For the love of football |

For the love of football

April in Glenwood
April E. Clark
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
April E. Clark

I wasn’t born a sports fan. My inclination to play, or follow, games of all sorts – tennis, football, baseball, basketball, softball, rugby, etc. – was a learned behavior. And yes, I learned to play rugby the hard way.

Meaning I was tackled. Meaning I didn’t last long.

I also wasn’t born an Indianapolis Colts fan. The likelihood of this would have been increased if I were born, say, in Baltimore. But the Colts football franchise didn’t come into my life until the early hours of March 29, 1984. Just like everyone else in Indy. I was 12 years old back then, and was more concerned with having a ‘tween crush on John Stamos than knowing the importance of Johnny Unitas in Colts’ history.

I also didn’t know the difference between a safety and an onside kick back then. Times have changed though, and come fall I am as much a football addict as any NFL fan out there. Since I am a Hoosier by birth, I draw allegiance to the football team from my state. There’s just one hitch.

I love Peyton Manning.

OK, maybe I don’t love him in the normal sense that a woman loves a man, a woman loves a woman, or a man loves a man. This love is not the romantic kind, mostly because I’ve never even met the man, so how could I actually be in love with him. Seriously, that would be crazy.

And a little scary for him.

I’d say I love him in the way a football fan loves her team. Or her favorite tennis skirt. Suffice it to say I’m a little heartbroken not to have No. 18 on my team this upcoming season since he was released from the Colts roster this spring. Now he’s a Denver Bronco, for the non-football aficionados out there. I’m actually more than heartbroken. I’m feeling quite in a panic these days.

Yes, folks, it’s that serious.

Most everyone knows I’m a huge Peyton fan. I usually wear a jersey with his name and number on Sundays, and sometimes Monday nights, if the game’s right. I still consider 2007 one of the greatest years of my life. The Indianapolis Colts won Super Bowl XLI that year and Peyton was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. I’m sure I was a joy to be around then.

Sure, I took bragging rights to the next level.

Last season, because of Peyton’s neck injury and subsequent surgery, I spent most game days moping around because the Colts didn’t have him as starting quarterback. Which means we lost. A lot. I was destitute, not only because the Colts were experiencing a depressing winless regular season, but because Peyton couldn’t play. I just wasn’t my jubilant Colts-fan self.

Not even at Christmas.

The new year didn’t bring much hope in the chance that Peyton would return as the Colts quarterback. Talks between Peyton and Colts management weren’t happening. Management was getting fired right and left.

And there was Andrew Luck. Yes, Mr. Luck from Stanford. He will be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft this month, an opportunity the Colts secured after last season’s 2-14 record.

A Peyton fan might say damn the Luck. But there’s no need to cry over neck surgeries and No. 1 draft picks.

Peyton has moved on, and so must I.

Last month, the Broncos signed him as their quarterback in a publicity-fueled, free agent saga that was counted down by every news station in Denver as if it were a presidential election. The result was Tim Tebow being traded to the New York Jets and Manning pulling his lucky number 18 out of Orange Crush retirement. So yes, I will be rooting for the Broncos this season.

I still can’t believe I’m saying this.

“How can that be?” a Broncos or Colts fan may ask. The two teams are rivals. A football fan rooting for the Colts and the Broncos at the same time is about as likely as me playing rugby without breaking something serious, like my face.

I’ve lived in Broncos country almost a decade now and have been able to stick with my Colts-loving guns. But as the original gangsta rapper Ice-T first said, “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.” That I won’t, Ice T. Because I love the player. And I love the game.

And I love Indianapolis.

So look for me wearing blue and white in 2012. And blue and orange.

– April E. Clark was the first female sports writer on the Purdue Exponent sports desk in West Lafayette, Ind., a little-known fact for Wikipedia. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@

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