Sunday, February 14, 2010, 5:27 p.m. — A week ago at this time, it was an hour before kickoff and I was adrift in a sea of blue pride, shouting at a crowd of "Who Dats," buoyed by the boundless optimism and certainty that this was "destiny" and "Peyton's Time."
A week later, I still can't bring myself to watch the game I Tivoed, read any articles on the Super Bowl, or even watch SportsCenter (the worst moment was when I caught a Drew Brees Disney World ad and weighed my odds of putting my foot through my television at 50/50). In all the flurry of media attention and pundits anointing a legacy still left unwritten, it never occurred to me that the Colts could in fact lose.
As a native Hoosier who fell asleep in the RCA Dome of the Colts home opener as an eight-year-old, I've supported the team through thick and thin, from Hogeboom to Captain Comeback. Upon arriving in South Beach the Friday before my first Super Bowl I was immediately blown away by the sheer enormity of it. From getting off the plane seeing Saints and Colts fans from six to 60 taunting each other from all angles, to the airport to the Haitian cabbie describing Peyton Manning as the best quarterback of all time even though the NFL was "rigged to let the Saints win", I found every aspect of every culture immersed in all things Super Bowl.
Staying in South Beach gave my friends and I an all-access pass to the pandemonium of the weekend. We quickly realized one glaring fact: we were outnumbered by Saints fans (whom we dubbed, "Who Dats") by a ratio of 4 to 1. The mix of fans ranged from the respectable to the obscene, but they all shared intense passion and belief that the Saints were a team of destiny.
In true blue fashion, the Colts fans fought back, giving as good as we got, but you could see it in the eyes of the Saints fans how much this single game meant the them and for that we could find no fault.
South Beach had one long strip of bars and Super Bowl festivities set up. That's probably the greatest thing I enjoyed — interaction of all the fans, celebrities, and media. We got pics in front of Ocho Cinco's newest ride, bumped into Isaiah Thomas, Evander Holyfield, Emeril, and were 20 feet away from Ditka, Chris Mortenson, Keyshawn, and the entire ESPN crew.
There were times in between takes when the SportCenter analysts would simply stare at the crowd, and you could tell deep down they were enjoying this revelry as much as any fan. The power of Super Bowl turns every fan into an excited 11-year old and as the weekend progressed, the swell of emotions ranging from hope to anxiety reached a crescendo. Crowds grew more boisterous and for the first time friendly heckling broke into a few instances of fisticuffs.
A Hoosier-style pregame outside of the Super Bowl venue
On game day, our two-man crew had become a group of six as friends with last-minute tickets arrived to add to our excitement. The constant debate over a breakfast of Bloody Mary's and Mojitos was over arrival: what was too early, what was too late? We set off a generous six hours ahead of kickoff, paying $20 per person to the cabbie to get us to the stadium.
What they don't tell you is even that early once you are within a half mile the road turns into a parking lot. We jumped out and headed to the local Wal-Mart to grab a cooler full of pregame. The 20-minute walk to the stadium seemed to fly by as everyone within earshot either called out to us in support or insult.
Like an ancient castle, Sun Life Stadium rose like a beacon in the distance with an erected fence barricade along its outskirts. In this area surrounding the stadium was a moat of drunken fans and media taking it in. The closest thing I can relate it to is Georgetown Road the night before the Indianapolis 500. You didn't have to have a ticket to be there, enjoying your own beer was allowed, and pretty much anything other then fighting was allowed.
We quickly established a section and had a great afternoon meeting with fellow Hoosiers as well as Colts fans from all across the country. We were even interviewed by an Australian division of Esquire magazine comparing football to futbol. It seemed our fans had two schools of thought: either sip slowly and remember the entire day, or tailgate like it was freshman year.
As kickoff approached, we hustled our way into the stadium through two layers of polite but efficient security, and though we had 30 minutes before the National Anthem, it was like walking into a ghost town with so many fans already in their seats. One neat run in we has was with Matt Ellis, the Colts fan from Auburn, Indiana, with all the signature tattoos from players. He was very polite and we posed for a quick picture before jogging/running to the gate.
I was very lucky in our seats as my neighbor's dad is a ticket broker and while expensive ($1,600), for the experience they were well worth it as I had been quoted nearly $700 more for worse seats. Taking my seat on the 20-yard line in the lower middle section of the upper deck I sat dazed for a few minutes taking in the sheer enormity of the event. With the Florida A&M band playing/dancing a tribute to a young Michael Jackson, the sun had just began to set and the palpable buzz from eager fans rippled my arm with goosebumps.
A view from the seats at SunLife Stadium
What's great about the Super Bowl is that your seats are random so you sit amongst every type of fan from all walks of life. Moments before the National Anthem a goateed man in his early 50s that sat to my left said nonchalantly, "I have $10,000.00 on the anthem being under 1:44." Such is the random grouping of people that come to this spectacle of a football game, from the die-hard fans to the very affluent (in case anyone was wondering, Carrie Underwood ran 1:43).
The game itself was a blur. I can say that I called the Garçon touchdown moments before the ball was snapped and that the two halves were like watching separate games. The first half was slow but steady and we thought the Colts had the game in the bag, that Peyton was learning very similar to the AFC Championship.
One thing you don't realize when watching the game at home is just how long the extended half time is for the Super Bowl. It really lets the losing team have extra time to scheme and plan. The onside kick to open the second half changed everything. I feel sorry for Hank Baskett as he and his wife have done a very good job giving positive press about how much they love living in the city of Indianapolis, but that singular play swung the game in a completely different direction.
Already outnumbered in the crowd, Colts fans began to be drowned out by howling Saints fans who had been happy just to be there in the first half and now truly believed. Peyton's interception ended things for the Colts and all I'll say about that is that he was doing all he could do with an O-line being dominated, and that from our vantage point, it looked like Reggie Wayne ran a halfhearted route.
As the final whistle blew Saints fans sat in disbelief, some chanting, "Who Dat" with others sitting there with tears streaming down their faces. I'll never forget getting to the tunnel and seeing a sea of blue as if every single Colts fan had the same idea: get away as fast as possible.
Outside the stadium, chaos ensued as the friendly police did their best to quell drunken fans from becoming drunken mobs. The worst example was a Colts fan in his 20s with a metal prosthetic leg grabbing the microphone from a preacher and chanting, "Jesus Sucks!" over and over again. This continued until the preacher cold-cocked him, splitting the amputee's head open. As blood spurted from his head onto his Manning jersey, he attacked the preacher. With cops flying to the scene, we didn't stick around to see who won that decision.
With cabbies now charging $50-100 per person, we begrudgingly began heading back to South Beach. We chose to change out of our jerseys not because we were embarrassed about losing (which we were) but moreso to avoid possible altercations (which we saw). Trying to make lemonade out of the bitterest of sports lemons, we headed to dinner and drinks. None of us felt like setting the night on fire and we all made our way back to the hotel very early.
At 5 a.m., I finally stopped replaying the game over and over in my mind, and realized how far the Colts franchise had come from its first move from Baltimore. I caught two hours of sleep knowing we'd be back next year with a healthy Marlin Jackson, Bob Sanders, and Anthony Gonzalez. Outside on the streets you could still hear the chants of, "Who Dat". This Super Bowl belonged to the Saints, and nothing will ever change that — but next year is anyone's game.
Andre J. Boulais is a lifelong Colts fan who's supported the team through Trev Alberts, The Triplets, and the city's first Super Bowl. He and his friends were also season ticket holders for the first season in Lucas Oil Stadium. Andre's entire downstairs Man Cave is dedicated to all things Colts, complete with playoff posters of the Colts Super Bowl-winning run as well as Peyton's then-record touchdown year.
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