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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

Irsay can't leave fans feeling they've been fooled again

March 2, 2012
KEYWORDS Sports Business

If the 2009 NFL season taught the Indianapolis Colts brass anything, it’s that their fans have long memories, and they can be pretty unforgiving when they feel they’ve been robbed of something and are taken for granted.

Many Colts fans are still fuming about team officials’ decision not to go for the perfect season in 2009. To this day, they’re still not shy about voicing their displeasure about that call to essentially tank a home game versus the N.Y. Jets.

That ember flared up into a mini-firestorm this year as the Colts were trying hard to win meaningless late-season games and essentially throw away the overall No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

Back in 2009, Colts fans were burned just as much because then Colts President Bill Polian didn’t seem to care about their desires for an undefeated season. A few said they were so rankled, they turned their back on the team.

Colts fans clearly don’t like getting played. That’s why Colts officials would be smart at this point to wait right up until the last minute on March 8 to announce their plans concerning quarterback Peyton Manning.

Colts owner Jim Irsay must either pay Manning $28 million by March 8—renegotiate his contract—or cut him loose. There is widespread speculation that the Colts will cut the future Hall of Famer.

Coincidently—or not—Colts fans had until today to pay for season ticket renewals for the 2012 season.

Either way, any other maneuver besides waiting until the 11th hour is merely going to look like they were waiting for the season ticket renewal deadline to pass before making the announcement.

Some season ticket holders told IBJ in mid February that they were holding out to see what the team would do with Manning before deciding whether or not to renew their season tickets. A proclamation about Manning’s future today or Monday would look especially fishy.

Colts Senior Vice President Pete Ward told IBJ that the timing of an announcement regarding Manning has nothing to do with the season ticket renewal date.

“There’s absolutely nothing to that,” Ward said. “Those two things are totally unrelated. The renewal date has always been March 1.”

Still, the appearance of a decision on Manning coming in such close proximity to the season ticket renewal deadline would not look good. That very topic turned up on several local sports talk radio stations this week.

Colts fans aren’t the only ones focused on the issue. One local sports talk host said Colts executives called to try to quell the flames of the discussion.

At least by waiting until March 8, the Colts can claim they needed every last minute to take in more data (though I’m not sure how much more can be divined since they can’t watch Manning throw), make the right decision or try to work out a deal to keep Manning here.

Of course if Andrew Luck is drafted No. 1 by the Colts and turns out to be as good as people think and the team returns to power, all will be forgiven no matter what happens.

But if things somehow go sideways with the team’s future, the dragging out of the Manning decision—and the perception that the team was waiting until after the season ticket renewal deadline—would be one more piece of kindling on a fire lit by fans’ fury.

And Irsay could find his season ticket waiting list, along with a lot of the goodwill he's banked during better days, burns up like paper in fire.
 

 

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