Facing the Indiana Martyrs' Brigade
Phone calls early in the morning, with rare exceptions, are not a good thing. Phone calls early in the morning from your family are usually even worse.
But at 5:30 this morning, my mother called and made my day, my week, and quite possibly my year. Her coworker, Amy, has season tickets to the Patriots in really nice seats in the 200-level. And her coworker, Amy, and Amy's boyfriend will be unable to attend tonight's opening night game between the Patriots and the Colts. And would I like the tickets?
Imagine, if you will, your mother calling you at 5:30 in the morning and saying, "My coworker isn't using her Porsche 911 or her winning lottery ticket. Would you like them?"
The only thing better right now would be, "My coworker's not using her room reservation at the Ritz Carlton, or her tickets to the Sox-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium next week. Do you want them?"
I got about three hours sleep last night, after staying up to watch the Sox sweep Oakland, not counting the two-hour nap I took last night between work and the game. I will have to leave work early today to fight traffic to Gillette Stadium, climb that godawful stadium ramp again, and sit through a concert by Destiny's Child before I get to see the Patriots. It will probably rain, and I will probably have to pull an all-nighter if you factor in the traffic getting home.
But sometimes, there just needs to be a stronger word for "yes."
So let's talk about the Colts, shall we? If there's any football team for which my feelings approach those I harbor toward the New York Yankees, it's the Indianapolis Colts.
First of all, there's Peyton Manning. I don't care if we'd never played the Colts last year, I still would despise that whining, conceited, overrated little worm, and the way the national media take turns cleaning out his butt with their mouths. In fact, I despise his whole family--from dud has-been father Archie to pantywaist brother Eli, that entire family is a compelling argument for the prevention of first-cousin inbreeding, or at least the signing of its results to National Football League contracts.
Peyton is kind of like the A-Rod of football--people fall all over themselves to say how talented he is, and yet his teams haven't accomplished much. According to his website,
Peyton finished his Tennessee tour as the school's all-time leading passer with 11,201 yards, 863 completions and 89 touchdowns. He holds 42 NCAA, SEC and Tennessee records, including 33 Tennessee single game, season and career records. Peyton was 39-6 as a starter for Tennessee. And each year he got better and better. As a freshman, he threw three touchdowns against South Carolina. As a sophomore, he recorded his first 300-yard day against Georgia. His first 400-yard game came as junior against Florida, and as a senior he threw his first 500-yard game against Kentucky. His accuracy was remarkable. In 380 passing attempts as a sophomore, he threw just four interceptions, an NCAA single-season record. For his career, he recorded the lowest interception percentage of all time, 2.39 percent, a mere 33 interceptions in 1,381 attempts.
Notice what's missing there? Same thing that's missing in his vaunted professional career--a ring.
Also, there even is such a thing as PeytonManning.com. How obnoxious is that? For the record, joemontana.com, joenamath.com and tombrady.com all return 404s.
But here's what really, really irks me about the Colts--they shot their mouths off all last year about the Patriots, then got their ass kicked not once but twice, and still don't know when to shut up.
Thanks to the unrepentant, unrelenting whining of Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy (who has also proven a world-class choke in big games so far in his career), the NFL has instituted--or, rather, "re-emphasized"--its "5 yard chuck rule", which states, essentially, that big, bad Patriots cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers can't touch wussy Colts receivers more than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, because that kind of play means the Colts won't win.
The fact of the matter is, the Colts didn't get edged in the playoffs last year. It wasn't even a game capped by a dramatic goal-line stand. It was a trouncing. It was an all-day-long country ass whupping. It was smashmouth football, and the Patriots played tough. This isn't fucking cribbage. It's fucking football, and the Patriots were better at it, when it mattered most. Deal with it.
But like the Yankees begging for a forfeit (I'm fighting to maintain my baseball-opponent-bashing moratorium, but is that the gloomiest hour in Yankees history or what?), the Colts whined to the league and actually changed the rules so they could win next time.
Well, that's just great. If you are defeated, if you fail, and if your own incompetence within a given rule structure costs you something you want desperately, by all means act like a five-year-old throwing a tantrum, then change the rules to suit your style of play. What a great example the children of the Hoosier State are getting from their gridiron heroes.
Can you imagine if the Red Sox had petitioned MLB this past off-season requesting that any games lost due to grievous managerial error be automatically re-played? If the Yankees succeeded in passing a new baseball decree that no pitchers under the age of 25 (read: Josh Beckett) shall pitch the clinching game of a World Series? If the Carolina Panthers had asked that the Super Bowl go automatically into overtime if the score is tied with less than a minute remaining?
The fact of the matter is that the Colts are a completely unimaginative team. Oh, sure, PM looks like the Mad Hatter moving his linemen around like mannequins (often past the play clock, which happened several times, by my count, in last year's AFC Championship Game--where was that call?), but that's just proof he's a control freak who doesn't trust other players to fill their own roles. Then, once PM feels like snapping the ball, he does, and prefers to execute a drop, stand back in the pocket for about five solid minutes, and if this 5 yard chuck example is any indication, loft 30-yard passes to completely unencumbered, wide-open receivers on every down.
PM can't scramble. He can't roll out. He can't throw off his back foot. He can't read the field well enough to find a receiver if they're not unguarded. That's what the Patriots showed in the AFC Championship Game, and rather than respond to this after the contest is finished--let alone within the game--with some introspection and critical thinking about the game plan, the Colts organization...well, now I'm going in circles.
The plot thickens, though--according to this Herald article, the Colts were joined in the effort to push the "Pussy All-Offense Team that Can't Handle Life" rule through the league by none other than St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz:
"There were some things in that game (the Pats' 20-17 win over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI) that probably would be related to that," Martz said. "Is that why we lost the game? Probably not. Would it have affected it? I don't know."
Give me a god. damned. break. What's next, Mike? The Carolina Panthers cheated last year when they scored points in overtime against your team? In case you don't recall, a penalty for defensive holding was called against Willie McGinest during Super Bowl XXXVI that cost the Patriots the put-away touchdown, and the penalty yardage / extra down allowed the St. Louis Rams to score the tying points. I guess hindsight is not always 20-20.
Why do we even play the game? Why not just call off all regular season games until a staged championship game in February between the St. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts? They wouldn't even have to suit up. They could just meet mid-field and see who could out-whine the other. It'll be the Sore Losers Super Bowl. Mano a mano between Mama's Boys. Biggest loser wins.
But in the end, Bill Simmons, says it best as usual, in a Pats-Colts column centered around lines from the movie Goodfellas:
Still, I feel the need to apologize to the Colts and their fans. Under a different set of rules, with a quarterback who wasn't playing with both hands around his neck, with receivers who weren't turtling onto the turf, with a defense that could actually stop someone, with a coach who didn't have a history of coming up short in big games ... yes, you probably would have gone to the Super Bowl.
Now go home and get your (bleeping) shine box.
So! It will be a deeply rewarding experience for me tonight to be on hand, rain, fatigue, finances and logistics be damned, to witness the Colts realize that they've gone through all that effort, finagling, wheedling and influencing for nothing--that when we're talking "on the field" instead of "on paper", the Patriots are simply the all-around classier, better team with a better coach who will always, world without end, amen, find a way to kick their ass. Even if the rules say he has to stand on his head on the sideline for the whole game, write on his scoresheets in crayon, and speak only in Pig Latin.
It's called intelligence, O Martyrs of Indianapolis. Watch and learn.