There’s no doubt about it. This one’s going to hurt a while. Not because the Indianapolis Colts lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. But…because they barely competed.
The Colts were manhandled by their archenemy, losing 45-7 on a national stage, in the pouring rain, and to end the season. That’s about as bad as it gets for the team and its fans.
So, where do we go from here?
Let’s start with the five stages of grief.
The first step for dealing with any loss is denial. And I don’t know about you, but I was in denial for the first quarter. Even after starting the game three and out. Even after Josh Cribbs bounced a punt off his forehead. Even after Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal wide right, the Colts were still in it. Down by ten points at halftime, I was still hopeful. But somewhere between the typhoon, the Andrew Luck interception, and the (LeGarrette) Blount force trauma, reality began to creep in.
From there, we moved quickly into anger. How is this happening again? Why does it have to be like this? How do we change all of our people and still end up with the same old result? Over and over and over again. Social media was overflowing with emotion. There were calls to fire coaches, the general manager, even the owner (no, you can’t do that), few of them rational. But all of them were part of the process. Just get it out, people. Every erratic, non-sensical thought you have. Yell, cry, whine, whatever it takes. But just remember, if you tweet it or post it, it may come back to haunt you.
Now, this is where it gets a little more complicated. Because you’ll have the obvious bargaining, like: The Colts should trade Trent Richardson for a lawnmower, so at least they can say he made a cut. (Yes, I made that up. No, I’m not sorry. See stage two.) But bargaining can also include statements like, “I’d give my right arm to have Robert Mathis back in the lineup.” I don’t know why I’m always giving my right arm away, but I really need to stop.
And that leaves us here: at depression. That’s where I find myself and assume many Colts fans find themselves today. The Colts lost. It was ugly. The season is over. And now, we get to carry that defeat into the long, dark period we call the offseason. We’ll maybe watch the Pro Bowl (or at least, part of it). We’ll cheer against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. We’ll have the NFL draft. And training camp a few months later. But, there’s a lot of time in between with no football. And the thought of it right now is overwhelming. The short solution is to break it up. Take it day by day. And celebrate the little things: the signing of a free agent, the drafting of a running back, the losing of the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
The time period is different for everyone. But one of these days, we’ll look back at Sunday’s game, not as a failure or a black eye, but as experience. We won’t see it as an embarrassment, but as an exercise in growth and strength and character. And the reason the Colts were able to come back bigger and tougher and better…so they could go farther. And then, we will have arrived at acceptance.
Because we don’t have to like what happened to like what happens next. As Vince Lombardi said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
The Colts got knocked down.
And the process of getting up starts right now.