Coming together as a team … with “heart”

I’m a sports nut.  I’ve been a sports nut since I was a little kid, learning to play football from a book I ordered back in grade school that taught the fundamentals of the game with pictures, and we’d play the game in a neighbor’s big yard.

2006-2007 Indianapolis Colts
2006-2007 Indianapolis Colts (Photo credit: xtrarant)

I’ve been a pro football fan ever since I was in the sixth grade and I ordered another book that talked about every Super Bowl up ’til then, ending with Super Bowl V.

It was then that I became a fan of the Baltimore Colts, through reading about football heroes like Johnny Unitas and great finishes like the game-winning field goal that beat the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 for the world championship.

It went like this …

Liking the Colts’ uniforms helped me to become a fan as well.

Except for a couple of years after Unitas was traded to the San Diego Chargers and I was too pissed off at Colts management, I’ve been a Colts fan ever since, through the great years and the stinky ones.

I’ve never liked John Elway for the simple fact that he spurned the Colts after they drafted him No. 1 overall in 1983, telling them he was gonna take his toys and play baseball instead of playing for them.  I’ve always thought of him more like a spoiled brat since then.

I even remained a Colts fan after they packed up the moving vans in the middle of the night and moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis.

One of the most exciting days I’ve ever had outside of getting married and witnessing the births of our children was when former Colts head coach Tony Dungy came to speak at our church while he was still the Colts’ coach, and I was in a position to get there early enough to shake his hand and spend a few moments talking to him one-on-one.

I’ve lived through one-win and two-win seasons … plenty of them like that, when they were the worst team in the National Football League.  And I was thrilled to watch Dungy lead them to a Super Bowl win.

They were the worst team in the NFL last season, earning that top draft pick again last spring when a bit of (Andrew) Luck fell their way.

Baltimore Ravens/Indianapolis Colts Coach Chuc...
Baltimore Ravens/Indianapolis Colts Coach Chuck Pagano (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

They came out with a new coaching staff, led by Chuck Pagano.  And who could have foreseen that Pagano would be diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia as the 2012 season was starting, and that assistant Bruce Arians would step in as the interim head coach?

Who could have foreseen then that the Colts — the entire organization, from players to coaches to management and cheerleaders — would use Pagano’s fight as a rallying cry?

“Chuck Strong.”

Who could have foreseen that rallying around Pagano and his fight off the field would result in the Colts going from a two-win season one year to an 11-win season and a berth in the playoffs this weekend … with Chuck Pagano back on the sidelines, leading the way?

In all my years as a Colts fan, I don’t think there’s been any season where I could say I’ve been more proud to be a Colts fan than this one.  This is a team with character.  This is a team with heart.  This is a team that looks adversity in the eye and fights through it.  This is a team that’s come out a winner, off the field and on it.

This is a team that’s pulled together and worked hard … as a team.  Many people outside of sports could learn a thing or two from that.  I love the example this year’s Colts team has set.

Win or lose in these playoffs, learn a lesson from this Colts team.  Learn to work as a team.  Learn to fight through that adversity.  Learn how to come out a winner.

Be “Chuck Strong.”