COLUMN: The NFL is way more fun if you don't exclusively root for garbage teams

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The Indianapolis Colts are so bad. 

I only bring this up because the Colts are the National Football League team for which I have rooted most of my life. For many years, cheering them on brought me considerable joy.  

They won a lot of games throughout the 2000s, including a Super Bowl. To Colts fans, quarterback Peyton Manning was basically Jesus Christ if the son of God could throw a tight spiral.  

Even after Manning left, Indianapolis drafted another generational talent in quarterback Andrew Luck. Then, after seven years of accumulating gruesome injuries, Luck abruptly retired before the 2019 season.  

Since Luck’s retirement, the Colts have started a new quarterback every year, won 52% of their games and reached the playoffs only once. Five weeks into the 2022 season, they are 2-2-1 with seemingly no hope of a postseason berth.  

I often meet fellow Colts fans at IU. I listen to their complaints about the team’s frustrating on-field performance and its front office’s questionable decision making. From a comically overpaid offensive line to a virtually nonexistent receiver room, there are plenty of reasons to not watch Indianapolis Colts football.  

So why do it?  

Seriously. I haven’t watched a full Colts game this year, and it’s been great. I’ve spent my Sunday afternoons doing all sorts of things — calling my parents, catching up on homework, panicking about the ceaseless flow of time — all of them drastically more productive than watching a bad football team.    

I realize most sports fans aren’t ready for that level of decommitment. We fall in love with a team at a young age and stay loyal to it no matter how many times it hurts us. It’s a classic toxic relationship, and none of us are having an “Eat, Pray, Love” moment any time soon.  

[Related: COLUMN: The NBA might abolish the ‘one-and-done rule.’ Men’s college basketball will be just fine.

Still, even if you can’t find it within yourself to break up with your favorite team, can I suggest you at least find a good team to root for on the side?  

Obviously, finding a squad that is both competent and likable can be a challenge. The Venn diagram of genuinely good teams and teams with zero players, coaches or members of management suspected of heinous crimes against women or children might be two entirely separate circles.  

Welcome to the NFL, where immense cognitive dissonance is sort of a prerequisite for fandom.  

Start small. Try watching a Kansas City Chiefs game purely for the red zone offense or buy a cheap t-shirt jersey of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. That might sound heretical and disloyal, but think about the sport you’re watching.  

Athletes and coaches leave teams for better situations all the time. Manning left the Colts for the Denver Broncos and went to two Super Bowls. Luck left for a lifestyle in which he wouldn’t regularly suffer torn rib cartilage and kidney lacerations.  

I totally understand that sticking with a team through the lowest lows can make the highs even more glorious. But get real — whether it’s the Colts, the Washington Commanders or the Houston Texans, they aren’t going to be amazing any time soon. You will have plenty of opportunities to suffer between now and then.  

Why sign up for so much pain up front?  

Don’t worry, you can still root for your garbage team from time to time. Consider it a guilty pleasure, like dipping French fries in a Wendy’s Frosty or cry-singing along to Leona Lewis’ 2007 hit “Bleeding Love.”   

 When you see Colts quarterback Matt Ryan getting folded in half by a defensive tackle behind his Swiss cheese block of an offensive line, I see Dean dumping Rory at the Stars Hollow dance marathon in “Gilmore Girls” season three, episode seven.  

It’s pitiful and heart-wrenching, and I’d be mildly embarrassed if certain people saw me having a profound emotional reaction to it. But, I can’t deny how cathartic it is.  

Follow columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) for updates in the world of sports. 




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