As I told you before, the name Tom Brady leaves me with a numbness in my fingertips. In fact, that will be the last time I write his name. Why you ask? Well, for the second time this season I had the brilliant idea of writing about one of my favorite players, and for the second time this year Gisele’s BabyDaddy ruined it for me. So not only is said dude ruining my football teams, he’s ruining my storylines.
You all remember the story I wrote in early October about the revitalized Peyton Manning and his rivalry with Bridget Monahan’s ex. If you don’t, click here. The excitement of that rivalry, and the prospect of Manning defeating (rhymes with Mom Lady), was ruined thanks to Wes Welker’s bunch defeating the Broncos 31-21. Though I should add that since that loss, the Broncos have won five straight and my Man Crush has thrown 13 touchdowns (against four picks) and over 1,400 yards.
Sunday was Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts – and Manning’s ex-team’s – turn to face the ex-Wolverine quarterback and the Patriots. Unfortunately, the Colts fared much worse than the Broncos, losing 59-24. But alas, this story, like the Manning story isn’t about those pesky New Englanders, but about Luck, the Colts and the Twitter trending #chuckstrong.
A little background on myself and the Colts – I was born in San Diego and spent my first 13 years there. I was not a football fan during those 13 years. I was solely a baseball fan, and worse yet, a Padres fan. Yes, I’ve spent 35 years in misery. I moved to Seattle in 1992 but never caught on with the Seahawks, probably because they didn’t get really good until I was in my 20s and by then, I was deep into fantasy football, thus liking whoever was on my team, but not an actual team.
I fell for the Colts in 2004 when Manning was dominating the NFL, throwing an NFL record 49 touchdowns (since broken by some fancy-haired quarterback) and more importantly, leading my fantasy football team to a second league championship.
Call me a bandwagon fan, but I loved the way Manning played and for the first time since I was pulling hair out watching the Phoenix Suns in the mid 90’s, I had a team that I had to watch and a jersey I could wear while watching it.
Then the 2011 season happened and for the first time (thank you Peyton, in both a good and sad way) my love for the Colts was tested.
It was also that summer when I told my Seahawks lovin’ buddy that if the ‘Hawks ended up with Andrew Luck I would jump on Seattle’s bandwagon. They wouldn’t surpass my love for Manning and the Colts but I was excited to buy a hometown No. 12 Luck jersey.
Well that didn’t happen. The ‘Hawks ended up 7-9 and with the No. 12 pick and my favorite team, the Indianapolis Colts, struggled mightily as Manning missed the entire season due to neck injury, was released during the spring, and signed with the Denver Broncos in the offseason.
My inner thoughts wondered, “What would I do? Would I jump ship with Manning or would I continue my allegiance to the Colts?” To mine and my friends surprise I continued my allegiance to the Colts, watching in the preseason as Luck starred in a loss to the Steelers.
Luck hasn’t done much to disappoint in the regular season either. He’s seventh in passing yards, and though his TD total is identical to his INT total, he’s led the team to a surprising 6-4 record, besting last year’s win total by four with six more games to play.
More importantly he’s showing the elder players on the team (like wide receiver Reggie Wayne) leadership, poise and toughness.
Thanks to Luck, the 34-year-old receiver is having a resurgence. Wayne is having one of his better seasons already besting last year’s reception total, including a career-best 212 yards on 13 catches in a game against Green Bay.
And unlike his predecessor, Luck has showed his athletic ability by rushing for five TDs – for those counting at home that’s the same number that Michael Vick and Cam Newton have combined! – and his toughness by laying out defenders after a pick.
Knowing Luck would end up No. 1, I followed him intently his last season at Stanford, including his pro day, before the Colts drafted him No. 1. I saw the zip on the ball. His presence in the pocket. His aloof personality but his intellect to know where the play was starting and how it was going to end. He was fine with making a joke about himself but he was also fine with keeping it business as usual, focusing more on the job at hand, then signing up for a Twitter handle. Yes, he reminded me of that other Colts quarterback. No, I haven’t stopped using his name.
Sure he’s made bad mistakes (SEE: Sunday) but he’s also made some “Are You Sure He’s a Rookie?” plays, notably in comeback victories over the Packers and Titans.
Can Luck continue to lead his team to a possible playoff berth? I’m all in!
At the beginning of the season most pundits didn’t expect Indianapolis to be anywhere near the top of the AFC South, let alone in the playoff picture. Though I will toot my own horn, I believe it was on this very site in my NFL preview that I predicted the Colts to finish second in the division and mentioned the following, “I know, I know, the Colts lost a ton of games and have a rookie quarterback. With that said, they still have Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney and Antoine Bethea on defense. They still have a re-energized Reggie Wayne on offense and Luck looks like a stud. After Week 1 we were all talking about RGIII. At the end of the season we’ll all be talking about Luck.”
Of course I didn’t know the Colts would have a little extra to fight for, a little more inspiration for victory.
In Week 4, first-year head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. He would need to undergo immediate, intense chemotherapy treatment. After the first month he was considered in remission (which doesn’t mean cured – for cancer patients, you’re never cured) but he still needed to go through four more treatments every six weeks. Pagano would be unable to be a full-time coach for six months, aka the entire season. He had a much bigger, and tougher fight than winning the AFC South will ever be.
When this news broke it only made me like the Colts more. Not because I loved a good “Win one for the Gipper” story (yes, I used that reference in my prior story) but because I had experienced that same battle from the frontlines.
My wife was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005. I saw her kick cancer’s butt and I knew what it took to win. When I share our story years later I tell people there were three things that aided my wife in victory – faith, a good sense of humor and lots of support. Every indication is that the Colts, and the Colts family are doing just that.
Instead of being ColtsStrong the team has become ChuckStrong. Search #chuckstrong on Twitter and you’ll see what I mean. Players shaved their heads, the team went back and forth to the hospital visiting him, Coach Pagano has showed up to surprise the team even going as far as a post-victory inspirational speech (see below), and just recently Blue the mascot said if he can raise $10,000 for leukemia research by Nov. 25, a Colts cheerleader would shave her melon at the Colts-Bills game. Who wouldn’t want to see that?! By the way, a sexy bald chick is still sexy. Again, frontline experience.
I love watching from afar as this Indianapolis community supports their new head coach and his family in this battle.
And it’s not an easy battle. Like the coaches and players, it wasn’t easy for me to stand there and watch someone you love fight cancer, and it sure in the heck wasn’t easy for her to fight but every November when we get to check off another year of remission we celebrate our own little “AFC South” celebration, and we had Super Bowl like celebrations when the two kids we had post-“It’s likely you won’t have kids again” arrived.
Has Luck helped me stay ColtsStrong? Sure, but right now I’d like to think I’m more than that. I’m feeling ChuckStrong!
You can support the ChuckStrong foundation (and seeing a cheerleader shave her head) by donating here and/or you can help me in my annual fight against cancer as I continue to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life by donating here.