My buddy Slim Ferguson explained it all to me over a couple of cans of Pabst during the Colts-Ravens game Sunday night. "The Colts are cursed," he said. "As long as they keep the name 'Colts,' they're destined to lose."
"But they've made it to the playoffs the last three years," I said. "If a few breaks had gone their way, they might have been Super Bowl champions last year."
"The Colts are cursed," he said. "I heard that when they left Baltimore in 1984, a witch doctor put a hex on the team. They're going to continue to choke in the playoffs until they give Baltimore back their old team name."
"Nonsense," I said. "Baltimore has forgotten about the Colts already. The Ravens are legitimate contenders themselves."
"It doesn't work that way," Slim said. "Once a curse is placed on you, you can't get rid of it. It took the Republicans to fix last year's World Series to get Boston's curse erased. And the Cubs won't win a championship in 10 lifetimes. Face it. They're doomed."
"Look at the game, man," I said, gesturing at the TV, spilling Pabst onto the carpet in the process. "They're beating the hell out of the Ravens right now. Peyton looks invincible. The Edge is going to have the season of his career. Marvin Harrison never drops a ball."
"Mark my words," Slim said. "They are cursed like John Kerry was cursed. They're hexed. Somebody stuck a pin in a doll somewhere 20 years ago and now they'll never make it to the Super Bowl."
Slim may be right with his theory. But on opening weekend, everyone is an optimist, and the Colts' dominating win over the Ravens, 24-7, gave solid backing to that optimism.
Everything that had gone wrong in the preseason suddenly went right. The defense stopped being porous. The offensive line held back the ferocious assault of the Ravens' defense. Manning connected to Harrison for a TD pass in the same way John Stockton used to connect to Karl Malone on the pick and roll.
When I pointed that out, my buddy scoffed. "Doesn't matter," he said. "They could go 16-0 and still lose to the Patriots in the playoffs. It's like when Spike Lee put a hex on Reggie Miller. I hear the Simons had to hire their own voodoo person to get rid of that curse."
He took another pull off the can of Pabst. "But there ain't no getting around this curse. This one's permanent. It's their fate. Every year until Manning retires, the Colts' season will end on a snowy day in New England. You can take that to the bank."
He said, "They're doubly cursed. There's the Baltimore curse and there's the Hoosier Dome curse."
What Hoosier Dome curse, I asked.
"Apparently when they were pouring the concrete for the Dome, a construction worker fell into a hole and was buried alive. Ever since then, his spirit has haunted the Dome, causing our running backs to fumble, our QBs to throw interceptions and our beer vendors to spill their Budweisers."
"Wow," I said. "That sounds like an urban legend to me. Let me check Snopes.com."
"It's all been covered up," Slim said. "Just like all those people the Clintons killed. All the records have been burned. They don't want you to know."
"Look," I said, pointing to the screen. "Cato June just intercepted the ball. He's running it back for a TD. Yes! Colts!"
"The regular season doesn't count," Slim said. "The voodoo doll and the man in the concrete say the Colts will choke."
"Want another Pabst?" I asked.
"Sure," Slim said. "The season is just beginning."
The Indiana Fever's season came to an end on Saturday in Connecticut, despite a heroic effort from Tamika Catchings to send Game Two of the best-of-three series into overtime. Having spent all their energy playing catch-up, the Fever faded in OT, getting swept by the Sun, who now face the Sacramento Monarchs in the WNBA Finals.
Still, though, it was the franchise's most successful season. Catchings, the league's defensive player of the year, had an MVP-caliber season. Second-year coach Brian Winters guided the team to its first trip to the conference finals. Resilient point guard Tully Bevilaqua added spark and depth to the team.
Attendance was up over 2004. The squad has nothing to be ashamed of. As the WNBA continues to grow, and the Fever develop into a league powerhouse, next summer should be even better.