As an Indianapolis Colts fan, I've spent a lot of time this spring and summer thinking and writing about things like contract holdouts and television blackouts, along with the likelihood that it will take a good while for the team to regain respectability and the full support of the local fan base. It's enough to make a recovering cockeyed, Blue and White optimist to long for the not-too-distant past and the magic woven by Peyton Manning and his teammates for over a decade in central Indiana. As if to articulate the differences between now and then, Manning took the field at Sports Authority Stadium for the first time on August 4 as a member of the Denver Broncos, electrifying the nearly 30,000 fans who turned out to see Number 18 in his new uniform. Not surprisingly, this turnout represented the all-time attendance record for a Broncos practice.
Although Andrew Luck finally ended his holdout that no one would call a holdout last month, he has been tucked away with the rest of the Colts at Anderson University during training camp as the team prepares for the first year under new head coach Chuck Pagano. Fans are curious about what the young man can bring to the table,but there hasn't been a whole lot of buzz around his first full Colts' camp. That may change when the preseason games kick off next week and the team returns to Indy, but the big news so far has surrounded the injuries to a couple of guys expected to contribute in 2012. Luck is the new guy in Indianapolis, but the excitement level is muted to this point.
Meanwhile, in Denver fans are whipping themselves into a frenzy thinking about what a healthy Manning might mean to the Broncos' fortunes this season. In an imminently winnable AFC West division, Manning's taking the first snap of the first game would immediately install the Broncs as favorites to capture the flag, and they'd probably be heavy favorites, at that. The mental image of Manning hoisting the Lombardi trophy that has been missing in Denver since John Elway retired is probably irresistible for a rabid football fan base, and I doubt too many folks in the Mile High area are concerned about television blackouts this year. As long as Manning remains upright, that stadium will be full and rocking.
By contrast, Hoosiers will be playing a cautious game of wait-and-see. If the Colts start winning or Luck starts generating some personal fireworks, we'll come back strong and soon. If there is a fizzle to start the season, it's going to take us awhile. Our built-in football buzz has defected to western climes, and its a hard feeling to recapture.
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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