No, this isn’t a self-help piece for managers at work, or for people in difficult relationships. It’s an admission that I am dealing with a deep-seated football conflict. If you follow me on Twitter, you have undoubtedly noticed this conflict. You have surely seen the conflict play tug-of-war with my loyalties. You’ve probably questioned my fandom. I am speaking of my undying support for both the Colts, and for Peyton Manning.
As the season began, it was easy to root for both… after all, when they would inevitably clash in Lucas Oil Stadium, playoffs would not likely be decided and each team could be 6-0 at best. Then something strange happened… Manning threw seven touchdowns in an absolutely dominant opening performance against the erstwhile World Champion Baltimore Ravens. I didn’t say anything at the time, because I do believe in jinxes, but a quick multiplication by 16 told me that Manning could absolutely shatter the record that had been so cheaply taken from him in 2007. (I say cheap because it took the other quarterback at least one more game of play to break it by 1 measly touchdown.) I began at that moment to root HARD for Manning to retake his record.
And as the season unfolded, I began to put more and more of my chips behind Manning… I have always believed that he has been let down by the teams or circumstances around him and that he deserves to be recognized as Greatest of All Time without asshats like Skip Bayless dismissively referring to him as the greatest “regular season” quarterback of all time. For the last couple of years, I have secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) held that my team can wait, that it is Manning’s time.
Still, I rooted hard for the Colts – they are still my team after all. I was flabbergasted that they barely beat the Raiders, more flabbergasted when they lost to the Dolphins, and over the moon when they beat both the 49ers and Seahawks. The emotional ups and downs during those first six weeks could probably be the subject of psychology books. So as October 20 approached, I had to finally decide whether I would maintain my support for the Colts, or somehow put aside my loyalty for one night. As the hour approached, I maintained that I would simply root for the offense.
But then another strange thing happened… I decided I really wanted the Colts to win. At this point, my logic was probably that, at 4-2, the Colts really needed the win to maintain pace for the playoffs, and the Broncos, at 6-0, could afford to lose one. I honestly didn’t believe the Colts would win, but I was also genuinely happy when they did (while Manning added 3 touchdowns to keep pace for his record).
After that “bump” in the road, I was able to root openly for both of my loves throughout the rest of the year. The next big stumbling block came on November 24. No, I’m not talking about the absolute shellacking the Colts experienced at the hands of the Cardinals. I’m talking about the ONE game of the year that I had wanted to watch in isolation. The ONE game that I knew I could be nowhere near my husband (who grew up rooting for our hated rivals). The ONE game that I ended up on the couch next to him anyway. The game that started in such AWESOME fashion with a 24-0 lead for Manning and the Broncos. That night, all I really hoped for was that Manning would escape with a win. By that point he had 34 touchdowns, enough that he could have none that night and still be able to break the record… perhaps by one cheap touchdown. When they squandered the lead, then ultimately lost, I was catatonic. It wasn’t really even that they lost, it was who they lost to, and how.
It took a week to gather myself, and even then, I still haven’t been myself. I had wanted to return to writing, but I didn’t have the strength. With the playoffs now set the way they are, I am completely up in the air as to how to root. Obviously I want the Colts to win on Saturday. But if I root for the Bengals, then my Colts will meet Manning the following weekend and I will be frozen – whereas the regular season game was a win-win proposition for me, an early playoff matchup would be lose-lose. On the other hand, if I root for the Chargers, then my Colts will face a stronger team in the Northeast – still with the chance to meet Manning in the AFCCG – while Manning takes on a rising team in the Chargers… a dangerous wish. There is only one rooting interest of which I am absolutely certain… I am rooting that Skip Bayless has no grounds on which to declare any other quarterback the greatest of all time.