The Herald Bulletin

March 8, 2012

Heather Bremer: You can stay a Manning fan and still be loyal to Colts

By Heather Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — I am not nor have I ever been a fan of the New Orleans Saints or San Diego Chargers. And Drew Brees has never worn the colors of my beloved Chicago Bears. But, because he continues to do the black-and-gold of Purdue proud, I am his biggest fan.

After Wednesday’s announcement that the Indianapolis Colts are parting ways with the soul of their franchise, splitting your loyalties is a concept Colts fans will have to become a lot more familiar with.

Peyton Manning’s departure from the Colts, the only NFL team the legendary quarterback has ever played for, ripped out the hearts of many Colts fans. They don’t want to hear about how this is what’s best for both the team and Manning. Or how a $28 million bonus owed Manning could potentially have crippled the franchise should he have been forced to retire. Or how the team’s glut of free agents could have left the quarterback with no protection and no help.

Colts fans are hurting. They’re unable to imagine their team without Peyton. And many are ready to burn their No. 18 jerseys in disgust, letting their Colts fandom join the fabric in the fire.

But that isn’t necessary.

First of all, Peyton’s “separation” (his own word) is not the fault of the Colts organization, or at least anyone still with the Colts organization. Second, there’s no reason you can’t hold dual allegiances.

In addition to the legion of Bears shirts, jackets and jerseys I own, I have two jerseys bearing Brees’ number and name. (And one for the Bucs’ Ronde Barber, who played high school football with my cousin.) I’ve proudly worn the Chargers or Saints colors whenever an opportunity has presented itself.

Brees is my boy.

Whatever team Manning signs with, fans of No. 18 (though he’ll reportedly return to the No. 16 he wore in college) should buy his jersey. Wear it out. Even wear it to games.

But don’t turn your back on the other Colts.

Surely, at some point during a game, you’ve cheered for another Colts player besides Peyton. Like when Pierre Garcon made a great catch. Or Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney got sacks. Or Dallas Clark shook off defenders on the way to the end zone.

Heck, you’ve probably even given a cheer when kicker Pat McAfee tackled a returner sneaking up the sideline.

These Colts are worthy of your loyalty. They’ve worked hard to earn it, both on and off the field. Manning is probably the greatest quarterback of all time, but he didn’t take the team to two Super Bowls on his own. And he isn’t the only player who has donated lots of time and lots of money to communities across Indiana.

So follow Peyton as he tries to get his career back on track. Cheer him on to many more productive seasons in the NFL and hopefully another Super Bowl.

But remain loyal to the Horseshoe.

Trust me, it’s easy.

Until the day Manning inevitably returns to face the Colts. That will be a hard one. For fans ... and their favorite quarterback.

Contact Heather Bremer: 640-4867 or heather.bremer @heraldbulletin.com