Indy fans with a LOT of class...............
I was fortunate enough to attend this game, and despite the media's attempt to blow Jim Irsay's (Colts' owner) comments earlier in the week out of both proportion and context, Indy will also owe Peyton Manning for any football-related event. This is not like Farve going back to Green Bay, or Gretzky going back to Edmonton, because those franchises were on stable footing without those players.
Before Manning arrived in Indy, the only two sports that mattered in central Indiana were basketball and girls basketball. The Colts were always rumored to be moving, and were almost always subject to local tv blackout. The Steelers, Packers, Browns, Bears, and Dolphins were all more popular than the home team. Arguably the Bengals and Ravens were too. College football was not really on the map, as Purdue had yet to live the Brees era and Notre Dame's influence was limited in Central Indiana. It was not uncommon for local high school fans to hope their football teams would not make playoff runs, because the boys need time to get there basketball legs before the season starts. Yes, a non-conference basketball game in November sometimes meant more to a community than a chance at a deep football playoff run.
Without Peyton Manning, we might not have the Colts. Also, Indiana University would probably not have a remodeled stadium. The Colts (if still here) would not have Lucas Oil Stadium. We would not have hosted a Superbowl, and thus would not have a handful of new hotels and restaraunts downtown. Indianapolis was recently rated by a recruiting service to be the third best recruiting area in the nation for high school football, and while I disagree with that rating, it speaks volumes of building a football culture. In the 2011-12 school year, the average Indiana high school football game drew more fans that the average high school basketball game. This is a state where many high school gyms have a greater seating capacity than the town's population, and no one would have believed this was possible 15 years ago.
Of course, outside of football, without #18 we would not have Peyton Manning Children's Hospital. We would not have the Pey-back foundation, which many local athletes and celebrities have used for positive impacts.
I attended a Colts game 2 weeks ago, and went to a bar near Lucas Oil stadium after the game. The Denver/Dallas game was on, and the place was packed with everyone in Colts jerseys, but screaming at the TVs for an undefeated AFC team to beat an NFC team, playoff seeding and home-field be damned. I doubt it was any louder during the Colts/Seahawks game a couple of hours before. Indianapolis cheered against Peyton Manning tonight on the field, but he is more popular in Indianapolis than any athlete still playing here. If Denver lasts longer than Indy in the NFL playoffs come January, downtown will be decorated orange as we all support our favorite opponent.
Tonight was difficult for a lot of Colts fans to watch, I saw more than one female fan crying as Manning waved to the corwd and mouthed his thank yous. We will always love #18, the way Clemente or Lemieux are loved in Pittsburgh. We were very fortunate to have the chance to show it on tv tonight.
Sorry for the rant, but I got really tired of the national story being so different from the local story the last month in the buildup to tonight.