David Hoppe

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:: Strange days for our Colts

by David Hoppe

I don’t know what’s with the Colts this season. Do you?

Two losses to start this latest campaign, then a harder-than-it-should’ve-been win against the Tennessee Titans.


Of course none of this would matter much if the Colts were their usual Central Indiana selves. For almost as long as I can remember, this team has been like a St. Christopher medal, a guarantee of safe travel through one football season after another, in the company of a bunch of young men with whom anyone would be proud to share a home-cooked meal.

Why, Andrew Luck would cook it for you himself!

But this season’s different. National and local press suggests there’s a rift between the Colts’ head coach and general manager. The team hasn’t looked fully prepared when it’s taken the field and, once again, the judgment of Colts’ owner, Jim Irsay, has been impugned.

Say what you will about Irsay. I’ll say this: The guy may be a goofball, but he’s our goofball. The Patriots’ Robert Kraft has a closet full of blue blazers, and up in Chicago, the McCaskey family appears to use football as a kind of sleep-aid — you kick-off and close your eyes, repeat every Sunday — but Jim, well, how many NFL owners can pick up a vintage guitar and play Stephen Stills’ song, “4+20”?

The Colts’ early tribulations have prompted a public gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands. At one point during last Sunday’s game, when the Colts were trailing the Titans 27-14, a friend sent me a text showing the image of a roadside billboard emblazoned with the words: “Hell is Real.”

This angst is prompted by the fact we love our Colts. Over the years they have become an outsize part of Indianapolis’ — and, by extension (not to mention marketing), the rest of Indiana’s — identity.

The Colts, even more than those problem children, “our” Indiana Pacers, have made Indianapolis a “major league” city. Those words, “major league,” confer a kind of magic. They are an imprimatur, a blessing and a corporate seal of approval, a distinctively American way of declaring a city’s status. Major League means, if you have enough money, it’ll take you longer to be bored here than in someplace like Wichita or Dubuque.

An origin story worthy of Joseph Campbell has grown up around how Indy’s leaders managed to lure the Colts away from their previous home in Baltimore. We built a stadium, and the Colts came to us by way of a caravan of moving vans on what was surely a dark and stormy night.

There is nothing we won’t do for this heroic band of rompin,’ stompin’ sportsmen. The asphalt on our roads may be crumbling and our bridges may be on the verge of collapse. But when dollars were needed to build the Colts yet a bigger, better stadium, our otherwise tax averse state legislature approved new levies on restaurants, hotel rooms and rental cars.

The Colts, you see, are us. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know what we’d do on Sundays. Watch the Bengals?