Volume 1, Number 3.1
The Final Decision
By Dean Shutt
The day started with a sense of foreboding that anyone that has run into an old love can understand. I had known it was coming for a few days. Ever since the TV listings had been posted for that weekend. The Sunday early game, Dolphins at Colts, my beloved Colts, that is my former beloved Colts. I had quit the Colts earlier this year, after a 31 to 3 drubbing by the Seahawks. I had declared then and I still believe that the Colts were incapable of fielding a consistent winner. Too many mistakes, too many bad drafts, too many free agent busts, too many losses, I couldn't handle it anymore. So I packed up the Colts' gear and declared my free agency. I sent notices to all of the NFL teams (save the Cowboys and the Raiders whom I hate) and offered my services as a fan. I received offers from several teams. Several well meaning suitors who would most assuredly bring me more joy over the years than the Colts have over the last twenty-five. I investigated a few others, checking out websites and reading the local coverage. I had planned on making the announcement of my new team in this space next month. All was going well.
Then came last Sunday's early game. The Colts took the field in their home blue and white as they have so many times before. There was Jim Harbough, Marshall, Zack, Cliff, Sean, Marvin and Trent. On defense I said hello again to Quentin Coryatt, Ellis, Carlton, Al and the rest. They all looked good, they all looked healthy, no lingering injuries like in years past. Still I thought nothing of it, they were still the Colts. The 2-12 Colts vs. the 9-5 and playoff bound Dolphins. Surely I was in for an ugly one sided beating applied to my former team.
Then a funny thing happened. I watched, first in awe and then tentative joy and finally unabashed glee as the Colts put a whipping on the Dolphins. They didn't beat them, they whipped them. They drove Dan Marino from the game. Not due to injury mind you, but simply because he couldn't handle them. They scored on every possession of the first half. They rang up 31 points in the second quarter. They protected Jim, they cleared holes for Marshall, they were a sight to behold. I found myself thinking back to '95 but this was better. In 1995 they got by teams on heart and will. In this game they simply outclassed the Dolphins, the Fish never had a chance.
And then it was over. I was still without a team. I asked my good friend with whom I was watching the game what I ought to do. He knew that I was really asking whether I should go back or not. Being a Raiders' fan he had an inkling of the emotional turmoil I was in at that point. He said that if I went back it was forever and that this season was my last best chance to break free. He said that I shouldn't make my decision on one game, that I had to look at the big picture. He said that if I went back I would just be hurt again. He said my reasons for leaving the Colts were sound and that I should bear them in mind. Then I asked him the big question. Being a Raiders fan, after watching his Silver and Black fall from grace to mediocrity to finally inconsequentiality. What did he plan on doing? He replied that he had the same moral crisis that I was now experiencing. His plan of action? "I will wait for Al Davis to die." He said.
I sat on that couch surrounded by well meaning friends who could never understand. One, a Cowboys' fan, who had a few bad years to chew on. The other, a Raiders' fan with three Superbowl titles to reminisce about. Me, with a team that had given me nothing but pain for over twenty years. Yes, they had looked incredible today. A fine victory based purely on their talent and skill. But what did it mean long term? Aside from moving farther away from the number one pick in the draft? What had I seen that could possibly be construed as anything different from what I had seen so many times before. A late season upset in an otherwise pointless campaign. In short I had seen nothing to convince me that this was anything other than the same old bumbling Colts. They will play themselves out of the first pick. They will play well enough to get the wrong coach one more year. They will sign the wrong free agents in the offseason. They will draft a disappointment in the first round. They will lose more than they win ad infinitum.
So I sat on that couch, surrounded by friends yet all alone, A strange sense of calm came over me. I got up from my seat. Suddenly it all became so clear that I knew the decision was no longer mine. I went out to our back office. I pulled out the cardboard box. I put the jersey on, I put the cap on my head. I stared at my reflection in the mirror for a long time. I didn't see a man who liked a football team. I didn't see a man who was a free agent. I only saw a Colts' fan. Long suffering and at the end of his rope, but a Colts' fan nonetheless. I could no more stop being a Colts' fan than I could stop breathing. Me, a man who looks at commitment the way a dog looks at a cat, couldn't break the worst promise I'd ever made. As I trudged back inside, happy and resigned at the same time. My friend was waiting for me. He took one look at my attire and said simply, "Welcome back."