"A long road to the Super Bowl

The morning after the Colts beat the Patriots to go to the Super Bowl, I was having my usual breakfast at the local Waffle House when I heard a nearby group of teen-agers talking about the game.

“This has got to be the best Colts team ever,” one of them said.

“Yeah,” another one agreed. “This is the best team in Colts history.”

Usually, I’m a pretty laid-back individual, but for some reason their tone and attitude offended me, as did their lack of knowledge. I put down my fork and whipped around to face them.

“History?” I said. “You don’t know anything about Colts history. I was there at the beginning and I’ve seen it all.”

The teen-agers laughed. “Tell us about it, old-timer.”

“You little punks need to show some respect,” I said, waving my cane at them menacingly. “All you kids know about the Colts is what they tell you on TV. I witnessed it with my own eyes.”

“Do you remember when the Colts came to Indianapolis from Baltimore?” one of them asked.

“Remember?” I said. “I helped unload the van when it arrived in town. The team was pretty poor back then. All of their equipment was stolen from other teams. All of their towels had ‘Holiday Inn’ written on them.”

“Who played for the Colts back then, Grandpa?” one of the kids asked.

I ignored the insult. “Gypsies,” I said. “Gypsies and drifters they’d met along the highway on the trip to Indianapolis. Remember, this was 1984. The Colts couldn’t afford big-name players like John Elway or Joe Montana. The Colts had Billy Montana at quarterback. He was a trucker whose rig broke down on the interstate so he hitched a ride to Indianapolis. I don’t think Montana was his real last name. Old Billy’s life ended tragically. They found his body in the smoldering remains of a bordello that had been burned down. Some still say his ghost haunts the RCA Dome.”

“You’re crazy, old man,” one of them said.

“If I’m lying, I’m flying,” I said. “These were different times. In those days, if you got to the stadium at 9 a.m. on game days, the Colts would give you a uniform and let you play that afternoon. I personally recovered two fumbles against the New York Jets in 1986. I didn’t get paid anything but they gave me all I could eat from the concession stand. I almost made myself sick on hot dogs and cotton candy.”

“That just doesn’t seem possible,” one of the kids said.

“Don’t tell me what’s possible!” I threw my copy of the AARP magazine at him. “The team was poor so they needed whoever they could get. We didn’t have flights to the away games. We’d all start hitchhiking on Tuesdays so we could make it to the next town by Sunday. Those were hard times.”

“I think you’re full of it,”

I hurled an empty bottle of blood pressure medicine at the punk. “You kids just don’t know your own history. It’s a damn shame. Back in the ’80s, the Colts didn’t care about going to the Super Bowl. We just wanted a hot meal and a roof over our heads. After games, we’d wait outside in the parking lot and rob the other team’s players on their way home. This watch I’m wearing belonged to Walter Payton. He was a quick one, God rest his soul, but not quick enough to get away from 10 of us. He was a true gentleman. Even wished us well after we took his wallet. That’s why he’s a legend.”

I took another sip of my prune juice. “We were true outlaws with a love for the game. We did what we had to in order to survive. Some of the things I’m not proud of now, but when we kidnapped the Bengals’ cheerleaders in 1987, it was only so we could buy food and new helmets. We didn’t harm any of the girls. In fact, one of them took a shine to me and came back to Indianapolis and lived with me in my cardboard box. A classy lady.”

“I don’t believe a word you’ve told me,” one of the kids said.

“That’s because you’re a damned fool,” I said. “You’re all excited about the Colts going to the Super Bowl. But you don’t have any idea what came before you. When you were in diapers, I was stealing equipment and food from the locker room of the Houston Oilers. It was a tough life then in the NFL. These players today, all they have is money and plenty of food and permanent housing. But we had pride. Colts pride.”

“Are you going to Miami to see the big game, old man?”

“If I can hitch a ride,” I said. “Who knows, I might show up at the stadium and see if they want me to play. Give me a few hot dogs and some cold sodas and I’ll be ready to go. Just like the old days.”