because, well, they weren’t dead. They were still making music I enjoyed, just not together unfortunately. That’s when things went from bad to worse.
In 2003, the band members started arguing through the media; magazines, radio interviews, TV interviews, the works. One side was more hateful than the other. One side started talking about wanting to move on focus on their current project. It was painful to watch and read. Here were a group of guys that gave the impression that no bond was stronger than theirs. It just wasn’t. I was a late teenager hoping for a reunion, but getting worried they might be too old by the time they get around to settling their differences to play heavy metal music. Goodness they could be sixty years old! You can’t be that old and play heavy metal music. Geez!
The guitarist and drummer for Pantera were brothers, Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul. They started a new band called Damageplan. And in the early winter months of 2004 they began their national tour to bring their new product to the mass of fans dying for something new. On December 8th, 2004, they came to Cleveland, Ohio, one of the many stops they would make across the Midwest for their long awaited tour. Exactly 38 seconds into the start of their set, Nathan Gale, a mentally ill fan upset about the breakup of Pantera, stormed the stage with a shotgun and took Dimebag Darrell hostage. There were no moments of negotiation, no moments of pleading for sanity; he unloaded into the belly and chest of the man I grew up adoring. He pumped him full of lead. Dimebag Darrell was murdered on stage in front of fans. He was murdered in front of his brother who sat frozen behind his drum set.
I hate reliving this as much as writing this. But, I have to.
Dimebag Darrell meant something special to me. His guitar playing was so unique and different. There wasn’t really anyone like him before and there certainly hasn’t been anyone like him since. He changed music. He helped change me. I listen to his music at least once every two weeks, if I chose to listen to music. Sometimes I don’t. Around the time of his death my passion for football started growing. I turned to football because I was upset with music at the time, mainly the drama that always seemed to be associated with it; the bickering back and forth. Football appealed to me because of the no nonsense attitude it had. You showed up, you were talented, you do your job, and you go home. You win and sometimes lose.
Then, there was Peyton; talented, commanding, and amazing. Much like my youth when I wasn’t interested in music, I felt the same when I began to watch football. But, as fast as I became a fan of Pantera, I became a fan of the Colts. The rest is history.
Now, many words and much greater articles have been written about what Peyton Manning means to Indiana, to the fans, and to the ones writing their articles. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this week when it came up on the schedule. I figured I was going to be a mixed bag of emotions. But, bickering started to happen on social media. Whatever was said, whatever was interpreted or misinterpreted, struck a chord. It seemed familiar. Not from last year during the Super Bowl, but further back… And then I remembered.
I’m grateful Peyton Manning is healthy. I’m even more amazed at the level he’s playing at. It’s truly marvelous to see. I’m more than happy with my current quarterback, Andrew Luck. I now get to see Peyton Manning play, at the very least, one game back home in Indianapolis. I couldn’t cherish it any more than I do right now. Because, let me tell you, I’ve had the pinnacle of my entertainment, my confidence, my army, my super hero, murdered and taken away from me. I will never see him play again. I will never hear his new music. He’s gone. I will never experience that reunion of sixty year olds playing heavy metal music. It breaks my heart. So, I will cherish this, even if he’s playing the Colts because the alternative could be worse. Much, much worse.
Dimebag Darrell and Peyton Manning could not be more different from each other, but one picked up where the other left off. They’re my guys, my army, my super heroes and I’ll never forget that.