Cleat Geeks

Thanks to Manning It’s tough being a TRUE Bronco fan in Indy

I live in Indianapolis and I’m not a Colts fan. Ever since the 1977 Super Bowl when the Dallas Cowboys pounded the Denver Broncos, I have been a Broncos fan.TimeMagizine1978

Why? Because everyone at the party I attended with my parents on Jan. 15, 1978 cheered for the Cowboys that day. I felt bad for the Broncos. Someone should be cheering for them. I decided that person would be me.

I have been a fan of the Broncos ever since. I relished the back-to-back Super Bowl wins which capped off the great career of John Elway. I also suffered through the several Super Bowl blowouts.

Since the Colts arrived here in 1984 there’s no other team the Broncos play I want to see crushed than the Colts. To me if the Colts are on the schedule the Broncos can lose the other 15 games as long as they beat the Colts.

Since March 19, 2012, it has been very hard for me to do one thing – cheer for Peyton “Freakin’” Manning.

Prior to Feb. 4, 2007, I had never cheered for Peyton Manning. From 1994-97, the third Saturday in September I rooted against Manning because he would face the Florida Gators and “The Head Ball Coach” Steve Spurrier. I like defense when it comes to football, but Spurrier and his “Fun-n-Gun” was just too entertaining to watch. I always remember CBS would begin its telecast with a video montage of Manning and Spurrier with Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” playing the background.

I got a huge laugh when Spurrier said Manning returned for his senior year “because he wanted to be a three-time Citrus Bowl MVP!”

It was during these games against Florida Manning got the reputation for not being able to win the “Big Game” – each time Florida beat Tennessee.

1994 – Ok really can’t count that one – Manning came in late in the game as No. 1 Florida won 31-15

1995 – Like most of his NFL career it was the D which let Peyton down as UT was up 30-14 at halftime only to watch the Gators score 48 second-half points to win 62-37 – hard to win when your defense allows the opposing team to score on six straight possessions.

1996 – this is the one that cemented the moniker to PFM as the Vols ranked No. 2 and the Gators No. 4. Four interceptions in the first half to the Gators and it was 35-0. He did make a valiant comeback with 500 yards passing, but it wasn’t enough. Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel won the game and the Heisman.

1997 – an interception returned 89 yards for a touchdown and it was 14-0 at the half. Florida would win the game 33-20.

And if that’s not enough during his brief stint in the NFL with the Redskins Spurrier beat Peyton and the Colts – 26-21! The Head Ball coach is technically 4 1/2-0 against PFM!

Peyton ManningThen in April of 1998 Manning was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Even though the Colts moved to my town in 1984 I never wavered for my love of the orange and the Denver Broncos. Obviously there must have been some reason John Elway spurned the Irsays and for me that was enough to not even like the Colts when they came via a midnight run from Baltimore.

Every time Manning and the Colts played the Broncos I cheered against Peyton. I took great joy in 2003 when the Broncos came to Indianapolis and shocked the Colts with a 31-17 win. Of course, that was short-lived as a mere two weeks later Peyton got his revenge with a 41-10 lashing back at the RCA Dome.

The Broncos and Colts played against each other 10 times from 2002-2010 and Manning was 8-2. That also meant I lost a bet with my Father eight times. I endured eating his favorite ice cream on our Thursday Night Ice Cream adventures eight times. UGH!

OK, I admit it – I probably cheered against Manning a lot more than just when he played the Broncos. Those times he played against the Patriots in the playoffs – I just didn’t care. I don’t even think I watched the games be honest because I didn’t like either team.

The first and what I thought would be the only time I would cheer for PFM came on Feb. 4, 2007, when the Colts faced the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. Then there was a second time when the Colts played the Saints. I thought I was done cheering for PFM as we on twitter like to call him.

Denver Broncos Introduce Peyton ManningThen came March 7, 2012, and Colts’ owner Jim Irsay and new General Manager Ryan Grigson did the impossible – they cut Peyton Manning. We all know Manning hadn’t played the entire 2011 season and there was great doubt if he would be that elite quarterback again after all of his neck surgeries. I mean even one Indianapolis sports pontificator referred to Manning having a “noodle arm” still because of not having fully recovered from the neck surgeries.

The Broncos were in the midst of their own turmoil. They had Tim Tebow but let’s face it despite the great message Tebow sends he’s not the type of quarterback that’s going to bring Lombardi 3 to Sports Authority Field at MileHigh anytime in the near future. Elway was looking around as he should have in trying to find a solution to eventually bring Lombardi 3 to Denver.

Just like he did with “The Drive” in 1987 against Cleveland, John Elway knew how to orchestrate getting Manning to become a Bronco. He made it feel like a college-recruiting visit.

On March 19, 2012, my life as a Denver Bronco fan in INDIANAPOLIS changed forever when PFM signed to play for the Broncos.

When the announcement was made I immediately went to my Facebook page and commented as my status – “All these years of rooting against Peyton Manning and now I gotta dig in deep and find it in my heart to root for him – WEIRD!” and “Great…JUST GREAT…now anywhere I go wearing a Broncos shirt I am sure someone will come up to me and say ‘Bandwagoner.’ Might have to only wear the Shannon Sharpe jersey when I am in public.”

I even posted a picture of Elway and Manning together with the caption – “Now look Peyton I’m glad you’re here and all but remember I am still King of Denver.”

I have said jokingly numerous times Elway felt sorry for Manning only winning one Super Bowl. He brought Manning to Denver  to get him to an organization that will get him that second and maybe even a third before he retires. Another way for Elway to stick it to the Irsays as he had in 1983.

manning-articleLargeIt has been just as I envisioned it with Manning playing for the Broncos and living in the Indianapolis area. The stores in Indianapolis were flooded with Denver Bronco Manning shirts and jerseys. Some people even wear a jersey that’s half Colts with a 1 and a half Broncos with an 8 and then Manning on the back.

Sure enough when I go out in public here in Indianapolis wearing my Denver Bronco golf shirt or sweatshirt someone comes up to me and says “Bandwagon-Peyton Fan.” I then have to go into the whole spiel about how the Broncos were in the first Super Bowl I remember watching and everyone, where I was at, was rooting for the Cowboys and I felt someone needed to cheer for the Broncos.

It’s interesting when I wear my Shannon Sharpe jersey no one says anything to me. I even wore it to the Broncos-Colts game the first time Peyton returned to face his former team. No one said a thing.

Peyton got off to a so-so start in his return. Then there was the come-from-behind win against San Diego and the Broncos never looked back until what I like to call the “Denver Debacle” when the Broncos lost to Baltimore Ravens in double overtime in last year’s playoffs.

During his time in Indianapolis and even in those four games against Florida the media and fans always pointed and said it was always Peyton’s fault for the losses. That the world’s greatest quarterback still could not win the “Big Game.” Every time the Colts lost in the playoffs and my friends would put the blame on Manning. I actually would laugh at them as they would complain about Manning and his lack of playoff success.

I thought with a different team and it being the Broncos maybe this time things would be different. I bragged about how the Broncos were the better organization. How now in Denver with Elway, Manning would prove everyone wrong. He would win the big game and would lead Denver to its third Super Bowl.

After the loss to the Ravens my Indianapolis Colts friends were quick to point out that I now got to know how it felt having Peyton Manning as the quarterback of my team in the playoffs. That it was “karma” coming to me for all the years of cheering against Manning when he was at Tennessee and with the Colts.

Luck&ManningOf course, Andrew Luck has won two of the three meetings since Manning went to play for the Broncos. The first game on Oct. 20, 2013, when the Broncos came to Indianapolis unbeaten. Irsay played his mind games just like Ol’ Spurrier did back in the day. The Broncos played horrible that night and lost. I remember some Colts fans around me at Lucas Oil saying “Same Old Peyton” at halftime and then at the end of the game.

Manning evened it up in the opening game of last season as the Broncos jumped out to a 24-0 lead and then held on to win 31-24.

The Colts then won the more important game in the AFC Divisional playoff last year in Denver 24-13. Friends here in Indianapolis quickly took to my Facebook page and Twitter with their banter about the big win. Pictures were posted of Manning “Passing of the Torch” to Luck.

Now we enter a totally different scenario than any of the previous three meetings. The Broncos are unbeaten. Except for last Sunday night against Green Bay, Manning has played as a shell of his former self. The Broncos have the top-rated defense in the NFL. Manning can set two records in Sunday’s match up at Lucas Oil Stadium for most wins and passing yards by a quarterback.

On the other hand, the Colts are a team in disarray. No one is sure what exactly is wrong with Luck. Does he have injured ribs? Has he lost confidence since the Patriots throttled the Colts in the AFC Championship game last January? What was supposed to be a potent offense by Indianapolis this season has been stuck in park. It was bad enough a change was made Tuesday night after a disappointing 29-26 loss to Carolina. The Colts fired Pep Hamilton as the offensive coordinator and Head Coach Chuck Pagano finally got to bring in his choice with Rob Chudzinski.

This game has me worried. Despite the fact, the Broncos have the top defense, coordinator Wade Phillips has to suddenly change gears and look up plays Chudzinski has run at his other stops as OC at Carolina and as head coach in Cleveland. There’s the possibility of a letdown by the defense since it stopped a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers last Sunday in Denver.12isthenew18

More importantly, I fear what mindset Peyton Manning will be in as he once again returns home to Indianapolis to face his former team. Will Irsay play the mind games again? Will he have the roof and big window open regardless of the temperature outside at Lucas Oil Stadium as he did the last time? Will he play another sappy tribute to No. 18? Or will there be no freak side show prior to kickoff and we’ll go right into playing football Sunday afternoon around 4:30 p.m.?

I want the Peyton Manning we saw Sunday against the Packers – who looked like the Peyton Manning of yesteryear and not at the beginning of this season. I also don’t want the one which Jim Rome termed “Pisarcik Manning” and looks confused as he used to when he faced Spurrier.

I most certainly wouldn’t be able to wear my Bronco gear in Indianapolis until Manning retires if the latter shows up Sunday.

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