Commentary and Super Bowl and Opinion

KATTERJOHN: Stupid Bowl not so stupid anymore

January 30, 2010

In recent years, my two brothers have been fond of referring to the Super Bowl as The Stupid Bowl. Disgusted by the crass commercialism that has overtaken professional sports, they view The Stupid Bowl as the zenith of hype.

On one level, I can’t blame them. The spectacle can be gaudy, and the dollars flying around the game—from the victors’ diamond-studded rings to the $3 million price tag on a 30-second television spot—are mind-numbing.

But being more of an athlete in my day than either one of them ever was, I tend to forgive the negative aspects of pro sports and focus on the competition and the athleticism.

Lo and behold, this year is different for my bros; they are into it. They both watched the Indianapolis Colts beat the New York Jets on Jan. 24, and one of them even called me after the game to talk about it. It’s a New Age.

It just goes to show what winning can do for you.

For those of us who cheered the Baltimore Colts and remember the days when there were no Colts or stadium in Indianapolis, the evolution of this team and its impact on the community has been quite a journey.

Since arriving in Indianapolis in 1984, this franchise has slowly emerged from under the shadow of Baltimore and developed into one of the NFL’s elite organizations.

Look in the mirror: Indy is now a respected NFL town.

It hasn’t been easy; the early days were characterized by erratic performance on the field, and an owner, Robert Irsay, who was volatile, unpredictable and stingy.

But since the Tony Dungy era began in 2002, the team has won 99 regular-season games and lost only 29. The Colts have been in the playoffs eight years in a row and lay claim to two AFC Championships and one Super Bowl title.

And, now, in the dawning era of Coach Jim Caldwell, the team is off to the Big Game once again. Perhaps most remarkable, the city is hosting the Super Bowl in 2012.

But it’s much more than the stellar win-loss record that separates the Colts from the rest of the pack and at the same time raises our city to the upper echelon of the NFL.

By all accounts, the Colts are a class organization from top to bottom. Dungy, who was hired by current owner Jim Irsay, was the poster boy of class. Few coaches were more respected in the league; he was a good man and a winner.

Above the coach in the Colts organization is General Manager Bill Polian, whom most people in the NFL consider a first-rate student of the game and a savvy judge of talent when it comes to the draft.

Atop the Colts family sits Jim Irsay, a guy who has lived and breathed NFL football and the Colts since he was a kid. In charge since his father died 13 years ago, he has concocted a winning formula by being his father’s polar opposite.

Published reports—including IBJ’s award-winning profile from Jan. 16, 2006, and a piece in the Jan. 25, 2010, Sports Illustrated—portray Irsay as a unique guy who is into music and poetry just as much as football.

He’s had his issues, but as a musician and a bit of a rebel myself, I have more than a little empathy for a successful businessman who plays music, has an enviable guitar collection, and can quote Dylan Thomas poetry as readily as rock ’n’ roll lyrics.

In the SI profile, he talks a lot about the “magic” in life. At the end of our profile four years ago, Irsay said, “We want this [team] to be a vehicle that pulls this community together.”

Judging from what I’ve seen and heard around this town over the last few weeks, I’d say he’s accomplished that goal and worked up some magic at the same time. Heck, even my brothers are going to watch the Stupid Bowl, and that’s saying something.•

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Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.

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