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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

Welcome to The Score, your place for hard-hitting sports business news, fast-breaking updates and fuel-injected debate.  Buckle up.  I'm your host, Anthony Schoettle, IBJ sports reporter.

Sports Business

Colts lose future fan loyalty along with Jets game

December 28, 2009
KEYWORDS Sports Business

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.
 

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