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One of the biggest untold stories over the last decade in the NFL is the death of the home field advantage.
We’ll find out tonight just home much advantage the Indianapolis Colts have inside the comfy confines of Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts have held their own in LOS quite nicely during the regular season, but the playoffs is where it counts, and tonight marks the first playoff game inside the 17-month-old stadium.
The home field edge used to be especially huge in the NFL playoffs. Now, not so much. And there are several reasons why.
The first and primary reason is the set-up of new stadiums, and that includes Lucas Oil Stadium. Newer stadiums are heavy with club seats and luxury suites (including the newest craze: field level suites), which are all very nice for the city’s corporate customers but serve to push Joe and Mary Sixpack, the type that paint their 20-year-old pick-up truck blue with a paint brush and scream until their lungs bleed, up to the rafters or right out the door.
Simply put, the new softer stadiums are great at raising cash for the home team but not so great for fans who like raising the roof during games. And all those cushy surfaces absorb the screams that do resonate inside the stadium.
Simply put, screamin’ Joe Sixpack has been replaced by Joe CEO, who looks a lot like he’s catatonic for much of the game. Besides, who can scream when you’re carefully letting fine wine roll over your teeth and tongue to make sure the flavor is savored.
I must admit, there have been times when it’s been pretty loud inside LOS during this regular season, but with the current recession, we’ll see how many Sixpacks sold out to fund next year’s season ticket buy. You should be able to tell by the decibel level in LOS.
One last note about the fans. Modern technology hasn’t helped. Fans are so preoccupied with the myriad digital messages blinking at them during games, the endless options at the concession stand, not to mention their own Blackberries, it’s easy to forget where you are. Wait, the Colts just scored? Who got the touchdown?
There are other reasons too that the home field edge simply isn’t as sharp as it once was.
With all the newfangled gadgetry like QB/coaches headsets and improved turf which leads to predictable footing, not to mention things like charter planes in and out of town, it’s just not as uncomfortable for visiting teams.
Think I’m full of it? I don’t blame you. My own wife does too.
But alas, I have numbers to back up my theory. Check out the home field records over the last two decades.
1990-99: 1,387-939-2 (.596)
2000-09: 1,442-1,084-2 (.571)
Check out the home playoff records from 1990-2002, then 2003-08:
1990-2002: 96-34 (.739)
2003-08: 34-26 (.567)
Still think I’m on Ozzy’s crazy train? Well, I haven’t convinced my wife yet either.
But it doesn’t matter what I think. And it doesn’t what the numbers say.
What does matter is what the two teams in tonight’s game think—and feel.
And the fans will play a big part in that.
Because new stadium or not, the Blue Crew’s screams still have the power to send a shiver down Ray Lewis’ spine, obscure Raven receivers from hearing QB Joe Flacco’s audibles, cause coaches to call timeouts … and at least for tonight, lift the Colts to a better place to be.