We're still more than eight months away from the confetti shower at the final gun of next season's Super Bowl, and another two long sweaty months stand between us and the start of NFL training camps.
It's so early and conventional wisdom says there's much to learn about the upcoming season. But we're not buying it. Not for a minute.
Long before the first spiral is snapped off, there's already a team that has put itself in prime position to win the championship next February in Miami, and it has everything to do with what that talented but ultimately heartbroken club didn't accomplish in 2005.
Write it down and underline it twice: The Indianapolis Colts will win it all this season, precisely because of the way they lost it all at the close of last season. Call it destiny, a reversal of fortune or the reaping of triumph from the seeds of bitter disappointment and even tragedy. Whatever. All I know is that the Colts in 2006 will be the latest example of a recent pattern in professional sports.
Like the Boston Red Sox of 2003 and the Pittsburgh Steelers of 2004, the Colts had to lose, and lose in the most painful fashion imaginable, before they too can now fight their way back to win in the most glorious.
Falling shy in their playoff runs, the '03 Red Sox and '04 Steelers looked like they had blown the best shot they would have to end their long and well-chronicled title droughts. But in both cases, the bitter defeats were merely the prologues to even better stories, to comebacks that have taken their rightful place in sports history.
Consider the Red Sox, coming off their gut-wrenching ALCS Game 7 meltdown at Yankee Stadium in 2003, when manager Grady Little unwisely let pitcher Pedro Martinez continue, letting his heart overrule his head and costing his club the series in the process. All Boston did in 2004, of course, was become the first baseball team to ever climb out of a 3-0 playoff series deficit, beating those same Yankees four games in a row in the ALCS before sweeping past outclassed St. Louis in four games to win the franchise's first World Series title in 86 years and finally reverse the Curse of the Bambino. Nothing to it.