My Autumn of Discontent

Find out how Cornelius Bennett ruined John Cimasko's favorite season in 1987 -- and the lesson that he learned from it.

I love the fall. It has been far and away my favorite season ever since I was a little kid. I enjoy everything about it. That first cool evening breeze at the end of summer that tells you a change is coming; it brings with it a rush of memories of autumns past, the anticipation of how enjoyable the next couple of months or so are going to be.

Is there anything that comes close to that crisp, clear 60-degree October day, the sun shining brightly, an incredibly blue sky, the smell of burning leaves, being able to wear your favorite old flannel shirt?

I didn't think so. For me, nothing else compares.

Cornelius Bennett ruined the fall of 1987 for me. My favorite time of year, screwed up by a guy who -- to this day -- has no idea of who I am, or how I allowed him to let this happen. I look back and laugh now, but at the time, it wasn't funny.

Far from it, actually.

Bennett was drafted by the Colts with the second overall pick of the NFL draft in 1987. I was at that draft in New York, loved the pick, and could not wait to see this linebacker from the University of Alabama become a defensive force for my beloved Colts. Turns out that I would be waiting a long time -- a very, very long time.

Throughout that summer, teams were getting their drafted players under contract, one by one, allowing them to be ready for the start of training camp. As usual, there were some holdouts, Bennett being among them.

No big deal, I remember thinking, it will get done sooner or later. It always does, doesn't it?

Summer turned to fall, and still no Bennett in a Colts uniform. I was angry. The negotiations weren't going well, not well at all. Honestly, the negotiations were going backwards. My heart was sinking.

Sports information was not as readily available back then as it is now. WFAN, a 24-hour sports radio station was born that July in New York City, so I did at least have a source to go to.

I can remember tuning in every evening after work on the ride home, hoping against hope that they would announce that Cornelius Bennett and the Colts had come to terms on a deal. Sometimes they would make mention that the team and Bennett were still far apart. I would slam my hands on the steering wheel of my car, disgusted, disappointed, angered by the news. I would plead with the NFL gods to get this done.

Yes, I was taking this contract holdout a little too seriously, a little too personally. September turned to October, the days were crisp and clear, the sky was as blue as blue ever was, the leaves were turning, and I did not care. It just didn't matter. Another change in season, it happens all the time. I hardly noticed. How sad. How pathetic.

As you know, Bennett never signed and became a part of the late October deal that brought Eric Dickerson to Indianapolis. Ironically, after a tremendous career with the Bills, Bennett did sign a free agent contract with the Colts in '98, playing for two seasons.

Too late. He ruined my autumn of '87. I can never get it back.

The Colts' recent signing of much maligned free agent linebacker Rob Morris brought these memories back to me. When the signing of Morris was announced, the strong reaction of some Colts' fans reminded me of that autumn of '87. Some folks seemed to be beside themselves with anger, disappointment. It ruined their day when they heard the news, their season was going to be a wash out again. No getting past the Patriots, no Super Bowl once again.

A simple roster transaction brought out such strong emotion amongst the Colts faithful. I am not going to go into the implications of what this move means or doesn't mean as far as an improved defense for the upcoming season.

But I do know this. It didn't ruin my day, or my anticipation of the season ahead.

And I can thank Cornelius Bennett for that.


Email me at cima19@aol.com. I always welcome your thoughts, questions, and concerns.

You can listen to Jersey Johnny talk about the Colts and sports from 6-8 pm Sunday nights. Click this link to his page at WIBC and bookmark it as you can listen to his broadcast through WIBC's website.


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