Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tough Colts seasons can be fun

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 4:00 AM

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Andrew Luck made his debut for the Indianapolis Colts by playing just well enough for his team to be beaten by 20 points on Sunday. Peyton Manning made his debut with the Denver Broncos a few hours later.

Luck's stat line was about what you'd expect for a talented but inexperienced quarterback: 300 yards, one touchdown, a few moments of brilliance and several instances of rookie stupidity. Just like Peyton Manning in his debut for the Colts in 1998.

I certainly hope that you didn't play a drinking game where you had to take a shot every time Luck made a bad decision or got knocked on his butt, because you'd probably only now be waking up from a coma brought on by acute alcohol poisoning.

That doesn't mean drafting Luck was a mistake. It will take a few years to determine that. Me, I don't plan on following the Colts much this year. The wife doesn't like football and, unlike past seasons, no one is paying me to write about the games or talk about them on the radio.

Someone asked me the other day who was on my fantasy team and I told them Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore and Halle Berry. I don't know what kind of fantasies other people have.

But for Colts diehards, there's no reason to give up, no matter how bad it gets. Sit back and enjoy the apocalypse that will be the 2012 Colts. Watching the Colts struggle through games and seeing them build dreams, which are almost immediately smashed is a Hoosier tradition.

When Indianapolis abducted the Colts from Baltimore in 1984, they were one of the worst teams in the league. They had no name players, only some guys who were grateful to be playing pro ball instead of bagging groceries. After a first few years of sellouts produced by fans excited to have an NFL team, by the early 1990s attendance dwindled to the point that you could score good tickets for $5 from scalpers outside the Hoosier Dome.

The Colts have had some lousy years but none were lousier than the 1991 season. Against a soft schedule that included most of the other garbage teams in the league at that time, the Colts managed only a single, extremely lucky, one-point victory, escaping becoming the first team to go 0-16.

The 1991 season was also one of the most enjoyable football seasons of my life. Our quarterback, Jeff George, who was, like Luck, a No. 1 pick, gave one of the worst single-season performances in the history of the NFL. He was sacked 56 times that year and managed only 10.0 yards per completion, due to most of his passes occurring as he was being pulled to the ground.

The team scored only 143 points that season, which sounds bad enough — less than 10 points per game — but looks even worse in retrospect. In nine of the Colts' 16 regular-season games, they scored between zero and six points. They put a season-high 28 points on the board in their only win.

They were possibly the least effective offensive unit I've ever seen in a lifetime of watching football, even worse than last year's Colts team.

But watching the team's weekly shellacking at the dome was great fun. The people who actually showed up were true football fans with great senses of humor. Once you bought your $5 scalped ticket, the stands were so empty that you could move to the primo seats after the first quarter.

The announced attendance figures for that season look suspiciously high to me. There's no way 48,286 people showed up on Dec. 15, 1991, right before Christmas, to see a 35-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. I remember estimating no more than 25,000 people at the start of the game and a few hundred diehards at the end.

The point is: Following the Colts that year was fun because nobody else cared about them. There were no home games on local TV, no hordes of people wearing blue jerseys. Nobody believed in the team except the players, their families and the few of us who were dumb or brave enough to come to the games.

George was a horrible quarterback but was friendly with the fans. You could relate to him. He had talent that couldn't be utilized. Almost all of us go through that at our own jobs. The Colts spent much of the season being knocked to the ground yet they almost always got back up just in time to get knocked down again.

So even if Luck turns out to be a bust and even if the Colts lose, if you're a believer in the team, don't stop believing. It's good karma and all that. Besides, you're already paying several taxes to subsidize the team and its stadium so you may as well get your money's worth.

Be proud of Your Indianapolis Colts no matter what happens — after all, we stole them fair and square from Baltimore in the 1980s.

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