Despite the rough waters that have marked the last year of NFL football in the Circle City, most fans of the Indianapolis Colts are ready to put all the ugliness behind us and get our first glimpse of the newly-minted team that we hope will some day live up to its Peyton Manning-led predecessors. I am definitely eager to see Andrew Luck take the field as a pro for the first time when the Colts host the St. Louis Rams next week, and it appears that all of the locals with an interest in the Horseshoes will get to watch the spectacle, too. In an apparent attempt to quell media and fan rumbling regarding possible television blackouts this season, Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted on August 2 his guarantee that local TV coverage of the two home exhibition contests is not in jeopardy. This is good news, of course, but it doesn't wash away the bad taste that Irsay left in our mouths last month.
When the NFL announced in July that it would relax its sellout blackout rule, giving teams the leeway to permit local broadcasts for games that were sold to 85% (or greater) of stadium capacity, the Colts were conspicuous in making their intentions known. In particular, Irsay and company said they planned to hold fast to the sellout requirement in what sure looked like a high-pressure tactic to move season tickets that went unclaimed in the wake of Manning's departure. While the Colts weren't alone in failing to embrace the new freedom that the 85% rule granted, they were the most vocal and drew the most ire. I certainly think they could have taken a more tactful approach to the situation, or perhaps even just to decline comment at all. The insistence that local fans pony up for an unknown quantity on the field, not long after financing Lucas Oil Stadium, felt like nose-thumbing of the first degree.
According to Irsay's tweet, "sales are brisk" for the two home preseason games, prompting him to make his guarantee. Whether or not the tickets are actually flying out of the booths is debatable, and Irsay's announcement had the feel of spin-doctoring that we've been experiencing more and more of lately, courtesy of the longtime owner. Fans who responded via Twitter expressed some skepticism, and several pointed out that not everyone is stoked to watch preseason games. My guess is that Irsay may have to buy a few of those tickets himself if he wants the exhibition games to register as sellouts, but the important thing for all of us is that we'll get to start building familiarity with the team, and that can only help Irsay's long-term goal of filling the stadium each week.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.
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