Colts lose future fan loyalty along with Jets game

December 28, 2009
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I always like to look for a silver lining. So here goes. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning won his fourth NFL MVP award on the same night his team tossed away its chance at history. Because, well, did you see what the Colts looked like without him?

But let’s forget about the historical ramifications for just a second. And let’s consider the material ramifications of Sunday's loss.
I could bring up the millions of dollars in 19-0 merchandise the team could have sold next year, the book deals and broadcast deals and other commercial opportunities—for players and the franchise—that whizzed by with this historical opportunity. But let’s talk about something a little less tangible, but no less important.

Fan loyalty.

After all, it’s all about the fans, right?

Where was that sentiment when Coach Jim Caldwell decided to bench Manning and other starters five-and-a-half quarters away from a perfect regular season.

Anyone in Lucas Oil Stadium last night can tell you the animosity from this city’s fans toward the Colts was palpable. If you don’t believe me, look at the comments on the Colts’ own Web site. One fan was so angry, he called for a boycott of the concession stands for the remainder of the game.
And the anger went far beyond fans at the game. Downtown bars far and wide emptied before the final whistle blew, as disgusted fans left, throwing up their arms and shaking their heads.

Once loyal Colts fans were booing Sunday like the Grinch down on Whoville on Christmas Eve. You have to wonder if the Colts didn’t do more than a little damage to their beloved horseshoe brand.

I posted my first blog entry about the game at 10:10 p.m. Sunday. And less than 10 minutes later, I had this response from a fan:

“I just spent $550 taking my family to a Colts game, 2 for the first time ever. What a rip-off. They’ll never sell me another ticket.”

Caldwell too got lampooned.
“Caldwell gets the accolades all season. Fittingly, he alone deserves the blame,” wrote a commenter to my earlier post. “… Since Caldwell threw Painter under the bus, perhaps he (Caldwell) deserves the next bus ride out of town. Good riddance!

That might be a little harsh, but it’s a true reflection of how Colts fans are feeling betrayed today. Yesterday’s game was a hoax wrapped in a farce, and no matter how you polish it, that’s the way most Colts and NFL fans see it.

So how do Colts marketers fix that? Oh sure, if they win the Super Bowl, the waiting list for tickets next year will be long. But this loss against the Jets won’t be forgotten. And sooner or later, Manning, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne and the rest of the players that make this team great will retire. And maybe someone like Curtis Painter will be in the game for real.

It’s during the lean times, that teams count on fan loyalty to fill seats. But where were Colts officials when the fans needed them? When they were force fed pre-season tickets so they could watch regular season games that meant something? Where were they when some fans shelled out a week’s pay to take the family to a game?
The Colts brass can warm themselves during those lean times with their philosophical approach.

Meanwhile, the fans will be at home resting with their disposable income for when the time is right.

To see how the national media and local fans are reacting to the Colts perceived lack of courage in not going for the perfect season, click here.

  • Refund
    Here's the nuts and bolts reality of this mess. Paying customers buy tickets for 8 games in a season. The pre-season games mean nothing whatsoever. So, this season, the Colts are cheating their fans out of 1/8 (12.5%) of their ticket purchase. The organization owes their fans a refund.

    All of this mess makes me glad that I subscribe to NFL Ticket on DirecTV and don't directly pay the Colts to watch this fiasco in person.
    • Resting the Regulars, Losing
      Since the Colts have a week off to start the playoffs, why did they need to rest anybody this week?
    • The lean times?
      Where were these passionate fans prior to Manning & Company, when the Colts were struggling mightily? It hasn't been that long ago that I remember a very quiet RCA Dome, with not a Colt's jersey or t-shirt in sight. A decade of winning has built the current fan base, so I suspect most of the new fans are going to leave anyway when Manning & Co. retire. I'd be willing to bet these are the same fans that are suggesting ridiculous stunts such as boycotts and not renewing their season tickets. Sure voice your disappointment, but how about showing a little loyalty as well? Iâ??m equally disappointed that the Colts are no longer undefeated, but Iâ??ll be there in my seat for as long as I am physically and financially able to do so. Frankly, I'd be happy to see some of these fans leave. They were an embarrassment last night, and continue to be so today. We were all aware of the potential outcome last night. A real fan would understand that.
      • Forget honor
        Coach sacrificed honor with Painter and Clark. He allowed Manning time for his record but not Clark.
      • Are You Joking?
        GIve me a break. I guess you'd continue to shop at retailers that consistently overcharged you or sold you merchandise that they knew was broken. Fans pay huge amounts to see games. Obviously there is no guarantee that your time will win, but it shouldn't be a crap shoot regarding the odds that your team will even attempt to win. That is why fans are angry! That is why people are questioning their loyalty to this organization. But hey -if you want to blindly follow a group that is willing to spit in your face over and tell you that the game you paid to see doesn't matter, then keep sending them your money. I guess your the guy who will stay with his abusive boyfriend even after the 20th beating that you "caused" him to give you.
      • Good Luck
        I would love to see the Colts win the Super Bowl so that they can forever be haunted by the ghost of what would have then been history. They'll win, and they'll never be able to see past the fact that they could have made history in the process.

        That's the proper reward for such hubris.
      • Real Fan
        I sat in the RCA Dome during the lean times, I have watched the Colts re-build, and I have kept my tickets while moving to the east coast so that I can travel to 4 or 5 games per year. I have to tell you though, I absolutely do not agree with what they did yesterday. It was disrespectful to the players, to the NFL, and most importantly to the fans (both in Indy and throughout the AFC where teams are fighting for a playoff birth).

        Watching the game slip away yesterday was down right ridiculous. Why fight so hard to beat Jacksonville, New England, etc. just to lie down against an inferior team? I despise the Patriots, but I would've much rather watched Brady / Belicheck get the first down on 4 & 2, than to watch Caldwell give up at half time and then try to justify that "going undefeated was never the goal". If winning every game isn't the goal, then this probably isn't the right job for Caldwell. There's no pride whatsoever in giving up.

        Again, I'm a die hard fan and my office in the North East is decorated in Colts gear, but my first reaction was that I'm not re-newing my tickets either. I'd have MUCH RATHER watched the Mora led Colts struggle along to 9-7 and make a playoff run than to watch Caldwell piss on the NFL record and fan enthusiasm like he did yesterday. He was lackluster at Wake Forrest and if he didn't have Manning and Moore, he'd be sitting at the bottom of the NFL heap right now. He should be ran out of town for his idiotic least in the eyes of a fan that has paid $3k per year and then airline tickets home....for the last time.
      • I was there.
        I was there and felt like they could have won the game after the second time Painter went in and turned the table in a negative light. But the third time he went in, I felt like the team just gave up and didn't care anymore. Granted, the QB Painter could have done better, but WAS HE READY to go in? I just hope that the colts have learned from this mistake and train him more while keeping a few better people in during the playoffs. I feel that Painter could eventually rise to Manning's status, but should not go in without some point cushion or only during the pre-season. I am not upset that we lost, just the fact that we had a chance to come back 2-3-4 times and I wonder if leaving him in was a good idea or a bad one.
      • Why the surprise...this has happened before
        The Colts pulling starters late in the season has happened before so fans shouldn't feel betrayed by anyone. It happens all the time late in an NFL season. I've had season tix for 10 years and it's happened at least 3-4 other least this time Manning and Co. played into the third quarter. A few years ago against Tennessee it was much less than that. A quarter and a half on December 27th will have absolutely ZERO to do with how they perform in the playoffs. Plain and simple.
      • Long Distance DB
        #1 - The DB does not mean Defensive Back
        #2 - Tigers love pepper, they hate cinnamon
      • Not Caldwell
        This was not Caldwell's decision. This has Polian's fingerprints all over it.
      • Polian
        So do you think Caldwell is just a puppet? Where does his power end and Polian's begin? And I wonder where Irsay comes down on all of this?
      • Seriously Joe?
        "I feel that Painter could eventually rise to Manning's status..."

        Are you kidding me? Please tell me this was a typo or a joke?
      • good article
        Check out this one:
      • @kimbo
        it was a joke. I seriously doubt that he could get that good, but he could learn a thing or two while under Manning.
      • As a Steelers fan...
        As a Steelers fan, I am programmed to hate the Colts. But this was just absurd to do. What was Caldwell thinking?! Throwing his team, organization, franchise...and fans, under the bus like that, for what? To prove a point that a perfect season "mean's nothing?" News flash, it means a heck of a lot. Not only does it say something about your quality of a team, but it also shows your quality as a coach. And that 14-1 record speaks VOLUMES.

        There was a statement from Caldwell that a heathy starting line remains priority. So, what exactly are they getting paid for? To sit on the sidelines and stay "healthy" or to play? And, furthermore, you have earned a first week bye for the playoffs. So that would have given the team, doing what they are meant to do, plenty of time to rest up before the playoffs start.

        As a Steelers fan, this really hurts my team as well. Had the Colts of won yesterday, we would be in the playoffs right now. Now, we had a bunch of long shots that have to come through just to make it. While the Steelers should have not been in this position in the first place, it is what it is...and we need what we need. A Colts win would have secured our spot as a wildcard. Now, we are hanging on by our fingernails yet again.
      • Real Fan
        I am 30 years old and I have been a loyal all my life. I Watched many players come and go and been here for the ugly seasons and the best seasons. I have never been so disgusted with the management of this team. Yes, a Super Bowl is ultimately what we want, but we had a HUGE chance to be something great. No one can remember every winning SB team, however everyone remembers the "72" Dolphins. The players and the true fans all deserved the chance to make this happen. I can see why Caldwell and the rest of upper management wanted to yank them, but come on people. You should at least give our secondary a fighting chance with a better leave. Painter was placed in a position no QB should ever have to be placed under. This was a terrible call and will haunt this organization, especially if the Colts do win the Super Bowl. It's just a selfish act by management. Every player on this team wanted to win that game, I don't care what they say in front of the cameras. There is no player in any sport that would not want to go undefeated and make history. Actions speak louder than words. The look of disgust on each of those starters faces tell all.
      • Caldwell Chickened Out
        Caldwell was in a dogfight with the score 15-10 and feared losing the undefeated season with Manning playing. He figured that would look worse and took the easy way out, hoping to sneak by with a victory with his backup. The Jets were playing hard and may have won this game even if Manning completed it. Thus, Caldwell was afraid of losing with Manning in there and it backfired.
      • Scarry thought
        Caldwell and Polian's decisions affect a huge amount of our economy. Similar to what Tony George did. Lousy reasoning, lousy decisions.
      • Caldwell is a Chicago Black Sock
        Way to throw the game Jim. Way to throw the game...
      • NFL should fine them
        The NFL should fine any team not giving their best attempt to win a game. Sound crazy? Think again. If your a fan paying $500 per weekend to pay these people , including a portion going to the NFL, then someone has to put a stop to the ripoff. This is not unlike going to a theatre and the electric goes out. You get a raincheck. Put the best product on the field at all times. I hold the league responsible for not solving this end of season problem.
      • Amen !!
        Amen, Anthony, I was really disappointed in the Colts game and strongly agree with the comments you made. Tell Maddie and Loki I said hi.
      • Tin Cup
        If you want the true meaning of what was thrown away with no regard, watch the movie "Tin Cup" and the ending and you'll understand what going 19-0 was about.

        No one, no one, will remember or care who win's this Super Bowl, but EVERY football sports fan would know who went 19-0 forever

        Too bad no one on the team has the guts to call it what it was - a bad management decision, nothing less, but of course as everyone knows, managers NEVER make a mistake or missed call, they're perfect - just ask them
      • Pin them down
        Mr. S, you have an obligation as a Journalist to pin these idiots on their decision and ask the tough questions and make them feel uncomfortable. They need to know they can't mess with Colts fans and the community as if we were brainless. They cheated us, the tradition of the team, the econonmy of the city, the honor of the community. Now, you Mr. S, need to do your job. Turn up the heat on them. Don't back off.
      • I think IU just proved the Colts right. Leading by 30 points over a winless team in a fairly meaningless non conference game, their star player and bright spot broke his knee cap in a routine play. Most likely out for the season, and possibly longer (knee caps are not easy to heal). Could have been Peyton, Wayne or Freeney in the 4th quarter of the Jets game or in the Buffalo game next week.

        People talk about rust, Peyton and crew were pretty rusty in the Jets game.
      • Fire Crean
        Your right, Indyman, IU Coach Tom Crean is a complete fool and should be fired immediately. Point taken. Get on that Fred.
      • Matt,

        As is typical of many of the angry "fans", you jump off the ship. My point is that many of IU nation are questioning if Creek should have been in the game at that point, and if his injury was worth it. The same things would be said if Peyton had torn an ACL in the 4th quarter of the Jets game.
      • Appreciate This Team
        Actually this helps separate the BANDWAGON clingy fans that bend and fold whichever way the wind is going that day. The Bandwagon stops here, ON OR OFF PEOPLE.

        As for REAL FANS, who realize that a 14-1 team is not one you bash and dismantle because they chose to keep players Healthy as they earned the #1 seed and gave themselves that decision in the first place.

        Are you just ignoring the decade of unparalleled success?

        Are you ignoring the long list of other remarkable records and accomplishments by this storied team?

        Are you just going to selfishly throw out years and years of history and the future Playoff Run because you didn't get want you wanted despite the obvious risks associated with it.

        BANDWAGON FANS... Get off and stay off!

        I was there when I was kid happy to just be there. I'm a Season Ticket holder and I am absolutely THRILLED with the success this team had, has, and is going to have.

        This is a great team, a contender, and nothing about that changed on Sunday.

        I will be a Colts fan until my last day and I certainly don't see how a 14-1 team with a #1 seed locked up awaiting the Playoffs can irk so many people. That is a question you need to ask yourself.


        Everyone needs to keep things in perspective and realize we are at the doorstep of a Super Bowl run. Is this the time to freak out? Act like a greedy child or drunk Little League Dad? No, this is the time to realize we are in a better situation than every other team, keep things together, and try to WIN A SUPER BOWL.

      • Inferiority Complex
        The Colts, and Indianapolis in general, have an inferiority complex. As someone who moved here less than 10 years ago, I noticed it immediately. As best I can tell, it began with the Reggie Miller led Pacers always getting knocked out by the Knicks and later the Bulls. The Pacers had good teams, but never great ones to get them the recognition of the big boys.

        Now it manifests itself in the Colts. Why does everyone here hate the Patriots? The Steelers? Because they have taken the Manning-led Colts' thunder. Sure Peyton will have a bunch of records when he retires, but Brady will be remembered for all the rings, and the Steelers will be the franchise everyone tries to emulate.

        This is just an attempt by the Colts to try to catch the Patriots in rings, and doing whatever they feel necessary to do it. Polian is tired of getting 3 Bills teams to the SB and the Colts to the playoffs. He wants another ring (and so does the city) so that people will take him seriously.
      • Wow - Chill Out
        It's great to see such passion from fans, but passion also can blur judgement. Sure, it wasn't a popular decision. And fans pay full price for tickets. But that's the chance we take. Why turn on a team that set the record for wins in a decade and is clearly one of the best of all time? I agree, I was furious. Still am. But it doesn't diminish my love for the Colts. Everyone needs to chill out, take a breath, and enjoy the ride while it lasts.
      • Super Bowl is the Goal
        Seeing Wes Welker go down, and some others on playoff teams, one can certainly see that it's a good move to be sure we are healthy for the playoffs. Remember, the goals are:
        (1) Win the Division. DONE
        (2) Get a bye. DONE
        (3) Get home field in playoffs. DONE
        (4) Win Playoff game #1.
        (5) Win playoff game #2.
        (6) Win Super Bowl.Super Bowl.

        Hopefully we'll achieve goals 4, 5, and 6.
        GO COLTS!

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