All this Colts excitement got me thinking of the first time we were here. Hopefully we'll see footage of it, because I can't find any online(*edit: see link at end of post for video). I'm sure you can all picture it in your minds though.
The year was 1995, I was a freshman in High School and had recently received the news that my high school would be closed (since IPS sucks and can't manage money properly). Sports became a big part of that school as we watched our football and basketball teams make their final run at state titles (Heartbreak at Hinkle). I had recently vowed to sell all my baseball cards and never watch the game of baseball again, because of their strike in 1994. I was more than ready to have something to cheer for.
The Colts were about ten years removed from their infamous escape to Indianapolis. Indy was definitely still a basketball town, having watched Reggie and the beloved Pacers lose to the Knicks in the Seventh Game of the Conference Finals in 1994 (they would go on to lose Game 7 of the Conference Finals in 1995 as well). However, the Colts grabbed our attention and won our hearts by clawing their way to the 1995 AFC Championship.
Marshall Faulk was our brilliant running back. Floyd Turner and Aaron Bailey were our top receivers. The irreplacable and unstoppable Ken Dilger was our bruising tight end. Cary Blanchard was our kicker. And who could forget, the "Comeback Kid," the 1995 Comeback Player of the Year and AFC Player of the Year (and MVP runner-up), Mr. Jim Harbaugh. This ragtag group of white collar yeomen was led by coach Ted Marchibroda.
The Colts finished 9-7 that year, earning the fifth seed in the AFC, and their second playoff appearance since coming to Indy. They played in San Diego for the Wild Card game. An injury plagued Faulk led to the miraculous emergence of Rookie running back Zack Crockett. Crockett had only one carry in the regular season, but burned the Chargers for 147 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts pulled away in the fourth quarter, winning 35-20.
The divisional playoffs had the feel of destiny as the Colts went in to Arrowhead Stadium to play #1 Kansas City (8-0 at home) and knocked off the Chiefs, 10-7. The legend of Harbaugh was born and we found ourselves playing for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. The only thing that stood in the way was the Pittsburgh Steelers. And a crappy controversial Steelers touchdown.
The score was 10-6 (Steelers lead) at halftime, after one of the worst calls in Colts history. Pittsburgh receiver Kordell Stewart blatantly stepped out of bounds before catching a five yard TD pass. Sure, it's debatable whether or not he was pushed, but I'm a Colts fan and I say he stepped out.
After trading field goals, Harbaugh threw a 47-yard TD with about 8 minutes left. That put the Colts up 16-13. With 3:03 left, Pittsburgh got the ball and after converting a fourth down, they got a TD to go up 20-16.
Harbaugh, the "Comeback Kid" had one last chance to pull off a miracle. He led the Colts down to the Pittsburgh 29, with five seconds left. Just enough time for the miracle of all miracles, the "hail mary pass." There was no doubt that it would work. The Colts had been making miracles happen all season. Harbaugh dropped back and launched it into the endzone. Aaron Bailey had a chance at it (see picture above), I say there should have been a pass interference call, but he missed it. Our hearts were broken.
The good thing is that a heart can only be broken if it truly loved and believed in something. My heart broke that day, but a true Colts fan was born. My heart has been broken by Indianapolis sports ever since. Washington High School went on to close, the Pacers continued to have their hearts broken by the likes of Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and the entire Piston team. The Colts have continued to break my heart, year after year.
I hope it all ends this weekend. I really hope no Colts are stabbed in the leg by their spouses, I hope Peyton plays like Peyton, I hope Brady breaks his arm (not really, I don't want them to have any excuses), I just hope the Colts play tough and make us all proud. This city needs to have its heart mended. We need a championship for this generation, for these INDIANAPOLIS Colts. Until then, I will continue to wait, and hope...
Many thanks to the anonymous poster who found this link to an NFL Games video on this game:
Steelers Hold Off Cardiac Colts to Reach Super Bowl XXX
And here's a video of the last 10 minutes of TV coverage:
[props to wikipedia for the details in this post]