When it comes to sports fandom, we’re incurable pessimists—perhaps no surprise given our decades-long love affair with the most miserable franchise in the history of athletics. And so in the run-up to this Sunday’s monster Colts game, we will not dare to offer any sunny predictions about the inevitability of a Super Bowl. We’ve been disappointed far too many times to put our heart on the line in such a manner.
But we would like to note two minor omens that seem to portend well for our favorite NFL squad, a team which we’ve followed through years both lean and fat. The first involves our rookie head coach, Jim Caldwell, who sounds like he’s not a lot of fun at parties, but obviously knows how to manage talent. In last week’s game versus the Ravens, we were faced with a potentially decisive 4th-and-4 late in the second quarter. This is exactly the sort of spot where ex-coach Tony Dungy would have played it safe—the man’s fatal weakness was being too conservative in the playoffs. But without even a flash of emotion on his face, Caldwell made the finger gesture for “go for it.” We converted by a few inches, and scored a touchdown soon after. Moments later, Peyton Manning jogged up to Caldwell and gave him a grateful pat on the back. The takeaway? These guys are on the same wavelength in critical situations, and that’s something that’s been lacking in previous Colts playoff runs.
Our second good omen came at the very end of game. The CBS cameras showed defensive mavens Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis casually walking off the field. They looked curiously relaxed, as if they’d just wrapped up a junior varsity practice rather than a divisional playoff game. More than that, there was something about their expressions that conveyed the seriousness of their purpose—the intensity of their focus was written all over their faces.
Minor observations, perhaps. But we’d like to think we have a pretty good track record of successfully interpreting the scowls, smiles, and yawps of modern-day gladiators. Here’s to hoping our prophetic gifts remain.