As a lifelong Vol's and Peyton Manning fan, I can completely relate to the heartfelt emotions in the following letter published this past week by sportswriter Bob Kravitz of "The Indianapolis Star". At least Vol fans got the chance to say goodbye to Peyton when he left Knoxville. Colts' fans didn't know they were seeing him for the last time in a blue and white jersey three years ago. They aim to correct that tomorrow with a pre-game video tribute to Peyton before the Colts take on the Broncos. Stories have already surfaced of Indy fans selling their tickets because the game would just be too emotional. They can't bear the thought of divided loyalty. I am glad to at least never had that problem - but that doesn't mean my eyes were dry after reading this letter by Bob Kravitz:
An Open Letter to Peyton Manning:
I don’t ever profess to speak for an entire city, never have. But on this, I feel safe in believing that I’m representative of the public sentiment as you return to Indianapolis for Sunday night’s game.
Thank you for making Indianapolis a football town. Thank you for all the things you’ve done off the field, and the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital and the Peyback Foundation are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your charity and generosity of spirit. Thank you for helping build this stadium (with taxpayer help, I should mention), thank you for being the reason Indy got a Super Bowl, thank you for the fact this franchise is still in Indianapolis.
It wasn’t just all the wins, and there were lots of them, or the Super Bowl and all the other wild successes. It was the way you comported yourself, with class and dignity, a Southern kid becoming a true Midwesterner through and through. Whether you were throwing a football or visiting a sick child in the hospital or tearing it up on "Saturday Night Live," you represented the very best of this city for so many years.
I hope you take a minute to bathe in the adulation. I know it’s going to be difficult, and I know you want to stay in football mode. But take a minute, maybe a few seconds, and let the moment take hold of you.
Keep in mind, the fans have never truly had closure, never had a chance to say thank you and goodbye. Who could have known that the playoff loss to the Jets in 2010 would be the last time any of us would see you in a Colts uniform?
It was a privilege to watch you work all those years, and it was a privilege to deal with you as a media member. I always learned something about the game when we spoke. And I’ll always appreciate you entrusting me with your message during the whole passion play prior to your departure. (Even though you called me "Andrew Luck’s agent.")
As a media guy, the whole Jim Irsay-John Fox contretemps made for good writing and easy talk radio, but I was genuinely sad to see and hear it. This whole week should have been about the glory of the past and not the minor failures. Again, I don’t see how Irsay’s quotes rose to the level of inflammatory, but I can see how you might have been offended. I just hope any ill will is washed away by the time the Colts make their video tribute before Sunday night’s game. I truly do.
Ultimately, I don’t root for teams or even outcomes, but here’s what I want to see Sunday: An epic shootout between you and Andrew Luck. Don’t particularly care who wins, but I want a game that will show, once and for all, that this has been a giant win-win for everybody involved.
It’s amazing to fully contemplate the impact you had on this city.
This was a basketball town for what seemed like forever. Whether it was the college game or the Pacers, it was all about hoops, about the state religion.
You changed all that. And the clearest sign is in the high schools, where Indy-area high school football has become some of the best football in the nation. I can remember watching neighborhood kids play out on the street, and the boy playing quarterback was gesticulating madly, making audibles, yelling out "Omaha, Omaha!’’ and "Apple, apple, apple!’’ for no discernible reason. We couldn’t go 10 feet without seeing a Manning jersey.
This is going to be weird, awkward, isn’t it? Weird for you, for sure, going to the visitor’s locker room, trying to stay in the football moment while the fans are showering you with their unbridled affection. Weird for the fans, who will show up with mixed loyalties. There are going to be Manning jerseys — we’re hearing they’ve sold more Manning jerseys in Indy this week than at any time since your departure — and there are going to be Luck jerseys.
One thing, though: Don’t get confused and try to quiet down the crowd while you’re on offense. This has become a fairly sophisticated football town, in large part because of you, but I’m telling you, it won’t work. Not this time.
I’m guessing it’s going to be a Colts crowd Sunday; there won’t be any questions about their ultimate allegiance. But there will be lots of your fans, too, Colts fans who are also Manning fans, folks who’d love to see you throw five TD passes while Luck throws for five and gets a game-winning field goal from Adam Vinatieri.
I’ve been doing this sports thing for a lo-o-ong time, and I don’t recall anything quite like the set of circumstances we will all experience Sunday.
I hope you get what you deserve Sunday night, and I hope you can take the time to enjoy it.
I believe I speak for the entire city here when I say it:
- Bob Kravitz, sports columnist - "The Indianapolis Star"