Jim Shella: Colts need to earn back my season-ticket money

Jim ShellaWhen you go to a Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium, you get to see fun promotions during timeout periods. There’s a dance contest, a game where a fan tries to throw a football into a trash truck, and one where contestants can guess statistics to win, according to the stadium announcer, “Jim Irsay’s money.”

I’ve always been a little irked by the use of that phrase because, as a season-ticket buyer, some of that money used to be mine.

I don’t begrudge a fellow fan winning some of it, but I do question how Mr. Irsay, as his employees call him, has been spending the rest of his money of late.

The Colts have been mismanaged the last several years and, in particular, in 2022. Coaches, players and the general manager get blamed, but it’s easy to see that Irsay plays a bigger role in decision-making now than he did when Bill Polian, as team president, was running an organization that went to two Super Bowls. Oh, and Irsay fired Polian, by the way.

Big money was spent this year to bring in two experienced quarterbacks, Matt Ryan and Nick Foles, and both failed. Miserably. The offensive coordinator was fired and never replaced. The head coach, Frank Reich, was given a contract extension and then fired over the phone weeks later. An interim coach, Jeff Saturday, was placed in a position where he was doomed to failure. The team lost games frequently and in spectacular and memorable ways.

This comes on the heels of high expectations built up by Irsay himself. He promised multiple Super Bowls even after the departure of superstars Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. During training camp, we were led to believe that the 2022 season could lead to a championship. The reality is that the Colts haven’t won a playoff game since the 2018 season. And Irsay, who likes to photo-bomb locker room victory celebrations, has been out of sight.

My interest in this has to do with more than just being a fan. I became a season-ticket holder the year the Colts moved to Indianapolis. For the first five years or so, I would pay a buddy who bought a pair of tickets we shared. Then, we decided to each buy two seats so our sons could come to the games with us. My friend dropped out a few years ago, but I have been buying season tickets for 39 years. That’s a lot of my money becoming Jim Irsay’s money.

For a time, in the 1990s, I even wrote a column in the now-defunct Colts fan club tabloid, known as Hoofbeats. It’s the publication that launched Jersey Johnny’s career. I wrote the column under a pseudonym, “Clete Marx.” It was called “Cheap Shots from the Cheap Seats.”

I don’t think I’m taking cheap shots now, however. The Colts have a taxpayer-funded stadium and, as a community asset, need to thrive. At the last game, I was surrounded by empty seats, and the fans were so bored they began doing the wave at one point. It took me back to the ’80s when Jim Irsay’s dad was calling the shots and the team was terrible.

I spell all of this out to simply say promotional contestants at games in 2023 won’t get any of my money. I’m loyal but not blindly loyal. The Colts need to earn back my season-ticket investment.•

Shella hosted WFYI’s “Indiana Week in Review” for 25 years and covered Indiana politics for WISH-TV for more than three decades. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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5 thoughts on “Jim Shella: Colts need to earn back my season-ticket money

  1. Jim, I concur with your article. I too have been a season ticket holder since the arrival of the Colts. Late last year I received an email from the new head of ticket sales telling me that I had run afoul of a new policy against selling tickets. I was told that I would not be allowed to renew my seats. I have been to the vast majority of the games over the years, health and other priorities have reduced that in the last couple of years. I had hoped to increase my attendance again in the near future. I ended up having a conversation with the head of Sales and he was helpful in enabling me to retain access to my tickets, however I realized that the Colts don’t really value my 39 years of loyalty. That was quite a revelation. I hope they can straighten out the product on the field and perhaps find a better way to back those of us that have been loyal financially and in attendance. Loyalty is hard won!

    Paul Brooks

  2. Jim, great read and TRUE! As the saying goes…”The Truth Hurts”. You are a better fan than I am. I have given up on the Colts, till they give me a reason to believe again, and I want concrete facts – not a bunch of fluff for social media. #GoBengals

  3. I’m fine never watching another minute of CTE-Ball again, and I’d appreciate if the State stopped funneling tax dollars into the billionaires who are willing to keep running it.

  4. I’m dropping my four seats after 24 years. Difficult decision with seats 18 rows above the field but that money will be funding a nice Costa
    Rico vacation this year instead. The enjoyment isn’t there anymore with the clown show they have become.

  5. The Colts have been bad more often than not under Irsay leadership. The one sustained period of success came thanks to someone who wasn’t an Irsay.

    When the Colts had the good fortune to draft a SECOND quarterback who could have led them another decade, they broke him with a line that couldn’t stop nonviolent protesters, a GM that was hand chosen by Jim Irsay.

    In a conference with Mahomes, Burrow, Lawrence, Allen, Herbert, Tagovailoa, heck Pickett … they don’t have a prayer until Jim turns the team over to his daughters.

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