The Human Side of Football

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I was on my way to the Colts complex a few weeks ago and got a notification on my phone that a player had been released from the team. It was a guy I knew and enjoyed talking to. He had a fiancée and a new baby. My heart sank for him – for all of them.

I pulled into the parking lot a little early for the event and there he was, walking out of the building holding a box. It was a side of the business I had never seen and never really wanted to see. And yet, there it was – unfolding right in front of me.

He put the box in his trunk, said his goodbyes, got in his car and drove off.

I sat there numb, staring out the window at nothing in particular, trying to imagine how he felt pulling out of the Colts facility for the last time.

It’s the nature of the business. Football is a tough game. And the business side is even tougher. You may get used to it, but it never gets easier.

This week on Tuesday afternoon, I was on my way to another event when I got a notification that linebacker Sio Moore had been released. After going through the usual emotions, I assumed another player would take his place at the dinner he was scheduled to attend that evening for survivors of breast cancer.

But little did I know how little I knew Sio Moore.

I knew he was a great fit for the event. Raised by his mother, his grandmother, and his sister, Moore is a champion of women. Still, when I heard he was coming regardless, that he got special permission from the Colts to attend, I was stunned.

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The ladies were gathered in the owner’s box at the Colts Grille. They were chatting and munching on appetizers when Moore entered the room. He was a little overwhelmed and you could tell his mind was racing. He composed himself and told them what had transpired. He wasn’t sure where he was going or what he was going to do. But at that moment, he was right where he wanted to be – with them.

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He circled the room giving out hugs, words of encouragement, and gifts he brought them – beautiful blankets with matching bags and jewelry, each one of them unique and handmade by his mother.

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And when he was done, he took a step back and breathed a sigh of relief. With a moment to exhale among friendly faces, his guard came down and reality began to creep in.

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“Mama told me not to cry,” he said, as the tears welled up in his eyes.

The women embraced him in a group hug.

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He showed up to support them. But he was also in need of support. And in the absence of his mother and sister, he found himself surrounded by strong women once again.

It served as a valuable reminder – that you don’t need to be at your strongest to lend strength to someone in need.

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Colts players come and go and they all leave their mark in some way.

In a quiet act of selflessness, while facing his own fear and uncertainty, Sio Moore left a legacy in Indianapolis.

He showed us his heart.

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And we’ll never forget it.

The Day the Doves Cried

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How can you just leave me standing?

Alone in a world that’s so cold?

-Prince, “When Doves Cry”

Here I was packing to go to Minnesota for my cousin’s bridal shower and my niece’s first communion when I got the news of Prince’s untimely death.

And now, here I sit – a blur of purple memories racing through my mind. I almost feel like I’m returning home to pay my respects – because in a way, I am.

A world without Prince. It’s hard to imagine.

I grew up in Eden Prairie, not far from where he lived.

I used to see him at the gas station and driving his purple BMW on the back roads when I went to the barn where we kept our horses in Chanhassen.

My Aunt Mindy took me to see Purple Rain. It was the first R rated movie I ever saw.

My school bus used to drive under the famed Graffiti Bridge (which inspired his album of the same name) every day.

Photo: Jennifer Jacobson

Photo: Jennifer Jacobson

I remember driving around in my little red Acura Integra with “Little Red Corvette” blasting out the sunroof.

After I moved to Indianapolis and became a Colts fans, it was Prince who performed the halftime show and sang “Purple Rain” in the rain before the Colts won Super Bowl XLI. I still say it was the best halftime show ever. And not just because I’m a Colts fan.

The soundtrack of my childhood. The musician I grew up with. The man who put Minneapolis on the music map. And he never left the Midwest. He had other houses, but Minnesota was always home.

He changed the scene. He changed his tune. He changed his hair. He changed his name. But he always stayed true to who he was.

There will be other princes. But there will never be another Prince.

Rest well, my sweet Prince.

Until we meet again…

Winners Drink Milk. And Fans At 100th Running Of Indy 500 Will Too!

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“Not often do you get to stand on pit lane with a cow,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles on Wednesday afternoon.

The cow, appropriately named Victory, was at the track for a special announcement regarding the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29th.

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“There are a few things that are just so inherent in our DNA that when you think of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500, you automatically think of them. They’re things that are so sacred to us that we make sure they happen every year,” Boles said.

Because the Indianapolis 500, more than any other sporting event, is all about tradition.

“Obviously, it’s 500 miles, it’s the Yard of Bricks, it’s Memorial Day weekend, it’s celebrating military men and women, it’s “Back Home Again in Indiana,” and at the end of the race, it’s a thrilled Indy 500 winner looking for a bottle of milk that he or she can drink on race day.”

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It’s become an endearing part of the Indy 500 lore, said Deb Osza of the American Dairy Association of Indiana.

“When legendary race driver Louis Meyer pulled into victory lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Memorial Day 1936 and asked for an ice-cold glass of buttermilk to quench his thirst after 500 grueling miles, a tradition was born.”

And for the 100th race, they’ve got something special planned for the fans.

“So on race day this year, Prairie Farms and the American Dairy Association of Indiana are going to provide 100,000 bottles of milk to our fans here inside the venue and when that winner steps up to drink the milk, we’re all going to toast that winner and drink a swig of milk right along with them,” Boles said.

“So whether you are the winning driver of the 100th running of the Indy 500 or you are a fan at home listening on the radio, you too can be a part of the tradition when you toast with us in the world’s largest milk toast,” said Osza.

Joe Kelsay, a sixth generation dairy farmer and the 2016 Indy 500 rookie milkman said dairy farmers and IndyCar drivers lead very different lives. But they both work hard to set themselves apart by constantly striving for a competitive edge.

“We do it with the magic of the cow and at the end of the race in May, the two will come together and will focus on marrying those two worlds where the dairy farmer and the race driver can celebrate the nutrition of milk and the fact that it really means how we win here in Indianapolis.”

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The “greatest spectacle in racing” is celebrated with the most wholesome drink known to man.

Winners drink milk.

And this year, for the first time — the fans will too.

Cheers to May!

Ode to Peyton Manning

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We all have that one person who inspired us to do something different – something that changed the course of your life. It steered you in a different direction. You caught some wind, and before you knew it, you were somewhere else. For me, that person is Peyton Manning.

I moved to Indianapolis in 2004.

I was a Vikings fan. My husband (my boyfriend at the time) had Colts season tickets. I joke that he took me to a game and Peyton Manning did the rest. By the time the Vikings came to play the Colts on Monday Night Football in November, I was already a Colts fan. It wasn’t that the Vikings were that easy to give up, it was more that the Colts were that hard not to fall in love with.

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It wasn’t just Peyton. I went to Syracuse with Marvin Harrison. I liked and respected Coach Tony Dungy from his years in Minnesota. But I’m not going to lie, it was mostly Peyton who started my love affair with the Colts.

It all happened so fast – like a rollercoaster ride. The ups, the downs – and then, suddenly, he was gone. Whisked away on a private jet to Denver. He was somebody else’s quarterback now. And all that was left were the memories and a huge, gaping hole in my heart.

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I joke that Peyton Manning is the worst breakup I ever had. But it’s no joke. I sobbed through his farewell press conference, mourned through the remainder of the offseason, and eventually channeled my pain. Some people sing, some people dance, some people get tattoos, I write.

Through writing, I connected with other fans. Fans who felt the same way I did. I started a blog. Then I started another blog. And I wrote. And wrote. And wrote…

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And just when I thought I was over him, he came back.

Peyton’s homecoming brought it all back. So I wrote some more. It was the first story I ever had that went viral. I had a following now. A few days later, I walked into Harry & Izzy’s (where I’m a regular) and the hostess told me they had all read my blog post. I never even told them I had a blog.

Eventually, my hobby became my profession. I started writing for the Colts. There are still days I don’t know how I got here. But then, I see his face or his jersey or his number somewhere in the building and I remember.

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It was all a blur…

The wins, the losses, the records, more wins, more shattered records, the playoff games, the Super Bowls. All along, I knew how special it was. I knew some day I would look back on all of it in awe.

That day has come.

Thank you Peyton, for making me a Colts fan, for making my mom a Colts fan, for changing the course of my adulthood, for inspiring me to live my dream, and for giving me my own football story, one that bonds me with fans all over the world, and one that I’ll tell for the rest of my life.

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Sometimes the most beautiful beginnings start with an end. That’s what Peyton Manning did for me. And I wish the same for him.

Goodbye, Peyton.

I’ll miss you on Sundays. And Mondays. And Thursdays…

Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I truly have enjoyed having you as my quarterback.

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You’ll always be my main Man(ning).

What Kind Of Guy Is Matt Hasselbeck? Let Me Tell You.

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If you give some people an inch, they’ll take a mile.

If you give Matt Hasselbeck an inch, he’ll give you a mile.

Ask him about his jacket, he’ll give you a story about the day he bought it. Ask him about his belt, he’ll tell you about the one he bought Andrew Luck for Christmas (that he still refuses to wear). Ask him about Adam Vinatieri’s birthday and he’ll replay the story of how he ended up sitting next to him on a flight and how key the conversation they had would be in deciding to come to Indianapolis to play for the Colts.

You saw it on the field too.

Put him in the game at 40 years old, bacterial infection festering in his gut. He’ll fight through the cramps, the sweats, the shakes, and the other unpleasantries to win the game. He’ll go to the hospital, get out, and do it all over again.

Because that’s the kind of guy he is.

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Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t just make a team better, he makes everyone on the team better just by his nature, the way he lives his life, and the way he plays the game.

In his three years as a Colt, to say he was loved by his teammates would be an understatement. They adored him. You could see it in their eyes when they talked about him.

When Andrew Luck got injured last season and Hasselbeck stepped in, the players didn’t just rally around him, they rallied for him. They played their hearts out for him. And they celebrated for him with a joy that couldn’t be confined to Lucas Oil Stadium. It spilled out the roof, spread across the city, and swept fans up in a feel-good high that lingered for days.

In a season that seemed to start with clouds and finish with storms, Hasselbeck was the bright ray of sunshine we so needed and craved.

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Though we hate to see him go, Matt Hasselbeck is leaving the Colts better than he found them. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Colts gave Matt Hasselbeck three seasons. He gave them an impact to last a lifetime.

Because that’s the kind of guy he is.