Benner/Sports and Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Super Bowl and Opinion and Pro Sports

BENNER: A bit of therapy for those with Super Bowl blues

February 13, 2010

Of this, that and the other while transitioning from shoveling sand to shoveling snow:

Let’s see … the quarterback had a huge turnover, the coaching was too conservative, the defense was porous, the special teams were anything but special, and the Colts lost.

Oops, sorry. I was looking at my notes from a regular-season game I covered in 1997.

Playoffs? Playoffs! Are you kidding me? Playoffs?

OK, how about Frank Kush, Rod Dowhower and Ron Meyer?

Feeling better now? Therapy. That’s what I’m here for.

It didn’t take long after arriving back in Indianapolis from the Super Bowl to be confronted with the most ridiculous theory about the Colts’ loss to the Saints: that Peyton Manning deliberately threw the game-clinching interception to maintain the Manning family’s exalted status in their hometown of New Orleans.

Sir, put down the joint and report directly to drug rehab.

Here’s the other one that gets me … that the Saints somehow wanted it more. What utter baloney.

Now I do perhaps think Saints fans wanted it more. Perhaps it was because it was their first Super Bowl ever and Indy’s second in four years, but they dug deeply into their wallets and turned out en masse in Sun Life Stadium. The ratio of black-and-gold to blue-and-white easily was 3-to-1, and the noise volume was more than that.

The Colts wore their home blues but were definitely the visiting team.

Sure, New Orleans was within driving distance of Miami, but an $800 game ticket (and considerably higher on the secondary market) plus hotel and meals is hardly inexpensive. Still, they turned out in droves.

It tells me we are still in evolution as an NFL city, with a long way to go before we develop the depth of following that matches those in Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland, Philly, New York (both franchises), New England, Denver, et al. Through all those many years of bad football, Saints fans unwaveringly persevered, and even those who donned bags over their heads still were in the stadium. I’ve raised the question, as have others, if fans in Indianapolis will hang on if and when the fair-to-middlin’-to-poor seasons return.

Back to the Super Bowl. Undoubtedly, the Saints’ role in reviving post-Katrina New Orleans was a hugely compelling story. But it was presented ad nauseum with the side effect of making the Colts seem like bystanders. Even the pre-team introduction videos played inside the stadium began with heart-tugging scenes from hurricane-ravaged New Orleans while the Colts were presented as pretty much just the other team.

Understand, I’d never wish for a catastrophe so Indianapolis can be portrayed sympathetically. But a little more balance would have been nice.

Of course, the blame game commenced the instant the Saints’ Tracy Porter headed for the end zone with that game-clinching interception and hasn’t abated since. That’s what we do. But, as is often said, the other guys are paid to play, too, and they’re pretty good. I know I underestimated the Saints, as did the majority of experts.

And I guess if the Colts had to lose, watching a Hoosier (Porter) and Boilermaker (Drew Brees) play decisive roles eases the sting, if only a little.

Speaking of Brees, remember all that talk about his being too small to be an effective pro quarterback? The guy stood pretty tall throughout a remarkable season and especially on that spectacular Sunday night in Florida.

Though I am a man of faith, I still don’t believe God gives a hoot about who wins football games. I mean, if you give Him credit for the Saints’ victory, do you blame Him for Katrina?

And what utter nonsense that this was some kind of karmic payback for the Colts’ decision to rest their starters six flippin’ weeks ago.

For cryin’ out loud—one of my dad’s favorite expressions, by the way—only a pinhead would take Manning to task for not seeking out Brees to offer a post-game handshake. Having been there, done that three years ago, Manning said he knew this was not the time or the place to reach out to Brees. Manning’s play is always up for criticism. But his sportsmanship is unquestioned … for cryin’ out loud.

The oddsmakers already have installed the Colts as favorites to win next year’s Super Bowl, which recalls last summer’s preseason predictions. You know, the ones that had the Colts not even winning the AFC South. Just thought I’d point that out.

Now, a final thought: Ryan Leaf.

Like I said, therapy. That’s what I’m here for. •

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 Benner is director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.

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