Go Colts!

Well, I got one of my Indianapolis Wish List items: the Colts made it to the Super Bowl. The question before me now is will the Colts win the big game?

I could talk about the running tandem of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes or the money of Adam Vinatieri’s leg. I could talk about this being a team of character and heart, how we’ve gotten rid of grumblers and bad eggs and have only become stronger. I could talk about the defense finding new life after being told by so many that they couldn’t. However, that would require the kind of sports expertise beyond my casual brand of interest. To my mind, though, this game boils down to two men: Dungy and Manning.

Coach Tony Dungy joined Chicago Bear’s coach, Lovie Smith, in making Super Bowl history by being the first black coaches to lead their teams to the Super Bowl. One more barrier broken, another cultural advancement achieved – and another step toward this not being an issue. In the NFL, where nearly 70 percent of the players are black, only seven of 32 head coaches this season were black. The NFL has aggressively fought for diversity and their efforts have paid off. Save me your blather about affirmative action, covert racism is something difficult to root out. People are people and still cling to those they are comfortable with. We aren’t quite to the colorblind utopia we all hope for and keep talking about. Should either of these two friends, Lovie or Tony, win, we will be one step, on a still long journey, closer.

QB Peyton Manning has finally proven he can win the big game. In the AFC Championship game, he exorcized a lot of demons. He came from 18 points down, went through arch-rivals: coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady, and the rest of the New England Patriots. However, he is still an elite quarterback haunted by the ghosts of Dan Marino: incredible individual talent that has yet to win the championship ring. He has nothing left to prove to his critics, but he is in need of the last measure of greatness. Should Manning win the Super Bowl, however, everyone should shut up.

I like our chances. In the end, I just want Dungy and Manning with championship rings to signify what we already know. They are men of integrity, passion, and greatness. Of prodigious talent and quiet dignity. Part of a team who play the game and win the way they should. And they can do it on the largest stage available. In other words, go Colts!

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So Close and Yet So Far

Sports franchises are often the face of the city, which is why it is so important that Indianapolis teams have quality character guys on their teams (memo to the Pacers). A lot of a city’s self-esteem is wrapped up in its sports franchises. We look good on Monday night television, but the Colts need to make it to the Super Bowl.

Do you know what you don’t come to my blog to read? Cogent sports analysis.

Yet here I am, thinking about the Colts and their chances of finally making it to the Promised Land. Do the Colts have a chance to win a Super Bowl this season? Nope, not unless they get some defense. You can make the playoffs with an over-powering offense, but it’s not consistently potent enough to overcome the defense deficiencies come play-off time. Defense wins championships. However, the Super Bowl is the only stage left, big enough, for them. Getting to the Super Bowl certainly matters to Peyton Manning. He needs the big game, not only that, but to play well in that game. Ghosts of Dan Marino will haunt him until he does.

A Super Bowl appearance should certainly matter to Indianapolis. Sports franchises are the public face of a city. It’s one reason why New Orleans is America’s second favorite team right now. We’re rooting for New Orleans vicariously through their team. Some folks make the argument that the teams take on the personalities of the cities, I don’t know if I would go that far. Whether we want them to be or not, they do tend to represent us. They are ambassadors of what we value and how we compete.

This speaks to the importance of having character guys on our teams. Yes, we want to win, but we don’t want to win at all costs. Haywood Hale Broun is noted for saying, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” While sports should be teaching lessons about stronger teamwork or greater self-discipline, instead we get a “me, me, me” attitude, a culture of accommodation, and win at all costs mentality – all driven by money. Rarely is there anything to be appreciated as a “role model” among the athletes.

We want attention for the right reasons as we try to escape the “what the hell were you doing out at 3 a.m at a strip club anyway?” shadow of the Pacers. The Pacers had a preseason publicity campaign because they knew they were facing a disenfranchised fan base (and worse, possible empty seats). Why? Because we want character guys as well as quality product. So we should appreciate good character guys when we have them, like Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, when we see them. Especially when watching them is watching sports history unfold before us as they are among the best of all time.

I’m strictly a casual sports fan. I don’t live and die by a team (or else the Pacers and Colts would have caused me to slit my wrists years ago). We have a good team, an exciting team to watch. Will it be good enough to make it to the Super Bowl? Nope. Though I’d love to be wrong.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.