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A Pleasant Problem to Have

Dean Shutt

Welcome to Fun & Games for yet another month. It's October and that means as you read this I will be winging my way to Pennsylvania for my older sister's wedding and my younger brother's wedding two weeks after that. This means that I will officially be the last of my parent's children to walk down the aisle. I bet if you ask my folks they would not be at all surprised by that fact. I think they always knew that I was not going to be the traditional child, c'est la vie. We have more important matters to discuss though, so let's begin.

I am faced with something of a quandary. It is a good quandary to be sure, but it is a quandary nonetheless (like how I used 'quandary' three times in two lines? That's writing, folks!). You see I have discovered over these first few weeks of the NFL season that I have absolutely no experience in football optimism. I'm a Colts' fan for God's sake, what do I know about rooting for a team that wins? Sure, the Colts have been competent in the past. Several times they approached upper mediocrity, but those were always pleasant surprises. The Colts have never been picked to win anything. Every year that they have managed to put up a winning record it has taken the world by surprise.

In those situations it is easy to be a fan. You go along for the ride and wait for the bubble to burst. The Colts' teams of the mid-eighties rode the shoulders of Eric Dickerson to victory and deep down we all knew that they were far too one dimensional to make any real noise. The glory years of 95-96 featured a team of overachievers, Jim Harbough at quarterback? We knew that wasn't going to last. They were fun to watch and they won more than they lost, but when it came right down to it, they barely cracked the top fifteen teams in the league talent-wise. Even last year, the Colts came out of nowhere to shock the NFL. No one picked them to do better than 9 and 7 at the outside.

Again, those were fun years. I could wear my Colts' gear with pride because I had a team on the rise. Fans of other teams would give that smile reserved for flash in the pan franchises and a big thumbs up. The Colts were good, but they were harmless. They squeaked by, they won on heart, they made impossible comebacks, they certainly didn't engender any hatred. It wasn't like walking around in a Cowboys' jersey. The Colts had never humiliated anyone, so there were no hard feelings. The closest I came to that was at a Niners' game where the Colts jumped out to a quick three touchdown lead. The local Niner fans quickly went from patronizing to hate filled and quite frankly I was worried. Then the referees came through and arranged for a Niners' win and the fans went back to patronizing. I always figured that it was just Niner fans, but now I'm not so sure.

This year is different though. Multiple publications have picked the Colts to win the AFC and go to the Super Bowl. Others have picked them to win the Super Bowl. In week one the Colts went into Arrowhead on the day the Chiefs honored the memory of the best linebacker in their history. I was concerned to say the least. The Chiefs were going to be up for this game like no other game in the last decade. I could see the headlines as folks formed a line to get off of the bandwagon. Instead, the Colts came to town and in a very business-like way took the Chiefs apart. The Colts did not bring their A-game, they made mistakes, they fumbled, they threw an interception, they took stupid penalties, and at the end they had beaten the Chiefs by 13. I actually read one writer that said the Colts won on talent. The Colts. Won on talent. Let that sink in.

I am the fan of a team that can win on talent. I am the fan of a team that come into a hostile environment, not play their best, and still win by nearly two touchdowns. I am the fan of a team that covers the spread. I am not quite sure how to handle this. Unbridled boosterism? Gloating braggadocio? Quiet modesty? I don't really know.

The odd thing is that in the coming years the Colts will only get better. They have the bulk of their talent signed to long term deals. They just got a new stadium deal that will insure adequate revenue and they are one of the youngest teams in the league. In another year they are going to be a machine. They are going to be the team that nobody wants to play. They will win multiple Super Bowls, they will own the AFC East, my beloved, hapless Colts will be the Niners.

As a long time Niner hater this is going to be an interesting time for me. That smug superiority, the sense of entitlement that came with being a fan of the Niners will now be part of the Colts' makeup. The opposing teams coming out afraid and playing not to lose, that is going to be the Colts in a few years. That is a terrrifying prospect for a fan so used to rooting for a bunch of lovable losers.

I hope that somehow I will manage to keep the perspective that so many Niner fans lost during their run. I hope that if and when the Colts are standing in the middle of the field separating their fourth title of the 00's, I will be able think back fondly to those ugly days in the early eighties when we all thought Frank Kush was the answer at head coach. I hope I will remember when it was Pagel to Bentley. In short, I hope I never forget what it was like to be a Colts' fan when being a Colts' fan actually took some doing.

Dean's House of Pain Joy

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