Decision time is drawing near: Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay plan to meet sometime this week to discuss Manning’s future with the Colts. Public opinion says Manning will be released from the team following his season-long absence while recovering from neck surgery. As a diehard Colts fan, I find myself conflicted. After all, Peyton is who first drew me to the team and to football. How can I cheer for the Colts without him? Here’s what I would love to say to Peyton if I had the chance to talk to him in the coming weeks. If you’re out there No.18, I hope you read this knowing that it comes from the heart.
Read my letter after the jump …
Growing up in a sports-oriented household, I had to learn pretty quickly the ins and outs of football in order to be able to keep up with my dad, an ex-pro hockey player and an all-around sports guru. I knew if I wanted to sound like I knew something, I’d have to find a really good player to follow. When his team would win, I’d look good. It seemed like a solid plan.
It didn’t take me long to choose a player…you.
On September 11, 2005, I watched the first Sunday Night Football game of the season: Colts v. Ravens. I was 12 years old. A competitive equestrian, I was immediately drawn to the bright blue horseshoe logos on your uniforms and helmets. Then you led the Colts to a 24-7 victory, throwing for 254 yards and 2 touchdowns, and you made it look pretty easy. Little did I know that you had been MVP of the league the previous season. With that, I had my player, and consequently, my team.
On September 12, 2005, I woke up an Indianapolis Colts fan.
You and the Horseshoes went 14-2 that year and made me look pretty good as a supporter. You lost in a close one to the Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs, which I’m sure you remember clearly. I’m sure you were discouraged after the loss, being the competitor that you are, but I wasn’t. My dad’s favorite team, the New England Patriots, lost in the divisional round, too. I, a 12-year-old girl, considered myself to have fared pretty well in my first season of NFL fandom.
In 2006, my love for Colts football blossomed. The offseason gave me a chance to learn about all the players on the team, and soon I was a fan of everyone — and just in time. By season’s end, you were the champions of Super Bowl XLI. I remember being the lone Colts fan at my neighbor’s Super Bowl party and defending you and the rest of the Blue and White the entire game. I got the last laugh when you won 29-17 and were named Super Bowl MVP.
By the time the 2007 season rolled around, I had my own No.18 jersey. In high school, my final Web Design I final project was entitled, “Catie’s Colts,” and my blue and white website received a perfect score. Again, you and the Colts reached the playoffs — for the 6th year in a row. And although the Patriots went to the Super Bowl, your brother Eli ended a potentially perfect season for my dad’s team, and all was right in the world.
Here’s where I really have to thank you, Peyton. Not only did you make me into a Colts fan, but you also made me into a general football fan, and then into an all-around sports lover. In 2008, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a sports broadcaster. And who did I want to conduct my first interview with? You, of course.
Three more seasons passed, and I stayed loyal to the Colts, and only the Colts. Lucas Oil Stadium was built, and fans came out to games in droves (I longed to be one of them, but I lived in Florida). You continued to make the playoffs, you won more MVP awards, and there may have been another Super Bowl run in there, but for some reason I can’t seem to remember what happened on February 7, 2010. I became known around my family as the go-to girl for Colts information. My uncle happened to be a fan of yours, too, so I always had someone to call who would wholeheartedly agree with me when I said you were the best in the sport (I was right!).
And then 2011 came along. First, the lockout loomed over the start of the season. I had faith the two sides would resolve their differences, so I finally bought a ticket to a Colts game: Week 17 at Jacksonville. It was during my winter vacation, and it was in Jacksonville, the closest you would get to me in South Florida. I was going to make it work, and I was so excited. Then, word of your surgery broke. I was devastated. I held out hope that you’d be back in time for the final game of the season, and I held on to my ticket, even as weeks 5,6,7, and 8 passed without your presence on the field. I remained loyal to my Colts (no longer “the” Colts — “my” Colts), and I cheered them on even during the toughest of losses. Finally, when the 12th week of the season rolled around, my parents made me sell my ticket. They were not willing to pay for me to drive all the way to Jacksonville and not see you lead the charge.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen with you and the Colts now. I can’t imagine them without you. But I will support you no matter what decision you reach. I will cheer you on in any uniform. But I will also cheer for the Colts. You have taught me the importance of team loyalty, and I don’t plan to jump off the bandwagon. I am now a true Colts fan, to the point where people ask me, “So, where in Indianapolis are you from?” Does Palm Beach County count?
So, thank you, Peyton. Thank you for making me a Colts fan. Thank you for making me a football fan, and a sports fan-atic, and thank you for helping me set a career goal. Thank you for being a role model — being professional, humble, well-spoken, and classy. Thank you for the wins, the joy, and the fun. Thank you for demonstrating that no one — even the Iron Man of the NFL — is invincible. And thank you in advance for one of the greatest comebacks of all time in 2012.
I’m currently studying broadcast journalism at the University of Miami, and I still want to interview you someday. Let’s make it happen.
All the Best,