Hoosiers do not like being lied to. We trust easily, but once that trust is broken, good luck winning it back.
The Colts have not been forthcoming with answers about Andrew Luck’s health for as long as there have been questions about it.
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History shows Indiana natives are not kind to those who violate them.
- In 2005, the United State Grand Prix forever burned its bridge with area race fans as seven teams on Michelin tires withdrew from the race moments before it began. It was run in 2006 and 2007 in front of sparse crowds, and finally scuttled entirely in 2008.
- In 2008, NASCAR had tire problems of its own at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tire changes were mandated every ten laps or so, and the result was a bunch of fans who felt cheated. Attendance has waned ever since to the point where fewer than 50,000 show up for the race. If you want to see 50,000 people appear to be a few hundred, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is your venue. It regularly welcomes 300,000 for the Indy 500, and when fewer than 110K show up, it looks empty.
- Between the “Malice at the Palace” in 2004 and two separate shooting incidents in 2007 involving Pacers players or family members, Pacers fans had a keen sense that players did not share their sense of decorum and civic pride. Fans began avoiding games, and then when some of the offenders were dealt for a hodge lodge of ill-fitting parts, they lost interest entirely. It’s taken a long time and serious work to rebuild interest in the team. Attendance is still driven more by the quality of the opponent then civic interest in the team although they are becoming popular again with a young core of players, who seem model citizens as well as good players.
The Colts are edging ever closer to the tipping point where Indiana could lose interest in its NFL franchise. Its handling of the Luck injuries that led to his retirement at age 29 was clumsy at best. The team’s vague diagnoses of Luck’s maladies and inaccurate prognostications of when he would return have been a major annoyance.
Owner Jim Irsay talking about Luck’s “pristine bicep” still rings in fan’s ears. The constant references to Luck “making progress” prior to being shut down in 2017 and retirement last Saturday night are recent irritants.
This is nothing new, despite a change in most positions other than ownership. Back in 2008, I remember being in Terre Haute for training camp, seeing Peyton Manning with my own eyes, and 15-minutes later being told the Colts would not comment on rumors that he was even in Terre Haute.
Saturday night brought the ultimate indignity for fans. They believed themselves to be the last to know Luck had retired. They saw him laughing on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, but also saw Adam Schefter’s tweet that his career was over. Confusion reigned. Boos accompanied Luck off the field as he left it for the last time as a rostered player not because he can’t take the pain, but because fans are fed up of the deception.
As with virtually all professional sports franchises, the Colts go out of their way to refer to their fans as “the best in the world”. Fans are tired of lip service. They want respect, and if they don’t get it, the adulation to which they have become accustomed might drift away.
It bears mention that general manager Chris Ballard has appeared to be very honest through his two-and-a-half years on the job, but Ballard’s level of honesty needs to be a contagion through the Colts building or there will come a reckoning.
Indianapolis is a city filled with very nice people, but shown a lack of respect, they can turn surly. Just ask Formula One, NASCAR, and the Indiana Pacers.
The Colts even being in Indianapolis in the first place is a result of the very same type of fan treatment – but back then it was the fans in Baltimore who were betrayed as the entire Colts organization packed and moved to Indianapolis, departing in a convoy of moving trucks in the middle of the night.
Every organization is a reflection of its ownership.