Great season shouldn’t blind us to facts

The long nightmare for Indianapolis Colts fans may be over. After 20 years of heartbreak, disappointments and boneheaded management, the squad looks like it’s on its way to a Super Bowl appearance, its first since the move to Indianapolis.  By all accounts, an agreement between the Peterson Administration and the Colts will be announced shortly after the season ends. Instead of painting ourselves blue to celebrate the contract, we need to examine it closely to make sure we’re not being robbed.As a lifelong NFL fan, I’ve followed the Colts through the good times and bad. I remember Gary Hogeboom, Rod Dowhower and Jon Hand. I was fanatical about the team even during the 1986-’87 season, when the Colts lost the first 13 games. I forked over ticket money even during the football players’ strike of ’87, when the league hired scab players from semipro teams.

I even remember once thinking that Jeff George was going to be the quarterback of the future. So I’ve put in my dues following the Colts.

I’ve watched innumerable games where the team lost on the last play of the game. Someone like Doug Flutie would run a naked bootleg for a game-winning touchdown as time expired.

That’s why it’s so pleasurable to be a Colts fan now, when they appear to be invincible and ready to massacre the Patriots on Sunday. I’m getting ready for my first Super Bowl party since 1985, when I actually gave a shit about who wins or loses.

I’m already thinking about the shrimp cocktails, cheese snacks and Crown Royal I will consume during the game. I’m putting aside money to buy all kinds of commemorative items about the impending Colts champ.

One thing gets on my nerves, though. It’s when the Dome PA announcer or TV broadcasters refer to the team as “Your Indianapolis Colts.” That’s like saying, “I’m going to My McDonald’s,” or, “I need to go to My Shell Station.”

The team doesn’t belong to the fans, as Baltimore fans found out a few decades ago. They’re here on rental and are subject to leaving whenever the owner wants.

I’m not trying to be a buzzkill here, but the fact remains that we as taxpayers are going to have to fork out big money to keep the Colts in town. Whether you ever go to a game or not, you’re helping Edgerrin James buy new gold teeth and Peyton Manning get his subscription to Field & Stream. So enjoy the playoff fever, because you’ve paid dearly for it through your taxes for the last 20 years.

I was listening to the postgame call-in show on Q-95 after the game on Sunday. Somebody called in and said that NFL teams would continue to extort money from their host cities unless the cities teamed together and played tough with the league. Form a union of NFL cities and bargain collectively with the league to establish a code of conduct regarding teams. NFL teams wouldn’t be able to shove as much taxpayer money in their pockets if they knew the cities would revolt if they did.

It all sounded good to me, but when the caller was about to get to a good point, the hosts cut him off. “That’s a subject for another day,” they said, and mumbled something about the Colts never, ever leaving Indy. Of course, the show is produced by the Colts themselves, so it’s no wonder that they want to limit any talk of taxpayer rebellion.

And I disagree with the notion that bringing up the topic is inappropriate at this time. This is exactly the time we should be concerned about how much money we’re going to fork over to the Colts to keep them in town.

By all accounts, an agreement between the Peterson Administration and the Colts will be announced shortly after the season ends. Instead of painting ourselves blue to celebrate the contract, we need to examine it closely to make sure we’re not being robbed.

What I’m afraid of is the city giving away much more than it needs to due to the successful Colts season just past. I love the Colts as much as anyone, but I’m not willing to pay much higher taxes just to keep them. I can find something else to do on Sunday afternoons.

And the talk show caller was right: NFL teams will continue to screw us over unless the cities fight back and get some political muscle of their own. In exchange for the tax money the teams get, the cities should be able to cap ticket and concession prices. They should be able to keep teams from moving except in exceptional circumstances.

Most of all, the teams, all of them in all pro sports, need to start thinking about the very people they’ve been trying to exclude for the last 15 years: the fans.

The average fan has been pushed out of our arenas and replaced with super-rich people, many of whom could care less about sports. Pro sports teams have been pushing cities and fans around for too long and it’s time to strike back. Let’s not let our exuberance about a great season blind us when it comes time to write a check to the Colts.

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