Super Bowl week is imminent and there’s one thing we all know for certain about the game.
The Colts aren’t in it.
Frustrated by the Great Jacksonville Belly Flop? Jim Irsay certainly was; you could tell by the smoke coming off some of his tweets.
Sightly perturbed to see our striped-helmeted neighbors down Interstate 74 in the game? The Colts keep searching for the secret to building a big winner. Look southeast. The Cincinnati Bengals just went from 2-14 to 4-11-1 to the Super Bowl. Before the season, the Bengals were 125-1 long shots to get this far, tied for 30th in the league. Worse odds than Jacksonville. The Colts, by the way, were tied for 14th. Ah, the joys of finding the right guy to stand behind the center. No quarterback has ever won the Triple Crown: Heisman, college football national championship and Super Bowl. Joe Burrow might do it in three years.
A little jealous that the Los Angeles Rams get to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium? When Indianapolis was host back in 2012, who shows up to represent the AFC but the New England Patriots?
But now might be the moment for a bit of perspective. True, this year’s high school seniors were in kindergarten the last time the Colts made it to the Super Bowl, and the championship banner in Lucas Oil Stadium has 15 years of age on it. Jonathan Taylor had his eighth birthday two weeks before the Colts were handed the Lombardi Trophy.
And true, there have been only four postseason victories for Indianapolis since the last Super Bowl trip. Four in 12 years. The Bengals won three last month.
But here we are to remind fans of the horseshoe that others share your pain. Look around the NFL.
You could be rooting for the Dallas Cowboys. The last time they were in the Super Bowl, Frank Reich was quarterback for the new team in Carolina and threw the first touchdown pass in Panthers history. The Cowboys certainly get a lot of attention for a franchise that hasn’t even appeared in a conference championship game in 26 years.
You could be rooting for the Green Bay Packers. Seventeen years of Aaron Rodgers, and one Super Bowl trip. Indianapolis would have loved to have Manning for 17 years to see what the trophy case would look like. And for all the magic of Lambeau Field, the Packers have been knocked out of the postseason on their own frozen tundra four times since 2011.
You could be pulling for the Minnesota Vikings. They went to four of the first 11 Super Bowls. Lost all four. In the 45 years since, they’re 0-6 in conference title games, two in overtime.
You could be in the Chicago Bears’ corner. They haven’t won a playoff game in 11 years. They’ve seen one Super Bowl in 36 years, and you might remember whom they lost to.
You could be in the Detroit Lions’ camp. This is the 56th Super Bowl, and the Lions still have never played in one. The Lions are kings of the NFL jungle when it comes to waiting.
You could be pulling for the rest of the AFC South. The Colts don’t win the division anymore. Do you realize it’s been seven years since the last South title in Indianapolis? All three other franchises have helped themselves to at least one since then. But do you also realize that those three—Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston—have only one Super Bowl trip among them, and that was the Titans 22 years ago? Tennessee had the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the AFC this season. Much good that did.
You could be a New York Giants kind of person. They won the Super Bowl following the 2011 season, the championship decided in Indiana-you-know-where. They have appeared in one playoff game since, six years ago. Lost that by more than three touchdowns.
You could be a Washington Football Team supporter. In the past 16 years, that team not only lost all four playoff games it played, but also its nickname.
You could be in the Las Vegas Raiders’ corner. Only two playoff games in 19 years, and the Raiders lost them both. Can’t remember whether they were Oakland, Los Angeles or Las Vegas at the time. For a franchise this heavy on tradition, it’s hard to believe the last Super Bowl title was 38 years ago.
Just like it’s hard to imagine 37 years since the Miami Dolphins played in the Super Bowl. Or 29 years since they even participated in a conference championship game. Or 21 years without so much as a playoff victory. Their last was over the Colts in 2000. Miami’s perfect season is now an archeological artifact.
You could be a Cleveland Browns fan. Where to begin? The old Browns couldn’t get to the Super Bowl and moved to Baltimore, where they quickly turned into champions. The new Browns haven’t gotten there, either, and have won one playoff game in their history. Think of all the cold December weather Browns fans have had to sit through to root for a franchise that never is around in January.
You could be a New York Jets fan. If you are, the last playoff game for your team was 11 years ago. The last Super Bowl was 53 years back. Joe Namath was the young sex-symbol quarterback who made that game immortal with his victory guarantee. Now he’s 78 doing Medicare supplement commercials.
You could be an Atlanta Falcons fan. Then you could relive the mirage of 2017, getting ahead of the Patriots 28-3. That’d be like sitting in a dentist chair for root-canal work. Your team not only owns the largest blown lead in Super Bowl history, but also the only overtime defeat.
You could be a Buffalo Bills booster. If you are, how is the therapy going? There was the maddening Super Bowl four-peat of defeat, the last three by a combined 65 points. Then the 24-year dark ages without a single postseason win. Then the overtime loss two weeks ago to Kansas City that might have broken new ground on anguish. Trust me, the Colts’ Jacksonville loss could not have hurt any worse than the Bills coughing up the lead in only 13 seconds.
You could be on the side of the Denver Broncos. Remember when Peyton Manning helped give them a Super Bowl title on his way into the sunset? They haven’t been back to the playoffs in the six years since.
You could be a Los Angeles Chargers booster. One Super Bowl trip, and that was 27 years ago. One conference-championship-game appearance since. And now the Super Bowl will be in their stadium, with their co-tenant one of the participants. Given all of that, their futility seems a tad conspicuous.
You could fly with the Arizona Cardinals. One playoff win in 12 years. One Super Bowl appearance ever.
You could be a Carolina Panthers fan. Never a champion, at least the Panthers can say they’re the only team to lose Super Bowls to both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
See? Misery abounds in many places. Most of the teams above didn’t make the playoffs this year, either. You don’t need Carson Wentz’s vaccination status to have woes in the NFL.•
Lopresti is a lifelong resident of Richmond and a graduate of Ball State University. He was a columnist for USA Today and Gannett newspapers for 31 years; he covered 34 Final Fours, 30 Super Bowls, 32 World Series and 16 Olympics. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.