Keeping my faith in football
For as long as I can remember, football has been a part of my life.
Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, I fondly recall NFL games playing on our TV on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights. My dad and his warehouse buddies from work kept track of the games much like fantasy leagues do today. Except they didn’t have screen names and there was likely more at stake.
These guys were Teamsters, after all.
As a born-and-raised Hoosier, my family and I didn’t have a home team to root for until the mid-’80s, after the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984. Back then, there was plenty of controversy surrounding the team arriving in the middle of the night. I remember people saying Indy stole the Colts from Baltimore. I wasn’t at the negotiation table with Irsay and the city of Baltimore, so I can’t give my opinion or provide knowledge of the transaction.
It would’ve been interesting to be a fly on the wall, though.
I do remember the excitement in Indy of finally have a football team and building a new stadium, originally called the Hoosier Dome. That later became the RCA Dome, then was demolished to make way for Indy’s more modern facility, Lucas Oil Stadium in 2008. I’m still partial to a name like the Hoosier Dome.
Just call me old-school.
I spent my high school years at the Hoosier Dome (not called the RCA Dome until 1994, the year I graduated from Purdue) selling soft drinks as fundraisers for our tennis and wrestling teams. I was a captain of the Mat Maids, the equivalent of a wrestling cheerleader.
I’ve been thinking of making that into a T-shirt.
In 1991, a year after graduating from high school, our football team went to the state finals at the Hoosier Dome. Coming from a high school of about 700 kids, this was a big deal. Many of my friends were on the field for that historic game. Our small-town crew lost to a tough competitor from Fort Wayne with gold helmets like Notre Dame.
I’m still convinced there were actual Fightin’ Irish players on the field.
Before my hometown had the Colts or my high school team played in the Hoosier Dome, I was a Chicago Bears fan. It’s a bit ironic the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Many years prior, I recall the hysteria surrounding Super Bowl XX in 1986, when one of my favorite jams, “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” made it to the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Before 1985 when the song debuted, football players hadn’t really doubled as rap artists. This song was monumental. I played the tape over and over, memorizing the words and trying to rap along with William “Refrigerator” Perry and Walter Payton.
I would pay to see a VHS of that action.
Throughout my football fandom, I’ve loved the players just as much as the teams. I enjoy following particular teams, such as the New Palestine High School Dragons, the Purdue Boilermakers, Indianapolis Colts and, now, the Denver Broncos. But I find my allegiances to be more centered on the players. Anyone who knows me well is familiar with my admiration for former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, now a Bronco. Before Peyton came to Denver, I had remained steadfast in my support for the Colts.
I had plenty of flak for wearing Colts jerseys at White House Pizza on Sundays, trust me.
When the Colts released Peyton and he went to Denver in 2012, I was happy he found a home where his record-breaking skills would be put to good use. He helped the team make it to the Super Bowl last year and was integral in Sunday’s win against the Colts. I watched the game in Indy, in a Manning Broncos jersey.
Yes, I am a glutton for punishment.
I’m also a fan of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who took the Boilermakers to a Rose Bowl. I have the utmost respect for Brees and Manning, who go out of their way to help their communities and give the NFL a good name. That’s why, as one of the 50 percent of female fans in the NFL, I’m discouraged by the violent actions of Ray Rice that have graphically surfaced in video. He callously and coldly knocked his then-fiancee out, dragging her out of that elevator like it was normal. I can’t get past it.
Nor do I expect to.
I love football at all levels. I consider the sport the best entertainment I can find on the weekend or weeknights when life or work has been all too consuming. I enjoy picking games for the paper and online on our website. I like watching players, including Manning and Brees, make a positive example for young kids who want to be like them someday. The NFL should consider the fans, especially the kids and the female half of its fan base, in confronting an issue that has been too much of an elephant in the room. Stop the domestic violence. Inflict harsher penalties on players who disregard its impact on society. Get the law involved. I want to have faith in the NFL that this will happen so football can continue to be a part of my life.
And the lives of females to follow.
April E. Clark is rooting for the Broncos, Colts and Saints this weekend. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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