For the tens of thousands of Colts fans in Madison County, Sunday's Super Bowl will be bittersweet.
Many will root for Peyton Manning. Because he's a great quarterback. Because he's a great guy. Because he has frequently put his money where his heart is, particularly by lending his name and his checkbook to the Indianapolis hospital that bears his name.
But you can't blame Colts fans if they're conflicted by the thought and sight of Manning playing in a Super Bowl while wearing another team's colors. It's a little like hearing your favorite lead singer cover another band's song.
In retrospect, it seems almost impossible that Indy won just one Super Bowl — as glorious as it was — during Manning's 13 years in the Circle City. By many measures, the Colts had the best team in football during the Manning years. They won more games in a decade than any other NFL team before or since. Looking back, the Colts underachieved when it came to the postseason.
The blame has often been laid at Manning's feet, and he's not totally undeserving. Statistics show he's been Super Manning during the regular season, and Clark Kent in the playoffs.
Sunday, Manning gets the opportunity to prove all of this doubters wrong and lay to rest, once and for all, the debate over the greatest quarterback of all time. He faces the NFL's best defense in the Seattle Seahawks, and he faces them in cold weather, a condition that has often left him frustrated.
If Manning and the Broncos vanquish the Seahawks in East Rutherford, N.J., he could retire and look back without regret on a career filled with passing records, Most Valuable Player awards and the deep respect of most everyone who has come to know him or merely watched him play.
But, then again, he is coming off arguably the best season by a quarterback in league history, and very few athletes can bring themselves to retire while they're still toying with the competition. Those who did — think Michael Jordan and Brett Favre — often un-retire.
All of that is in the future, while Super Bowl XLVIII is nearly upon us. And while it may hurt Colts fans to see Manning win another Super Bowl with a different team, in the end they can't help but root for him.
Peyton Manning may not be our quarterback anymore, but his presence is still felt intensely in central Indiana. He'll always be our guy.
Coming Sunday Local fans react to Peyton Manning's fortunes with the Denver Broncos, in the new Local & State section of Sunday's newspaper.