Ok. I realize I’ve been promising you all a lot lately, all the way back to August when I promised you my trip review of St. Louis. Then I promised you all a review of my trip to Indianapolis, but Reggie Wayne’s brother died and that pushed my review back a little bit. Please accept my sincere apologies as August and September turned out to be so busy that I cannot even remember what I did when. I’ve also been trying to scrape myself off the floor following the multiple 2 minute drills that the Colts have had to play in the waning minutes of at least 2 of their games of late (more on that later). Don’t even get me started on how Alabama is playing (or not playing as the case may be)! Excuses aside, I’m hoping this entry will at least make up for some of that. It’s long…so settle in if you’re really that interested.
It was HOT. I don’t mean just a little uncomfortable…I mean like step outside for one minute and come in drenched in sweat HOT. Thankfully my hotel was right across the street from the conference center so my time spent outside was minimized. The client reception I attended had food stations in different areas of the museum where it was held and one of the stations was a mashed potato bar. You just walked right up and told them whatever you wanted in your potatoes: cheese, onions, jalapenos, bacon bits, etc., and they added it. It was much like an omelet bar only better. I didn’t see much of St. Louis because I spent every waking minute in that conference room (and air conditioning) learning ways to do my job better and to be prepared for what lies ahead (and boy does the future hold a lot). I had a little bit of excitement because the conference center was attached to the Edward Jones Dome where the Tarheels won the National Championship in 2005. Unfortunately, they don’t give tours of the Dome unless you’re part of a group, but the St. Louis Rams junk all around was enough to keep me away. Quite unfairly, the preseason game between the Rams and the Colts was played at the Dome just one week after my conference. That planning needs to be a bit better next time if you ask me. Next year the conference is in Philly, so perhaps there will be a Philly/Colts preseason game. I did take a trip up in the Gateway Arch. Not much to really do once you’re up there except see the city from that elevation. And I got to see where Budweiser makes their beer. I learned some interesting facts there especially about what the Bud company did during a little thing called Prohibition. If you’re in St. Louis and you get the chance, take the tour. It’s worth it, and it’s free. In any case, the trip was good and educational despite the heat.
I really can’t say enough about this trip. I had more fun than I thought I would I think because I loved the city so much. It was just enough big city for me that I honestly could see myself living there some day…even if the Colts weren’t the home team. After leaving the airport, we drove to the Colts’ training facility. We were just driving along 56th street (where it’s located) and then all of a sudden, the training facility, BIG AND BLUE with the Colts logo, pops out of nowhere in the middle of this residential area. It was beautiful (well I thought it was). There were no sightings of players that morning (plenty of really nice car sightings), but just being where they train was excitement enough. The NCAA headquarters is located in Indianapolis as is its hall of champions. That was a lot of fun. There was even a basketball court from like the 1940s and on its floor they had placed spots where major shots had been made, such as Michael Jordan’s shot in the 1982 National Championship game. They had a section for every division football champion from last season (Div I, Div I-AA, Div II, etc.). There was a place where you could watch things like a replay of the last few seconds of the NC State National Championship in 1983. And you could press a button and hear different fight songs or school cheers. I think the Hall of Honor was my favorite part. This is where the NCAA displays the names of all the recipients of the major NCAA awards for top STUDENT-athletes: those who excel in the classroom, in sports, and in their community. There are computers for you to look up any name and watch a video about a particular award winner. Especially appealing to me was DeMeco Ryans who graduated from Alabama last year and now plays for the Houston Texans. He was one of the recipients of the Top VIII award last year. There was a huge display on March Madness where you could watch ALL of the One Shining Moment videos since they started back in the 80s. I, of course, watched all the North Carolina ones they had plus the one from 2004 where Alabama was highlighted after beating #1 seed Stanford. Though I have a deep animosity towards the NCAA and the decisions they make that they say are for the good of the student-athletes, the Hall of Champions was much fun.
Our hotel was about 3 blocks from the RCA Dome and I made plans to be at the players’ entrance Sunday morning to see if I recognized anyone. I’m pretty good when they’re in their uniforms and on the field (even without looking at the their numbers or names), but you put street clothes on them and it takes me a little while to peg who they are. We headed into the Dome, which was my first time to see a football game indoors. I grew up in Florida…you don’t need domes in Florida, apparently. But let me tell you…football games, live and in person, PLUS air conditioning…GREATEST INVENTION EVER! It was a little chilly during pre-game warm ups, which were a blast to watch, when the whole crowd wasn’t there, but once the game got going and everyone was jumping up and down and screaming (loudest place I think I’ve ever been and that includes Bon Jovi concerts)…it warmed up a bit.
At some point about half way through the 2nd quarter when the Colts were down 7-0, I started to waiver. I thought, maybe we need to lose this early in the season…just so we know we’re not invincible…cause I think going 13-0 last season mentally hurt us. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being at the game they lost or that it would be a loss to a division opponent, but I resigned myself to the idea that maybe it would be more beneficial in the long run. About that time, one of my new favorite players, Terrence Wilkins, who I love for his hustle and determination, ran a punt return back for a touchdown in the end zone we were sitting behind. He’s been around for a while, but seems to have finally found his place on the team as a return specialist. If only we could keep him from getting concussions during practice. SHEESH! The place lit up, and I changed my mind about how I wanted the game to end. We went in to halftime tied at 7 all, and Jacksonville was running all over us…not as much as the Giants, but enough to annoy me. Plus there was this catch that Reggie Wayne made at the end of the first half that was overturned after review. It was bogus…the overturning not the catch. Reggie caught that ball and pulled it in to his body, but apparently the refs were on the Jacksonville payroll…all afternoon. I had half a mind to write a letter to the new commissioner about it, I was so mad…especially after the two missed pass interference calls on the guy covering Marvin Harrison that could have resulted in touchdowns if not for said interference.
The Colts came out in the 2nd half and looked much better. Late in the 3rd quarter, Peyton eyed Dallas Clark for a 30 yard touchdown pass. Dallas was wide open right in front of us. Dallas said afterwards that it seemed like an eternity for that ball to come down to him, and I really agreed with him. A lot of the game seemed to be in slow motion to me, and I don’t know why. But that touchdown was another reason to make this the perfect game I could have seen. Terrence had already scored and then Dallas, who quickly became one of my favorites last season, scored. He’s just adorable, has a great personal story of faith in the shadow of loss, and is just an all around good guy…and pretty talented…despite what his stats this season say. I didn’t really know how it could get much better…except that the Colts needed to win. They were then up 14-7 on the Jags.
The 4th quarter did not disappoint. There were some kids who were sitting in the row behind us, and they kept making some of the craziest suggestions for plays throughout the game, such as a screen pass on 3rd and really long and a quarterback sneak of 3rd and even longer. On that latter suggestion I said to myself, yeah right…Peyton hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown in 4 years, I don’t see him starting now. Something you should know…Over the years I’ve learned that Peyton likes to prove me wrong (or make me look like an idiot…I don’t know which) because a couple of plays later, he ran in a 2 yard touchdown on a naked bootleg. I thought I was going to cry I was so excited. In fact, my eyes did get a little watery. And thus, I saw the perfect game I could have seen. Terrence Wilkins, Dallas Clark, and Peyton Manning all scored. The only down side was not getting to see Adam Vinatieri kick as he was sidelined with a groin injury. The Jacksonville kicker missed 2 field goals that day, but I take solace in the fact that if he had made those field goals, the Colts still would have won. I also think I’m getting better at reading the plays on the field because right before both of Byron Leftwich’s interceptions I had scanned the field and was watching Byron’s eyes as he scanned the field and pegged that he was going to throw them right before he did. I can’t say that this is a skill that I’ve noted since that game, but I was quite impressed that I at least to myself called both interceptions. The last one to Mike Doss sealed the victory, and I got to see Peyton kneel the clock out. I really didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay right there and never move, but we headed back to the players entrance/exit to see some of the players leave. We got a few autographs and I got to speak to Bill Polian, the president of the team. Right before Bill got to us, something terribly wrong happened because one of the guys with him handed him a cell phone and after listening to what the person had to say, the blood drained from Bill’s face. He spent about 5-10 minutes on the phone with whatever was going on, and then returned to the fans. But I didn’t find out why the blood drained from his face until the next day: he had just been informed that Reggie Wayne’s brother had died. Despite that ending, it was a fantastic experience, and one I’d like to live through, again. I spent way too much money at the pro shop and even bought a Dallas Clark jersey to go with the Peyton Manning one I wore to the game. The streak with the jersey and attending Peyton’s games continues for now, but it doesn’t stop them from trying to give me a heart attack every Sunday.
They’ve won their last two games by a grand total margin of 4 points. Peyton had rushes in both games including a rushing touchdown in the Jets game. He also completed two 2-minute drills in the last 3 minutes of that game (which I know doesn’t add up, but he worked with the time he had). They are, by the skin of their teeth, 5-0 along with the Chicago Bears. They are beaten up and bruised. The defense is soft and the offense is getting covered more than they’re used to. It’s causing the Colts to find new ways to win, and by golly they’re finding them to the detriment of my sanity and blood pressure. I realize pretty wins don’t count in football, but just once I wouldn’t mind a good old-fashioned 45-0 game. On the flip side, I’m very impressed with their ability to stay poised and not get flustered by the fact that they’re behind. They realize they only need to win by one point and so what if they do. It seemed like all last year if they weren’t ahead from the start; there was no way they could come back. This season, they’ve proven that wrong and while it’s stressful, it’s definitely an added skill that I’ll take. After the BYE this weekend, they go on a 3 game stretch that is extremely uncertain: Redskins (Home), Broncos (Away), and Patriots (Away). Mother nature will likely play a part in the both the Broncos and Patriots games, but if we can dispel one rumor this season, why not dispel them all. January and February seem so far away, but I’m in it for the long haul boys, and I hope you are, too.