I became a fan of the Baltimore Colts when I was 6, because my older brother rooted for them. I then cheered for them through thick and thin -- mostly the latter -- for 20 years, listening to game after game on an old AM radio, well before the days of Sunday Ticket. My favorite birthday present of all time was a trip to Philadelphia to see the Colts with my dad when I was 9; they won 38-6.
In college and my early working years, I traveled to Baltimore from Pennsylvania several times to see the Colts. I dragged along my then-boyfriend, who was not a fan but loved the atmosphere and the Baltimore Colts marching band in Memorial Stadium.
That all ended abruptly in 1984, when then-Colts owner Bob Irsay -- an alcoholic a--hole -- moved the team to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. The Colts were dead to me. I became a free agent fan, following teams whose players or coaches I liked, but it wasn't the same.
Then the Colts drafted Peyton Manning. I paid little attention to him his first two seasons, but in 2000 I started watching more closely and quickly fell in football love. Here was a guy who was a phenomenal player and leader and played the position like none I had seen, changing the way the game is played. He also had a terrific personality with an underrated sense of humor, so rooting for him easy. My love affair with the Colts was rekindled and I have seen virtually every one of their games the past 12 seasons, most of them with Jim Allen, a casual fan who also came to bleed blue and white because of Manning. One of my prized gifts is a Peyton Manning doll Cyd bought for me to jinx the Colts.
So, the news today that the Colts have cut Manning is depressing. It was an amicable departure, but it still stings. I knew it was coming for months and can understand the rationale by owner Jim Irsay (a cool guy nothing like his dad) given the salary cap implications and the fact that Manning is still not 100%. Had Manning been healthy enough to have played even a month last season, we wouldn't be having this discussion. He would have retired a Colt, but now he is a free agent. It just feels so weird.
I like Andrew Luck and will stay a Colts fan (at least for the time being), but will also become a huge fan of Manning's new team. I never thought I'd see the headline: Colts cut Peyton Manning. He is my all-time favorite player and the only upside is that now I have two favorite teams to root for.