An Open Letter To The Colts
Before I begin, allow me to give credit where credit is due. Congratulations to the Steelers who came into the RCA Dome and played a solid 60 minutes of amazing football for the opportunity to go to the AFC Championship game in Denver versus the Broncos. Best of luck to all of you in the coming weeks.
Now down to business…
An Introduction…I knew I would cry at the end of the season, I was just kind of hoping it would be on the night of February 5th and that it would be for a good reason. When you’re as emotionally attached to any one player as I am and any one team as I am, well, emotions run high in big pressure situations such as the NFL Playoffs. And most people will say that it’s just a game, but I see it differently. I see it from the players’ and coachs’ point of view. This is their job and to equate it a little, it’s like they just lost a huge business deal that they’ve been working on for a better part of the last year that would have made their careers. So, they happen to play what we call a game, but they’re getting to do exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. Isn’t that what any of us really want for our careers? The opportunity to have a job that makes us happy and that we enjoy. The Colts brought all they had and it still wasn’t enough, and I can’t even imagine what that feels like because my heart aches for them…the kind of ache that physically hurts.
The Press Conference…I, for one, just really wanted to give Peyton a hug, but some how, after seeing the press conference, I doubt it would have done much in the way of consoling. He did, as I expected, an amazing interview after the game (although I’d like to buy him a thesaurus just for the word disappointed). He’s a class act who gave the Steelers the credit they deserved and told the press that Mike Vanderjagt had nothing to apologize for. Ok, so the press walked him through the door to make a statement about the lack of coverage, but he still didn’t point any fingers at any particular players and instead, pointed to the Steelers ability. He talked about the fact that the team lives and plays each game as if it’s their last and doesn’t look as far as the next season because they keep themselves in the here and now. Once you start thinking about next season, you’re sunk. He spoke about preparing for every game as much as he can and that he never walks onto or off of a field thinking he could have prepared better regardless of how many passes he might like to take back. You have to leave it on the field, Peyton, as you always do. I just wish everyone could have a co-worker as dedicated to his other employees and bosses as Peyton is.
To the Wide Receivers (that’s easier than naming all of you wonderful men)…you have blown me away this season as you did last year. So there weren’t 49 touchdowns. The important part was that y’all played as a team and fought to make the team better no matter who got to catch the pass. There were passes thrown up that any ordinary crew of receivers never would have even tried to catch, but y’all jumped, stretched, and grabbed for every last one of them. Your persistence and love for your jobs has not gone unnoticed and you have made watching this season even more fun than last year (something I didn’t think was possible).
To Edgerrin James (there’s only one of you, so I can name you)…You continue to be an inspiration. You started this season as a player playing for a franchise that didn’t seem to know what a talent they had in #32. You erased their blindness with every carry, every block, and every touchdown. You deserve one of the best contracts available, and though I hope it is with Indianapolis next year, I know that whatever team it is with, you’ll give all of yourself for them. I am just thankful that you stayed as long as you did. You have made Peyton and the rest of your teammates better for it.
To Cato June, Bob Sanders, Dwight Freeney, and the rest of the Defense…You did what no one thought was possible: you created a power defense for the Colts. Heck, I didn’t even think it would ever happen, but you did it, and I couldn’t be prouder. Don’t let one iota of anything that happened today in the playoff game dissuade you from what you did in the regular season. Dwight, maybe someday you’ll get to hit Peyton even though the coaches won’t let you do so in practice because I know how much you hate QBs. I hope this defense will stick around and see what it can do next year.
To Mike Vanderjagt…I know it was an important kick, but there will be more of them. Don’t beat yourself up about this one. Don’t let yourself think that you were the only reason the team lost. Remember, y’all lost as a team not as an individual. You didn’t let anyone down. You did what you could on every play you were called on for. I don’t know what happened on that last one, and I may never know. But I have no doubt that you (in your insatiable desire to be a better player) will study that kick until it can’t be studied anymore, so that it never happens, again. But remember, it does happen. Not every kick is going to make it, but I have enough confidence in you to know that most of them will.
To the Offense…I could say a few choice things at this point, but what’s the point…what’s it gonna do in the long run. What I do know is that you played your hearts out and sometimes when the other team plays their hearts out, too, it’s a little bit more than yours. You can’t be faulted for that. You’ve proved your merit week in and week out, and you deserve nothing short of my respect for protecting, to the best of your abilities, one of the best QB’s to ever play the game (just ask Sports Illustrated).
To Peyton Manning…I know I’ve already talked about you, but I could talk about you all day (oh wait…I already do) and I’d never grow tired of it. When I was a fan of Troy Aikman’s I didn’t think any QB would ever come along that could knock him off his pedestal in my mind. I was terribly, terribly wrong. You have been a part of my sports loving life for 12 years now, and all I’ve ever wanted was to see you succeed in the game you study, crave, live, and love. You are (in my opinion) the hardest working QB in the game. The reason you say you can’t walk onto or off of that field any week thinking you could have prepared more is because it’s not possible. I think you must work longer hours than some accountants (even your favorite one…shout out to last year’s MasterCard commercial) do during tax season. But every week, when you take the field and take that first snap, my heart skips a beat because I know what I’m about to see will be nothing short of an amazing talent. Don’t ever stop what you’re doing. Don’t ever think you’re doing something wrong. I think just about any QB in the game would welcome the chance to study with you for one week and some have done so, sort of (Get Well Soon, Carson Palmer). Keep it up, you’ll make it one day, and hopefully, I’ll be there to see it.
To the Coaching staff…The confidence you have in the Colts players is amazing. You expect that when they take the field, they’re giving everything they’ve got. And they know you expect this of them, so they deliver. No one garners more respect from any roster than y’all do. You are a team yourselves and your preparation each week is phenomenal.
To THE Tony Dungy…Who knew that one season could bring so many different emotions? None of us ever wanted to see the end of the season come with such a traumatic occurrence, but even as people kept saying how is Tony going to deal with this, I already knew. You were going to deal with it through your faith in God. After James’s funeral, one of the players said it best, they were all there to support you and lift you up, and you turned around and supported them and lifted them up. You have and always will be my very favorite coach because you don’t just teach football; you teach life. Every member of that team, from the owners to the coaches to the players to the water boy, is a better human being for having known you. In fact, I sometimes think you’ve affected my life because of the kind of person you are. You know how to gain respect, but more importantly, you know how to keep it. Just like Peyton, you’ll make it one day, and I hope I’m there to see that, too. Hopefully it’ll be the same night. 🙂
To the Colts as a whole…I’m proud of you. You never gave up even though you could have when it was 14-0. Bill Cowher wouldn’t even celebrate until the final seconds of the game because he knew how much you were capable of. You are ALL champions in my book even if you don’t have a ring on your finger or a trophy in the case. You don’t need all that hardware to be champions to me. Every step you took, you didn’t give up. Until that final second ticked off the clock, you gave it all you had on any given day. You did things your critics didn’t think could ever happen (beating New England in Foxborough, winning 13 games in a row, producing a defense, etc.) and you did it as a team. When you won it was a team win, when you lost it was a team loss. I gave up on teams a long time ago and started paying attention to players, but y’all brought me back and gave me a reason to believe in them, again. So, I think I’ve finally found it, that one team that no matter what, win or lose, whoever is on the team, that’s my team. I’ve been through the last 8 seasons with y’all (mostly because of Peyton), but as long as I live and as long as there is a Colts organization, I’ll go through every one of those seasons to come. Whatever goals y’all set in training camp, had to be amazing because this was one of the most amazing seasons I’ve ever watched. I can’t wait to see what Training Camp ’06 has in store.
So there you have it. I’m spent, I almost cried again, and I’m ready for bed (though I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep well). I may be one of the most crazed, lunatic fans out there (short of painting letters on my chest and spelling something crazy out of ESPN), but other than my love for my God, my family, and my friends, sports is about the only thing I’ve got in my life. And so I pay a lot of attention to it and so I get a little (ok, a lot) emotional about it. I don’t care. It’s who I am. I’m sure the Colts would agree that when you figure out who you are, it’s best to stick to the program. And who am I to argue with my team. 🙂