In possibly their most inept performance since moving from Baltimore in 1984, the Indianapolis Colts limped to a 17-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, playing as poorly and ineffectively as an NFL team possibly can.
There wasn't a single pretty thing about the Colts' performance. They couldn't run, couldn't pass and couldn't defend. The fact they lost by only two touchdowns speaks more of Jacksonville's struggles than the Colts, who might have given up 50 points if they'd been playing a decent team.
The game was also my first trip to Lucas Oil Stadium, the place where I'd previously said I'd only be able to afford to visit if martial law were declared in the city and the stadium was designated a detention center for political dissidents.
But thanks to Rommie Loudd, a longtime reader and friend of this column, I had two prime seats in the lower level of the stadium. He splits the cost of season tickets with a friend and gives away one or two pairs of tickets to charity groups for needy recipients to enjoy.
I've declined his kindness in the past, saying the children who received his free tickets were needier than I. But given the utter meaninglessness of the game, I finally took him up on his kind offer, figuring that subjecting orphans to this year's Colts team qualifies as abuse under some law.
The seats were great. The stadium was marvelous, full of interesting things to look at and friendly corridors to wander. The concession-stand food was tasty and featured a wide variety of choices. The stadium will be a worthy host of the Super Bowl in February. It's world-class in every sense.
Before the Super Bowl, building management may want to spend a few million dollars on world-class disinfectant to scrub the locker rooms, however, to remove the stench the Colts have created in the stadium this year.
It's hard to think of a how a team could be more incompetent than the Colts were on Sunday. They went through two quarterbacks and somehow made the woeful Jaguars look like champions. By the time the game was over, most fans had fled the stadium in horror. Those remaining were either masochists or curiosity seekers like us.
We had a great time at the game, enjoying the stadium that our tax money helped build. The place truly is an amazing facility and as modern as a stadium can be. The Stalinesque architecture that inspired the RCA Dome is gone, replaced by an open, friendly layout conducive to creating good memories.
I would imagine that the place was hopping when the Colts were making championship runs the past few seasons. But when its main tenant is the worst team in the NFL, and possibly one of the worst in league history, it creates a surreal atmosphere, as if the current Colts are a group of amateurs who broke into the stadium, tied up the real players, and are pretending to be pro football players.
For the most part, though, the fans took it in stride. All of them had paid precious money to see a winning football team but weren't that angry at the way things have developed this year. They still applauded when things went well, which wasn't that often. Mostly they stayed silent and enjoyed the beer and the comradeship that comes with being a season-ticket holder.
It got so quiet at the stadium that a couple behind us fell asleep, possibly aided by alcohol. They snoozed away throughout the third and fourth quarters while others laughed at them, took their picture and pointed. They finally woke up briefly, assessed the action on the field, and went back to sleep.
In another city, one with an aggressive news media corps, the misfortune of the Colts would be causing headlines of outrage demanding changes be made immediately. If we were in New York, for example, the coach and many of the players would have been fired due to pressure from the media.
In Indianapolis, the fans seem to be taking it in stride. The fact that Curtis Painter is not in a mental hospital is a testament to his ability to withstand stress. His name is synonymous with incompetence, failed expectations and defeat. Yet he still wears the uniform with pride.
He's not the one to blame. He was the 201st player taken in the 2009 NFL draft and probably thought himself the luckiest man in the world when the Colts selected him in the sixth round. He's doing as well as could be expected.
It's hard to say what will bring the Colts out of their slump. At this point, it's going to take more than the return of Peyton Manning. The entire franchise will need to be rebuilt after such a disastrous and ineffective season. There will be better days ahead for the Colts.
And when that happens, I'll be able to say that I was there, thanks to my friend, when things were at their absolute worst, as they were on Sunday. Only true fans are standing behind the Colts at this point. Consider me one of them.
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