It's been a long time since the Colts were under .500 for more than one week in a season. We are now going on our fourth week below the break even point (after Chicago, 2 weeks after Jacksonville). Demond complained to me that he didn't even want to go to the game Sunday, and it occurred to me that we all might have forgotten what normal life was like in the NFL. We have seen a historic run of playoff football and 10 win teams, and we've forgotten what it was like to follow a franchise that drafts in the top 5 all the time. So here's a fans survival guide for rooting for a mediocre team.
1. Have fun-It sounds simple right? We all watch football because on some level we like it. The problem is, once your team hits a certain level, it's easy to mistakenly think that the only way to have a good season is to win it all. Thus, for whole months at a time you feel bored or tune out, just waiting for the games that really matter. Now? Just go have fun at the games. Realize that your team isn't that good, and that they'll lose some. We have a beautiful stadium and a great down town. Go tailgate, enjoy a lovely fall evening...whatever. Just have fun. The pressure of getting a #1 seed is off.
2. Look on the brightside. Every game means something now? Remember all those useless December games we had last year? They matter now. If you have season tickets and can't make it to a game, you have a chance to sell your ticket for better than face. Plus, because Tom Brady is hurt, a lot of the venom has gone out of this week's Pats game.
3. Remember the bad old days. 3-4? I've been to enough games when we were 1-6, that 3-4 looks good. We root for a team that has some talent and hope for the future. About half the franchises in the NFL would trade places with Indy this season. There were years when 3-4 had everyone excited because if we could just get hot maybe we could finish at 9-7 and make the playoffs. Remember everyone's favorite Colts squad? The 1995 Colts were...9-7.
4. Remember that we won a Super Bowl. I agree with Bill Simmons 5 year moratorium on bitching about the team after winning a title. We won it all. Polian, Dungy, and the rest brought us something we had NEVER seen. This week, if you are the Luke, glance up at the banner and at the Pats on field and smile because we've won more recently than they have.
5. Look to the future. Eventually, even if it's next season, this team will get back to an elite level. For the last 12 months everything that could go wrong has. The following players have had serious injuries:
Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Dwight Freeney, Ryan Lilja, Tony Ugoh, Bob Sanders, Kelvin Hayden, Rob Morris, Tyjuan Hagler, Robert Mathis...oh yeah and two DTs are gone for various reasons.
There is no reason not to assume that in a month or two, or at the worst by next season this team will be right back to where it was. Even if it doesn't happen this year, things will be ok next year. Plus, a weak season this year means better draft picks next year. Woo hoo.
6. Remember the Giants and Steelers. At this point in the season of their Super Bowl runs, both teams seemed to have played their way out of contention. Oops. Don't jump ship just yet. Having said that, there's no reason to play Pollyanna either. It's reasonable to doubt that this incarnation of the Colts will turn things around. They are very average. They have about two weeks of leeway before the shark has officially been jumped on 2008.
7. It could be worse. We could be 5-2 and Peyton Manning could be lost for the year. Everyone critiques every throw by Peyton and blames it on his knee. Imagine what it'll be like for Tom Brady next year? He's coming back to an offense that will have an even older Randy Moss, and there's a good chance he won't have as stellar a season as the media expects. Pats fans can expect to face AT LEAST one more year of nothing but Brady's knee talks. And if he never throws 30 TD passes again (and the odds are against him), they'll hear about his knee forever. Pats fans are in a no win scenario. If they win it all this year with Matt Cassel at QB, their immortal favorite player automatically drops several notches in prestige. If they don't win it all, they'll hear all offseason about Brady's rehab, and have to sweat his comeback well into next year.
We could also be San Diego fans at 3-5. Yikes. Worst of all, we could be Jags fans (if there were such a thing). The Jags are watching the Colts come back to earth just as they always dreamed...and they are muddling along at 3-4 utterly incapable of running the ball. Indy stumbles, and they couldn't take advantage. Ouch. That's got to hurt.
I don't know about you guys...but I think I can be thankful for 3-4. At least a little. At least until 8 o'clock on Sunday night.
Hugging Harold Reynolds wants to know why #18 so popular with gang bangers
Paul Kuharsky has an EXCELLENT post about the Colts 'window' not being closed. He says if anything, the Colts are too young.