If you’re a disenfranchised NFL fan that has completely bailed on the league because of the Rams relocation process, I completely understand. But, this piece isn’t for you.
If you’re still a fan but don’t have a team yet, allow me to introduce you to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts are still in Indianapolis because their committed owner, Jim Irsay, truly and honestly wanted them to be there. Yes, he famously threatened to move his franchise to Los Angeles by parking his Colts plane at the Van Nuys airport for a few weeks, but his goal was to get leverage to build a stadium in Indy.
In September of 2002 word leaked that Irsay wanted a new stadium.
But he told the Indianapolis Star he was “100 percent focused on staying.” Later that year, the airplane threat occurred, but he still claimed his goal was to stay. All he wanted was to escape being at the bottom of NFL revenues, and to get into the bottom third.
In December of 2004, after more than two years of honest negotiation, the Colts and Indianapolis reached agreement to build a new stadium, and ground was broken nine months later. Now they have a beautiful place to play and a fantastic game day experience.
What are the benefits of becoming a Colts fan for a St. Louisan?
Accessibility: For Sunday’s 3:25 game (4:25 Eastern, which Indianapolis is at the moment), I got on the road at 9:00 and rolled into a parking garage three and a half hours later. From St. Louis, all we have to do is get on 270 north/east, and it eventually turns in to 70. It’s literally a straight shot until you see Lucas Oil Stadium.
Tailgating: Tailgate parking is a lot like what we had at the Edward Jones Dome. There’s one big lot, similar to the McGuire moving and storage lot we had, just to the south of their stadium. Otherwise, there are numerous surface lots and garages within easy walking distance to the stadium.
They don’t have $80 or $100 parking. The most expensive I saw was $40. People had great setups literally right across the street from Lucas Oil and were having a great time.
Stadium: It’s a magnificent edifice. Lucas Oil has massive concourses, lots of natural light, and a party atmosphere. When you walk in, several live bands play before the game in various parts of the concourse area, one under a huge horseshoe hanging from the ceiling at the main entrance.
Concession stands are large and efficient. There are, as you may have seen on TV, huge windows on each end of the building that let light in, and a retractable roof overhead. It was about 90 degrees on Sunday so they kept the roof closed, but it must be fantastic during the fall when they open the roof. The ends are large and airy and provide plenty of space to stand and watch the game of you like.
You can get tickets online for as little at $56 for the Chiefs game on October 30, so it’s a reasonable value in terms of going to a sporting event.
Fans: Game day was loaded with families. It’s a typical, wholesome Midwestern atmosphere. Sunday was a partisan Colts crowd and the team fosters a great mood. There are activities for everyone, you can feel comfortable taking a date or your kids, and before the game there are plenty of things to do.
In traversing the building before and after the game, it was a happy crowd. During the game, obviously, fans got upset when the Chargers returned a sack/fumble for a touchdown late in the first half. But there weren’t fights in the stands, there wasn’t angst or anger in the building. It was a fun sporting event. People aren’t there because “it’s the place to be seen” or because it’s a big event.
They’re on hand because they are fans that want to cheer on their team, much like the Greatest Show on Turf days at the Dome.
Success: Aside from 2011, when they went 2-14 in Peyton Manning’s injury missed season and secured the top pick in the draft, the Colts have been successful. Irsay appears to put the right people in place to succeed on the field.
They’ve been to two Super Bowls in the last decade, winning one, and can reasonably expect to go to more because of their…
Quarterback: Andrew Luck is a rare performer. Like other great ones, he gives the team a chance to win simply because he’s there. In the opener at Detroit, Luck drove the Colts 75 yards in eight plays for a touchdown that gave Indy a 35-34 lead, but the defense didn’t hold and the Lions got a late, game-winning field goal.
On Sunday, despite the strip-fumble touchdown and a costly interception, Luck hit T.Y. Hilton with a game winning 63-yard touchdown strike with 1:17 to go.
This capped an 83 yard drive that gave the Colts a 26-22 win. He’s 36-22 as a starter with three 11-5 seasons under his belt. And, Luck has orchestrated ten fourth quarter comebacks and fourteen fourth quarter, game winning drives among those 36 wins.
On Sunday he told the media “I love winning. It’s addictive.” He’s charismatic, he’s glib, he’s fun, he’s competitive. Basically, he’s everything you wanted Sam Bradford to be here. In short, he’s worth the price of admission.
I am a big fan.
Of course, as a St. Louisan, I love the fact that the franchise is committed to their community. It’s an easy place to get to, it’s fun before, during and after the game. And they have a chance to win every game, every year with Luck at the helm. If you’re scouting for a team, you can’t go wrong with the Indianapolis Colts.