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Emotions Are Torn, But the Jersey Is Intact

I came to love the game through Peyton Manning, but I know who I’ll be rooting for when he returns to Indy on Sunday night

Editor’s Note: Angie Six is a writer, mother, blogger and Indianapolis Colts fan living in central Indiana. The MMQB asked her to speak for the fans of Indiana as they prepare for quarterback Peyton Manning’s visit Sunday with his new team, the Denver Broncos.

By Angie Six

INDIANAPOLIS — Carefully tucked away on the top shelf of my bedroom closet, my Peyton Manning Colts jersey keeps company with my wedding dress. Some might find it odd that a sports jersey many fans had tossed in the Goodwill pile long ago would instead find a place next to a timeless memento. It makes perfect sense to me, though. The blue number 18 jersey is a keepsake of how I fell in love with football, in the same way the dress is a keepsake from the day I declared my love for my husband.

I was 9 years old when the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. I couldn’t comprehend what a big deal it was, couldn’t fathom what it would mean to lose anything in sports that could cause so much heartache. Sports and my family didn’t mix; we barely played any and we watched them even less.

In college I fell in love with a sports fan, and his enthusiasm was contagious. Love will make you do crazy things, like root for the Cleveland Indians and bang on the glass at hockey games. I still didn’t love sports, but I loved a boy, and that’s all it took. Shortly after I wore that wedding dress, we moved to Tennessee. It was 1997, we were in the middle of SEC country, and a kid named Peyton Manning was king.

I became smitten with Peyton that year, a feeling that only intensified when the Colts chose him as their number one pick in the draft. I was on the brink of becoming a football fan, and he led the way. It was the perfect storm: I was starting to enjoy football, but I needed a team, and I needed a player I could feel good rooting for. Peyton and the Colts were the answer. There was something about the guy I couldn’t resist. His dorkiness, his antics at the line of scrimmage, his work ethic, those commercials. I watched football just to watch him, and suddenly found myself caring about the rules, the players, and other teams. But it was mostly about Peyton.

Peyton is the big brother who left for college when you were a kid. You missed him liked crazy, but you can’t wait to show him how big and strong you got.

I returned home to Indy a few years later, just in time for Peyton and the Colts to hit their stride. I was pregnant the year the Colts made their first Super Bowl run. I hiked my pregnant self to the nosebleed seats in the RCA Dome for the AFC Championship Game. Some babies get Beethoven in utero; mine got 55,000 sports fans yelling at Tom Brady. Earlier in the season I told my husband that if the Colts won the Super Bowl we would name the baby Peyton. He laughed and agreed, never thinking they would actually pull it off. Try as I might, I couldn’t persuade him to name the baby after Peyton. Instead he allowed me the next best thing. Our son, Eli, was born just as the Super Bowl champions returned to training camp.

I knew the Peyton Manning era would eventually come to an end, but I never imagined it would play out as it did. The 2011 season was painful, watching Peyton on the sidelines, sitting through loss after loss, reading between Irsay’s and Manning’s cryptic lines. I sat on the couch with my husband, wearing my Manning jersey, and cried as Peyton told us goodbye. I took the jersey off that night and haven’t worn it since.

These days I cheer for the Colts and the Broncos. The Colts are my team, but Peyton gave me football, and I never tire of watching his gift. Rooting for both teams has never been a problem … until now. This weekend Peyton returns to Indianapolis for the first time, and just beneath the excitement for a stellar matchup lies a tangled mess of bittersweet emotions.

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Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz wrote a piece last week reporting on fans who sold their tickets because it would be “too emotional” to attend the game. I understand completely. I know in my heart that Irsay made the right move. I know that, considering the circumstances, things couldn’t have worked out better for everyone involved. I hate to use the term “blessed” to describe anything football-related, but it’s the best way to describe how I feel as a Colts fan. To go from the Peyton era to Andrew Luck? Unbelievable. No one else could’ve come to Indy and put my broken heart at ease. I love watching Andrew Luck play, and I’m filled with hope for the years we have ahead of us. But I still get emotional when I think about Peyton leaving, that we didn’t have a chance to let him finish a glorious career here.

More Colts-Broncos

This week's game features the two best quarterbacks in the league this year. Yes, Andrew Luck is already that good, Andy Benoit writes.


Meanwhile, the Colts weren't the only team impacted by Peyton's departure. In all, his exit from Indy impacted 11 teams, says Andrew Brandt.

Dammit, now I’m crying again.

Come Sunday, my loyalty is with the Colts. Peyton is the big brother who left for college when you were a kid. Now he’s back. You missed him like crazy, but you can’t wait to show him how big and strong you got while he was gone. You want to wrestle him, pin him to the ground, and then hug it out.

It’s impossible to go anywhere in Indianapolis this week without the game coming up in conversation. The general consensus around town is that we’re glad to see Peyton playing, happy to show him one last time what he means to this city. We’re looking forward to a classy tribute for a guy who never showed us anything less. We wish Irsay would step away from Twitter just this once. But more than anything, we want to see this young, dedicated, nose-to-the-grindstone team of ours win. Lucas Oil Stadium may be the house that Peyton built, but he doesn’t live here anymore.

I hope we see so many more games with Peyton and Andrew battling it out that it doesn’t even register as a storyline anymore. I would love to see Peyton win another Super Bowl; I just want to see us win more. Peyton made me a football fan, and for that he’ll always have a special place on my closet shelf and my heart. Special games call for special measures, though, and so this week I finally bought myself a new jersey. Turns out there was an empty space in my closet just waiting for Andrew Luck.

Angie Six’s blog, justlikethenumber.com, chronicles the things she holds dear: her kids Elena and Eli, her husband, Mike, the Colts and beer.

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(Photograph by Elena Six)
42 comments
JenniferMurray
JenniferMurray

I'm blown away by the way you captured our emotions on this game, and your talent with the words to express it.  Amazing piece, SI!  

bnohe
bnohe

As someone born and raised in Indiana, I hope that Peyton and the Broncos wipe the field with the Colts. My family trashed almost all our Colts gear after they let Manning go. Irsay and his Colts once again became the epitome of everything that is wrong with this state -- and, truth is, the Colts always were that way. Without Peyton's heart, the Colts are once again the cowards who fled Baltimore, businessmen who worship the almighty dollar, men who have no sense of honour.

statisprobasketball
statisprobasketball

While I can understand why some Colts fans would want to skip this game (and perhaps make a nice cash windfall), I simply can't imagine missing this one. For once, watching the game on TV won't even begin to capture the emotion of the moment. The first Manning trot out on the field, the video tribute to him playing to what will be a silent, captivated crowd, and the team introductions as both teams rush out for the start of the game will lose something in translation to the small screen. I've been to two games I consider monumental: the 2006 AFC Championship game and the 2009 Super Bowl. This game will join the Pantheon of great games I have witnessed, especially considering the man that made the other two possible makes his return to town. 

KatSullivan
KatSullivan

As a woman who was born and raised in Colorado and has been a Broncos fan since the early 70s, I feel your loyalty. It took me until three weeks ago to accept Manning. I hated my idol Elway's decision to hire Manning. However, I have listened to Manning's press conferences, sound bites and documentaries. For once, I believe an athlete will get a standing ovation and not "boo'ed" when he steps back onto the field in Indy.

BlueBarron
BlueBarron

Thanks for picking some weepy woman to represent us Colts fans....really SI?

ChrisCompton
ChrisCompton

Great article. It's a tough week, no doubt. I now consider myself a 'BronColts' fan. That was never an issue until now. This Sunday, I'll be on the Broncos side of the fence, but then I'll go back to hoping that both teams win out! Manning is just such a class act, and such a great ambassador for football. I get why the Colts moved on, but this is one of those cases where 'the mind gets what the heart doesn't understand.' I like Luck, a lot, and I believe that he will also be a great ambassador for the game, but I just haven't quite gotten past it, yet. Looking forward to a great game on Sunday, where both sides play well, and hoping that Peyton gets another win at Lucas Oil. Congrats on a great article!

RobertWood
RobertWood

Ya gotta go with the team first, then the guys on it. Seems as though Michigan frustrated Manning quite a bit -- first, Charles Woodson, and then Tom Brady. To Manning's credit, he hasn't had anything himself, to say about either one. I'm a Michigan transplant to Indy, and while I'm first a Lions fan (sadly), I can root for the Colts. I'm afraid I just don't get the Peyton-obsession from either the Vols or Colts fans. I mean, I like Brady, as a former classmate from U of M, who's done well. I just don't fall all over myself worshipping him. Manning had some good years with the Colts, but Luck should get the love, now. Here's hoping Manning loses BIG tomorrow.

JoJo8754
JoJo8754

"Some babies get Beethoven in utero; mine got 55,000 sports fans yelling at Tom Brady."

 Great line.

RoyalClough
RoyalClough

Good article and well written. Takes me back to the summer of 2008 here in Wisconsin. It all worked out here and it is in Indy as well. What is chance that a sure fire hall of famer gets replaced by another excellent quarterback within five years of each other? Chicago and Cleveland fans must be a bit frustrated.

BronColts1213
BronColts1213

Your story sounds a lot like mine with different circumstances. Kenny Chesney gets the credit (or blame?) for me becoming a MANNING fan. The Colts will always have a special place in my heart. Partly because that's where Peyton played for so many years, but mostly because my #2 son is named Colt. :) When your first kid is named Chezney, you gotta have another "cool" name to go with it. :D
It took a while (most of last year) to get used to it, but I have completely converted to being a Broncos fan. Orange has become my new favorite color. I'm still happy when the Colts win, but I'm happier when the Broncos do.

Thequeenoffree
Thequeenoffree

What a beautifully written piece! I'm an Indy girl & completely resonate with Angie. We need more female & maternal voices talking NFL. "Some babies get Beethoven in utero; mine got 55,000 sports fans yelling at Tom Brady." Love it. 

guthrie2912
guthrie2912

That was a good article couldn't have said it better myself, minus the crying though.

kemp1313
kemp1313

And this is why I find it impossible to want to see the Colts win anything, ever:

"I was 9 years old when the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night"

Even Indianapolis Colts fans are apparently quite comfortable with the way the Colts were literally stolen from Baltimore and delivered to their doorstep. They moved in the middle of the night, actually in the middle of negotiations between the most lacking-in-class family in the NFL, the Irsays, and the Maryland and Baltimore governments. Moved in the middle of the night, and took all the history with them. 

Too bad Rozelle didn't have the foresight to require the Irsays to leave the team name, logos, and history in the city where it all happened, as was done when the Browns were moved. 

JahliSuwaghaman
JahliSuwaghaman

I've been on the exact same roller coaster as the writer.  I love my Colts but, Peyton Manning is royalty in this city.  I have my #18 jersey neatly hanging in my closet and I haven't sought a #12 to replace it.. I'm not sure I'll be able to buy a Luck jersey until Peyton actually retires. 

coltspam
coltspam

A MUST READ.  I was sobbing through most of it.  Brought back all those feelings I felt when Peyton left.  I think I cried for 3 days.

Thank you Angie for taking me back down memory lane. I thought I wanted to go to the game, but I think I have changed my mind.  It will just be too emotional.

bulldawgmama
bulldawgmama

Beautiful blog post. I am a Broncos fan and I can't imagine if we had to witness Elway finishing his career elsewhere. It makes my stomach ache to even think about it. 

Paul108
Paul108

She touches on it in the column, but things just couldn't have worked out any better for the Colts.  During the one year that they bottomed out after over a decade of success, they end up with the first pick in a draft that had the most "sure thing" QB in a decade.  Just take a look at the years the Dolphins had after Marino retired and see what could have been.  I understand that Colts fans still love Manning and wish him well, but really boo-hoo if they feel conflicted.  They're going to have a winning team for the next 10-15 years, how many other NFL fans can say that?

BenjaminChristopherRayMorgan
BenjaminChristopherRayMorgan

I have to say this was a nice piece and echoed my feeling about seeing Tony G leave Kansas City to go to Atlanta. I understood at the time and don't have any bad feelings on it. The trade worked out well for both teams. And now living in Atlanta, I get to see him play but it never gets any easier seeing him play for someone else.

Allthings18
Allthings18

I hope Peyton hangs 50 on that embarrassing owner. 

thatsthatish
thatsthatish

Hailing from Seattle, I'm not a Colts fan, but my eyes got a little teary reading this article. Extremely well written. I think just about every sports fan can relate to their favorite player going elsewhere. I know that Seattlites had similar emotions when Ken Griffey came back with the Reds and later back to the Mariners. As a 90s kid who was introduced to sports through Junior, I and every Seattle fan welcomed him back with open arms.

Jkhadley289
Jkhadley289

Angie, it is awesome to read someone's thought and emotions on a page. I hope you write more for themmqb and will look forward to enjoying each missive. I echo your sentiments about the colts, but for my Memphis Grizzlies. Rare is it you find a team that so epitomizes a city, such as the colts and grizzlies have for their respective cities. On Sunday, ill be cheering for Peyton, only because, like you, I want to see him win one more SB. O ce he does that, and I think he will, ill shift my thoughts on to my nfl team, the dolphins. An I look forward to a Luck/ Tannehill fight!

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

Peyton hasn't said a word this week I'm thinking he plans on doing his talking on the field, like he usually does

OrangeMurphy
OrangeMurphy

Pathetic. So you were never a Colts fan, just a Manning fan? If you're a man you need to grow a pair.

And the Colts left Baltimore because the attendance was crap and the politicians couldn't get it together and help fund a new stadium....and then had the gall to threaten Robert Irsay with eminent domain.

BlueBarron
BlueBarron

Please don't tell me you were a Tebow fan

AngelaWhitemanSix
AngelaWhitemanSix

@ChrisCompton "BronColts" fan ... that's pretty awesome and should probably be on a t-shirt.  I gotta to with Colts over Broncos, though.

AngelaWhitemanSix
AngelaWhitemanSix

@RoyalClough My husband is from Cleveland and believe me, frustration doesn't even begin to cover it.  He was a HUGE LeBron fan and that whole mess tore him up.  

BlueBarron
BlueBarron

So you aren't really a Colts are you? Which is fine, just be honest about it. I don't know why, but on our Sunday gatherings the women have similar feelings for Manning/Broncos, but the men remain diehard a colts fans. Then again, the women probably wouldn't even be watching if it wasn't for their husbands.

AngelaWhitemanSix
AngelaWhitemanSix

@Thequeenoffree I hope you read Jenny Vrentas' work on MMQB as well ... she's an amazing writer.  She covers topics you think you would never care about and the next thing you know you're totally invested.  Thanks so much for your kind words!

JahliSuwaghaman
JahliSuwaghaman

@kemp1313 You don't have a very good memory.  The team was moved because the CITY of BALTIMORE threatened Irsay with confiscating the team and all of its property under eminent domain law.  The Maryland state legislature's House even passed special legislation which would allow it to happen; Irsay pulled the team out before the Senate could pass the legislation allowing the City to STEAL his property which he had bought and built himself.  

Irsay was not a nice man, he was a businessman.  But, he was a businessman who protected his property when the world around him was quite literally trying to change the rules in order to "legally" take what he had earned.  Get over it, you stole Cleveland's team AND HAVE ZERO MORAL GROUND TO COMPLAIN!

AngelaWhitemanSix
AngelaWhitemanSix

@coltspam I'll be watching from home as well.  I'm hoping we'll have a chance to see the tribute at some point, too.  With Kleenex ready, of course.

AngelaWhitemanSix
AngelaWhitemanSix

@Paul108 Believe me, I completely understand how lucky we are to go from Manning to Luck.  I'll admit it - I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too.  But yeah, I don't expect fans from other teams to have much patience with us.

AngelaWhitemanSix
AngelaWhitemanSix

@BenjaminChristopherRayMorgan Tony Gonzalez seems like such a great guy and a wonderful ambassador for the game.  It had to hurt to see a player like that go.  Were you pulling for him to win a Super Bowl with Atlanta last year? Or does it feel wrong to root for Atlanta?

BlueBarron
BlueBarron

Irsay wasn't taking a shot at Peyton...you just got suckered by the skip bayless style media we have today. Irsay had sAid the same thing several times in the past....everyone understood he was disappointed management didn't put a more balanced team around Manning. The national media just got a hold of it and took it out of context for a story.

starrrkarla
starrrkarla

Know matter what anyone thinks Peyton is at the top of his game & he has worked hard and long to get there. He's the best role model I could ask for one of my sons to follow. We live in Tn.& we are Peyton fans so where he is that's where our loyalty will stand to the end. He is a great man on and off the field!!!

AngelaWhitemanSix
AngelaWhitemanSix

@thatsthatish It's nearly impossible not to have those kind of feelings for the player who first opened your eyes to the game, isn't it?  Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.


AngelaWhitemanSix
AngelaWhitemanSix

@Jkhadley289 Isn't it interesting how some teams seem to fit into the fabric of their cities so well?  I can see how the Grizzlies would be the same.  Last year was such an exciting year to see this crop of new and immensely talented quarterbacks, like Luck and Tannehill.  Like you, I'm looking forward to many years of fun football with these young guys.

bnohe
bnohe

@OrangeMurphy Peyton Manning was the Colts' quarterback for almost my entire adult life-- in fact, I was two years shy of 18 when he was first drafted. I basically grew up with Peyton as quarterback. Until they let him go, I never knew what it was to be a Colts fan without being a Manning fan.

And, when he was gone, I realised that the Colts were blessed to have had him. He's a decent, fun-loving, family-oriented guy. Who is Jim Irsay? A drunk with more money than sense?

bnohe
bnohe

@OrangeMurphy Ah, yes, 'the mooning incident'. An incident he has made restitution twice for. Yes, comparing a mistake a young man made in college, has been punished for twice, and has been overwhelmingly contrite over really compares to a man who likes to boast to journalists that 'he's spilled more they've drank'.

OrangeMurphy
OrangeMurphy

Bitter much? I guess one could respond with..."who is Peyton Manning? A sexual harasser with more money than sense?"

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