For love and the Colts
A fan makes it personal, embraces life game by game
Posted: Monday February 5, 2007 2:55PM; Updated: Monday February 5, 2007 3:32PM
I want to tell you the heartwarming story of how the Indianapolis Colts changed my life.
Sometimes we encounter a sport at just the right moment -- when our spirits are down, when times are hard, when we need something to believe in. Think Jim Braddock during the Great Depression. Think the U.S. Olympic hockey team's "miracle" victory in 1980. Think the "Steel Curtain" in Pittsburgh, just as the smokestacks stopped coughing black soot.
Sometimes, however, the connection between team and fan is more personal, more unique, maybe even a little weird.
This is that kind of story.
A Hoosier by birth and a Colts fan, I moved to Pittsburgh in August 2005. I was an unhappy, single, 37-year-old woman looking for a fresh start in a new town. This is the year, I thought. The Colts and I are going to win The Big One. And then the Colts beat the Patriots (in Foxborough) on Monday Night Football. They went 13-0. Home-field advantage in the playoffs. And simultaneously, I met a nice man. He was smart. He laughed at my jokes. Oh, to be blessed with such joy on both fields: love and football.
Don't worry: we're coming to the agony-of-defeat-skier-plummeting-down-the-mountain-Favre-picking-Vicodin-out-of-the-toilet part of the story.
I liked him, but he didn't like me back, yadda yadda, and it broke my heart a little. I always seem to lose big in the playoffs of love. In this frame of mind, I watched the AFC Divisional Playoffs on last January -- alone -- in my Pittsburgh apartment. You know what happened next. Oh God, the last two minutes of that game. Jerome Bettis' goal-line fumble. Nick Harper scooping up the ball and feinting left and right. Big Ben's "immaculate" tackle. Vander-choke's missed field goal. Like a lot of Colts fans, I suffered during and after this game, but I had to suffer in Pittsburgh, forced to bear witness to the city's Super Bowl pride -- on local television and in the snowy streets, in restaurants and banks and especially in bars. Black and gold. 24-7. Everywhere.
I've never felt more miserable in my life than I did in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Extra Large. And then, one day while checking out Colts.com, I saw an announcement that the team's motto for the year was "Make it Personal." I took them at their word and made a decision: if the Colts could come back in 2006 and try again, so could I. And so my season-long project began with a simple premise: Let's see if -- in one year -- the Colts can win the Super Bowl and I can get happy.
I even came up with a name for this project: "Super Bowl Ring."
In the offseason, while the Colts repaired their bodies and Peyton Manning filmed a myriad of TV commercials, I did some thinking. Professionally, I had everything I'd ever wanted -- a published book, a college teaching job -- but personally, nothing about my life made any sense to me. It wasn't just being single. I was in a huge rut.
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