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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My AFC Championship Playoff Game Experience - Colts 38, Patriots 34

It's hard to begin to put into words how truly amazing this past weekend was. I had the opportunity to be at the AFC Championship game at the RCA Dome on Sunday. Being a Colts fan since they moved to my hometown in 1984, you can imagine my excitement.

While my beloved Colts have put forth efforts (and failed) several times to reach the big game, this year seemed different to me. I guess the media got tired of copying and pasting "Manning can't win the big one, Colts will never make the Superbowl", etc. etc. because this year, there didn't seem to be much hype about Indy in the press. They quietly made their way to the AFC Championship game.

On my connecting flight from Houston to Indy on Saturday, my excitement began to grow. As I boarded with the sea of Stokely, Addai, Manning and Freeney jerseys, I just couldn't contain myself. I gave high fives to and carried on conversations with complete strangers who were dressed in head-to-toe blue and white, just like me.

On Saturday evening, we headed out to check out the Circle City. We ended up tailgating (yes, I realize it was still about 18 hours before the game) in a parking lot with several Colts fans. It was freezing but I didn't care. I was too nervous and excited to notice. The shouts and honking of passer bys kept us warm.Finally...Sunday comes! I wake up to 3 inches of snow. Get up, get dressed and head downtown to check into my hotel. I started to feel discouraged with the number of Pats fans I encountered in the lobby. We watch the beginning of the Bears/Saints game and then head to the RCA Dome.

The outside of the Dome is plastered with GIANT blue and white letters that read "AFC CHAMPIONSHIP". Reality begins to creep in...win one more game and we're in the big show!We find our seats, watch warm-ups and pray that no loud Pats fans sit near us. By the time the game started, there were so few Pats fans in the stands, I felt proud that Indy fans actually heeded Peyton's advice "Don't sell your tickets to Pats fans!”

The game starts and the crowd is into it. I mean it's loud. But, as you can imagine, the noise diminished rather quickly through the remainder of the first half.As the first half drew to a close, I realized...I am NOT prepared for my Colts to lose this game!

The second half begins and it's like a whole new team. As our Colts determination began to grow, so did the crowds. The noise level comes back up and it would only get better!

Fast forward to the Addai touchdown to put the Colts ahead by 4. That hole was so big I could have made it through! The Dome just went berserk! But, being the realist that I am, knew that if anyone could make something out of a last, one minute drive, it would be Tom Brady. As the Pats continued to go through downs, we began to get more excited.

It was just then that the THE play that I will never forget happened. Tom Brady intercepted! The place erupted! I hugged my mom and every other Colts fan around me!! The floor was shaking from the jumping and I actually couldn't hear what my mom was saying to me (and she was right next to me). I had to sit down because I actually felt like I could pass out at any moment. All I could do is stand there and cry. I don't know if it was out of relief or adrenaline or just thankful that after all of the years of disappointing endings, Dungy, Manning and the Colts were finally going to the Superbowl!!

The confetti guns went off creating a blizzard of blue and white confetti, Will Smith's "Miami" is blaring over the PA system and the scoreboard reads "Colts 38, Patriots 34 / 00:00 / 4th Quarter". It's a Colts fan's dream come true.As they are setting up the podium for the trophy presentation I look around and realize, this is what it's all about. We all know at the end of the day, football is a business. But for this moment, it was about the fans that have seen their heroes fall so many times and for the coaches and players who have put their heart and souls into getting into the big game. It was a proud day for all Indy fans, players and coaches.

As we hear Dungy and Manning start to talk to Jim Nantz, I started to think of all of the elements this Superbowl entails, the first time two African-American coaches will face off in the big game, Peyton Manning is now 200 pounds lighter after getting that giant monkey off his back, the Colts just staged the biggest comeback in postseason history, an all-Midwest Superbowl and most importantly, the Colts have a great chance of bringing the Lombardi trophy to Indianapolis.We listen to the trophy presentation and then head outside to the mayhem!

We are shoulder to shoulder getting outside the Dome. A thundering chant of "Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl" is roaring from the crowd. When I was finally able to get to the top of the stairs to start my decent down to Capital Street, I was taken aback again. Chills run down my body, but not from the 20 degree weather, it was from the view. The sea of people in their blue and white, the posters, the Indy Star copies with "Super Colts" waiving in the air.

Again, I thought to myself, this is what the NFL is all about.


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