Yesterday, because the Browns played on Thursday, I had a chance to go to Indianapolis to watch the Colts take on the Denver Broncos. While I certainly don’t believe in sports bigamy, I was able to find myself rooting against the Broncos. The memories of John Elway were more than enough reason to jump on the Colts bandwagon for a game. Plus, because my wife is a Colts fan, I happen to know pretty much every player on the Colts almost as well as I know the Browns players. Just to keep it in perspective though, a Colts victory could never ever give me joy and satisfaction like a Browns win. Never. On top of that, even in rooting for the Colts a little bit, I did not wear any kind of Colts gear. Anyway, I wanted to give some of my observations about the experience of going to the Colts game.
First of all, there was no hard edge on the fans. They are great fans that worship their team and are passionate, but it seems completely less aggressive and volatile as compared to Browns fans. On the one hand, a lot of you might automatically think judgmentally about a fanbase that doesn’t tailgate in parking lots for hours and hours on end. Then again, think of it this way. In the cold of winter, it seems counter-intuitive to load up on layers and brave the elements for a tailgate just so you can remove all those layers in time to walk into the perfect 65 degree temperature in Lucas Oil Field. Some of the fans do tailgate, but I didn’t get the sense that it is an ingrained part of their culture like the various lots around Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Which leads me to another observation. I don’t think Colts fans necessarily have more attractive women, but the presentation is a lot better. In Cleveland, the women have to be bundled up in giant snow gear with hats and everything else. As we all know, that is not how a woman goes and makes herself the most attractive to the opposite sex. This falls into the category of pointless observations that will probably tick off my wife, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice. I remember that first week of spring in Boston when I went to college where it seemed the whole female population of Boston University got more attractive as the insulating layers of clothing were peeled away. Same difference between a game at Lucas Oil and Cleveland Browns Stadium. The women were actually dressed up to look pretty because they didn’t have to worry about frostbite. It was more like people watching at a Cavs game at the Q than a Browns game.
The dynamics of the crowd were really interesting too. Being a fan of the Colts and Peyton Manning requires fans to be almost schizophrenic. The crowd is brilliantly quiet when Manning is running the offense. It becomes a series of lulls and explosions as they quiet down for the snap and then lose their minds as Dallas Clark catches a touchdown pass. The quiets are almost as deafening as the explosions. Similarly, when the defense is between the 40 yard lines, it isn’t too raucous. The PA isn’t forcing the fans into “defense” chants, or really doing anything else. It is almost like the fans are resting up for third down and the red zone when they get so loud you think the dome is going to implode.
Another phenomenon is the country club portion of the fan base. Now, before you get judgmental, consider this. A portion of the fans at yesterday’s game seemed too relaxed and aloof that they were taking the team for granted. It reminded me of the 90’s at Jacob’s Field when the Indians were in the midst of their sellout streak. But, really, I don’t think you can blame them too much. Since 1999 and including the 13 wins the Colts have so far this year, they are averaging 11.6 wins per season. Throughout all that time, they have only missed the playoffs one year in 2001. Sure they only have one Super Bowl. Yes, I was being sarcastic. It is interesting to see another fanbase in a completely different evolutionary phase with their team. They are nearing the tail end of a period of success and dominance. That manifests itself in some fans being richie rich types that go to the games because it is the place to be. Yesterday during the 4th quarter, the Colts were up by 5 points and driving into the Denver red zone. With about 3 minutes left, they got a first down to make it first and goal from the Denver 2 or 3 yard line. A couple of these country clubbers grabbed their coats and headed for the exits. It is a mix of not being a giant football fan and taking the great team you have for granted. Other than those Indians teams, we don’t really know what that is like. The Colts needed a touchdown to put the game away. A field goal still would have given the Broncos a chance to tie it. Then again, the team was already 12-0 with the division locked up.
Last but not least, I have an observation based on city planning. It was an absolute joy to get in and out of the stadium and all the parking lots. Something the rest of you may not think about very often is how crazy it is to have a city that isn’t locked by a body of water. The traffic is a bit heavy, but consider that everyone can converge on the stadium from whichever part of Indiana they are coming from. After the game, everyone can drive exactly in the direction they came from including north without running into some pesky lake or Dead Man’s Curve.
My final thoughts are these. I wish we had a dome. I understand the traditionalists who go to the games and use the outside temperatures as a badge of pride and courage. I get that. Still, I was imagining what it would be like to have a facility like Lucas Oil Field in Cleveland. Imagining all the concerts and events that could take place there. Don’t think I didn’t notice that Indianapolis will be hosting a Super Bowl in 2012. A dome might seem like a compromise, but it is the only compromise that will get a Super Bowl in the city of Cleveland. On top of that, I was just imagining what Browns fans might sound like screaming our fool heads off in a dome, deafening the other team for four straight quarters with our screaming, booing and barking. I know it might seem blasphemous to say that, but head on down to Indy some time for a game and let me know what you think when you get back.
(picture from Visit Indiana Flickr)