My name is Brenda, and I am an Indianapolis Colts fan.
But this is a site about the Denver Broncos, so, again…what?
Before I go much further, let me address any Broncos fans out there thinking, “She’s not one of us.”
Like my dozens of colleagues within the Aerys Sports network, we write because we want to. These sites are maintained during our spare time. When I joined Aerys Sports in Jan. 2011, I had my choice of which team to cover, and the Broncos – not the Colts – were my choice. Believe me; there is no way I would spend my free time writing about just any team.
Behold my Peyton Manning Colts jersey. (personal photo)
Patriots? Not a chance. (No offense to The Foxhole.)
Cowboys? Nah, I’ll pass.
I write about the Broncos because I genuinely care about the Broncos, and any insinuation to the contrary is outright silly.
This is a story about parallels, and boy, are there many.
Circling back to my opening statement, my Colts allegiance isn’t exactly a secret. I’ve never shied away from referencing my suburban Indianapolis upbringing or my unabashed loyalty to Indiana University, the greatest institution on earth. (You will never convince me otherwise.)
On March 7, the Colts released Peyton Manning. The move wasn’t all that surprising, though the Colts fan in me rooted for the implausible: Manning and Andrew Luck. Mentor and protégé. Legend and successor.
I knew better, but still, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the farewell press conference. Maybe if I didn’t tune in, it wouldn’t happen. Jim Irsay wouldn’t say those words I dreaded to hear, and Manning wouldn’t get choked up thanking Colts fans for their support.
On March 7, the Colts fan in me mourned the end of what would likely be the greatest era in Colts history – at least Indianapolis Colts history, because those Baltimore teams weren’t too shabby.
Three days before Manning’s release, I finally addressed what had been circulating throughout the Broncos blogosphere for weeks: Should the Broncos pursue Peyton Manning? Assuming Indianapolis and Manning parted ways, and knowing the Broncos desire to add another quarterback (or two), a possible union was ripe with intrigue.
I, the Colts fan turned Broncos blogger, had my doubts, but the more I thought about the prospect, the more I embraced it. If Manning can’t play for the Colts, there’s no place I’d rather see him play than Denver. As greedy as this sounds, I win.
I like winning. I like it a lot.
Apparently, so do the Broncos, because what unfolded the next ten days – cross-country flights, Dove Valley visit, and a throwing “audition” in North Carolina – was a public courtship of the greatest free agent quarterback ever. Make no mistake, Denver, and notably John Elway, wanted Manning in orange in 2012.
I was giddy. Cautiously giddy, mind you, but very, very excited about the ‘what if.’
What if Peyton Manning joined the Broncos?
My Peyton Manning Christmas ornament camps out between my Indiana Hoosiers and Indiana Pacers memorabilia, and yes, there's Broncos stuff, too. (personal photo)
‘What if’ became reality last week when the Denver Broncos won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. And that was a press conference I gladly watched, a surreal turn of events I still can’t adequately put into words. I’ve always thought of Manning as my quarterback, and now here he is…in Denver.
The past two weeks, I’ve received Facebook messages, emails, and even text messages from friends and family now proclaiming themselves Broncos fans. See, there are Colts fans and there are Manning fans, and the groups aren’t mutually exclusive. Sounds familiar in comparison to Tim Tebow, doesn’t it?
The Broncos lost fans when Tebow was traded to the New York Jets, but most of those were likely the fans Tebow brought in, just like all those people I know in central Indiana who are now pulling for the Broncos because they put Manning ahead of the Colts.
So yes, Denver lost some fans, but they gained some, too.
(Note: Not all Colts fans I know are Broncos converts. In fact, many will continue to cheer for Indianapolis while “wishing Peyton the best.” That’s fine, too. I have the same sentiments as it pertains to Tebow. I hope his next chapter is a successful one, but I’m not about to don Jets green.)
Perhaps it was sweet irony when I was hoping Denver would keep both Manning and Tebow. I wanted the same for the Colts with Manning and Luck, though my football sensibilities knew better. Tebow didn’t fit in the Broncos’ future plans, just as Manning didn’t fit in the Colts’. I don’t doubt the Broncos’ brass and their decision to ship Tebow to New York.
I addressed repeatedly last season how my Tebow skepticism was morphed into unbridled optimism. He changed my attitude. Like many, I enjoyed Tebow as a college quarterback, but remained unconvinced on his NFL future, and I still do to an extent. I will, however, never question his commitment, work ethic, and desire to win. There are simply people you don’t bet against in life; for me, Tim Tebow epitomizes such.
And on the topic of people you shouldn’t bet against…Peyton Manning and John Elway.
In yet another parallel, Manning and Elway transformed their football cities.
Thanks for following me to Denver, Peyton. (courtesy Craig O'Neal)
I saw a lot of Broncos games on television growing up, maybe because so many Indianapolis Colts home games were blacked out, but I’m not from here, so I can’t speak firsthand about how John Elway changed the football climate in Denver.
But I know he did, because I hear about it all the time. Elway did for you what Manning did for us.
The Broncos have sold out every home game since 1970, and Elway didn’t arrive until 1983, so there was already a loyal football base in Denver. Yet, Elway put the franchise on the map. It’s probably safe to assume the Denver Broncos wouldn’t have appeared in five Super Bowls from 1983-99 if Elway wasn’t at the helm. That kind of competitive significance made the Broncos’ the unchallenged “biggest show in town.” With Elway, every season had the possibility of ending with a Super Bowl. That kind of product has an easy time finding a passionate, attentive audience.
Manning also singlehandedly changed the football landscape in Indianapolis. Remember, we’re basketball people. That’s not to suggest we didn’t care about the NFL prior to his arrival, because I certainly did, but Manning made the Indianapolis Colts matter. The Colts weren’t regular features on nationally televised Sunday night or Monday night games. Not too many people wore Colts hats, sweatshirts, or jerseys aside from game day. There was little rush to replace the quickly aging RCA Dome, and to the best of my recollection, there were no ‘Blue Fridays,’ a weekly downtown celebration during the NFL season.
All that changed with Peyton Manning. He, not a basketball hero or iconic coach, became the biggest name in Indiana. That’s huge where I’m from. Huge.
So now here we are: John Elway is a Broncos executive, Peyton Manning is the Broncos quarterback, and Denver’s favorite franchise is immensely relevant again. As the team has mentioned, there is credit due to Tebow. His efforts last season energized a team that had spent more than a decade being either not-quite-good-enough, or simply an afterthought in the minds of many. He energized a fan base along with it. Now the stewardship of the Broncos is in the hands of two men who are the most literal definition of game-changers in every sense of the word.
Indianapolis and Colts fans will always remember Peyton Manning. His number will soon hang for Lucas Oil Stadium, and fans will sport his replica jersey for decades to come. I’m excited to see just how good Andrew Luck can be at the next level, especially with the seemingly starting-from-scratch Colts. However, I have a hunch the partnership of Elway and Manning could be something quite special to witness.
I can’t wait.
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