Colts fans showed true colors Sunday night

October 22, 2013
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No one knew quite what to expect from the crowd inside Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night.

Would fans cheer Peyton Manning? Would they boo him? Would they stand behind the home team or instead side with No. 18?

Not even Indianapolis Colts players knew what to expect.Colts punter Pat McAfee admitted that after looking out of the team hotel on Sunday afternoon, he was a bit taken aback at seeing more than a few No. 18 Denver Broncos jerseys. He told WFNI-AM 1070 on Monday that he wasn’t sure if Sunday’s game was going to be like a typical home game or more like an away game atmosphere.

The game was as telling about the Indianapolis fan base as it was about the home team, which pulled out a victory over undefeated Denver.

On more than one occasion over the years, the homes of the Colts and Indiana Pacers seemingly have been filled with more fans for the away team than the home club. Area fans on occasion have been known to cheer for players on away teams if not the away team itself.

I remember well my younger days going to Pacers games when the crowd would overwhelmingly cheer for Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics or even Magic Johnson and the L.A. Lakers. I was always a little embarrassed by that. I thought it said a lot about Indy’s status as a sports town.

I loved Bird as much as any Hoosier did. But back then he didn’t wear “Indiana” on his jersey. He was a representative of Boston, and I never understood people cheering the hometown boy over the home-town team. To be fair, that was a tough decision for many area fans. Luckily, with Bird working in the Pacers front office, they no longer have to make that choice.

On Sunday, I feared fans would be equally torn over Manning. Happily, my fears were dispelled.

Local fans also have been known to sell their tickets—sometimes to the biggest games of the years. Sometimes to playoff games. And they often end up in the hands of fans of the away team. If that happened Sunday, the Broncos fans in attendance were mostly drowned out by the Colts faithful.

On Sunday, the Indianapolis fan base seemed to take a leap forward. Before the game, they cheered respectfully for Manning, who played his first 14 seasons in Indianapolis. It was heartfelt, and I would expect nothing less from folks long known for Hoosier hospitality. Besides, no one can deny what Manning has done for this franchise and city. No one denies that he is one of those chiefly responsible for energizing this fan base.

But he’s not on “our” team anymore, and that seemed understood. Like fans in a true sports town, once the game began, the crowd roared for the home team. Even with Lucas Oil Stadium’s roof open, it was at times deafening. There was no deference given to Manning when he was calling the signals for the Broncos. There was no hesitation to cheer when he was sacked and fumbled.

Yes, there were a few Broncos jerseys in the crowd, but in numbers were far smaller than many observers expected.

Maybe Indianapolis really has grown into a hard-core sports town. We’ll have a chance to test ourselves again the next time the Chicago Bulls roll into town.

  • We like winners
    You can bet that if Andrew Luck hadn't panned out, and if the whole team hadn't obviously improved over the last two years, the fans would have made a point on Sunday to cheer raucously for Manning--just to stick it to Irsay. But we love winners, and right now the Colts are winners and very competitive.
  • Cldnt agree more
    classy behavior on sunday
  • Keep those seats filled with Colts fans
    I too was pleasantly surprised by the lack of Broncos fans around me. As a season ticket holder in the 613 section, we always seem to be surrounded by the other team's fans. Apparently, other season ticket holders just sell their tickets to make money. This really diminishes our experience when rude opposing team fans are screaming in your ears. We need/desire the same fan atmosphere we experienced at the Colts/Broncos game at every home game! How can the Colts make that happen? For example, you just don't see too many opposing fans at a place like Lambeau Field. Let's keep it Colts blue!
  • Is Indy a soft sports market?
    To John's point, I think there is still a question as to whether Indy is a hard-core or soft sports market. To a lot of outside observers, the fans here still have kind of a bad reputation. They'll cheer for the teams when they win, but when they lose, Indiana fans are outtahere. That's the same case in some other markets, but not to the level that it is in Indianapolis. The sports fan base has grown in Indy, but they need to be a little more tried and true. The number of people cheering for the Bulls when they come to town still gets me steamed!
  • Not so loyal
    I was surprised to see the vast number of Bronco 18 fans had "left the building" at the 2 minute warning. Perhaps they aren't tried and true Manning fans who were aware of the countless miracle comebacks he pulled off during his time w/ the Colts. Sitting in the stadium Sunday night, I kept telling myself it would require recovering an onside kick to seal the game. I suggest there was a true divide in the crowd: Real Colts fans who respect Manning, and people that love Peyton and dislike Irsay. When the odds were long for a Broncos win, the Peyton lovers/Irsay haters didn't want to be around to experience the Colts and their fans enjoy Irsay's Indianapolis Colts' victory over Bronco 18.

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