By Todd Golden
TERRE HAUTE — You know what bugs me about Super Bowl XLIV?
Nothing … and that bugs me a lot.
When the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints hook up in a week, there’s no obvious bad guy. The Colts quietly go about their excellence. The Saints are the feel-good story of the moment. No blowhards, no blustery windbag coaches need apply.
I’m the kind of sports fan who likes to take sides, who likes to make an emotional investment in a game. For me, games are infinitely more interesting when someone wears the black hat, when a player has a big mouth, when a city and its fan base won’t shut up about how great they think they are.
Where, pray tell, is the East Coast/big market bias? I (sniff) kind of miss it.
What the world needs now are drama queens, prima donnas and me-first yakkers who are better heard than seen. I want trash-talkers, chest-beaters, and hopefully, if karma works its wonderful magic, crow-eaters.
But, alas, none of that is going to happen. These two teams are (gulp) … too likable.
Now’s as good a time as any for this mostly Colts’ fan audience to reveal that I’m not a Colts fan myself — I’m a Wisconsin native and a Cheesehead to my summer sausage-and-cheese curd-eating core, which means the Green Bay Packers are the team that moves me.
If only I had a wayback machine to wipe out that weak overtime pass interference penalty against the (hated) Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game and I’d have my wish. Oh Brett Favre … if only I could turn my lonely eyes to another dopey interception.
But I’m not a Colts hater either. I simply cover the team on occasion with requisite emotional detachment. I wish the Colts well, if for no other reason than it will make a lot of folks around here happy.
But it’s just so much more fun to have a team or someone you love to hate. And I hate the fact that absolutely no one on either team fits the bill this time around. I’ve tried to find something, anything, to get my goose, but nothing works.
What on earth can anyone find remotely objectionable about the Colts? Jim Caldwell is too nice? Pat McAfee is a pro wrestler?
Peyton Manning does too many TV ads? Peyton Manning? Are you serious?
The man is currently cooking along at such an all-time level and goes about his job with such robotic excellence that you almost feel like you should attend a Colts game as you might a church service and only speak in hushed, respectful tones so as not to disturb his craft. In itself, that would normally qualify as annoying, but hating Manning is like hating “Citizen Kane.” You’ve taken leave of your senses if you can’t at least give a nod to the sheer greatness.
Even the Colts’ talkers are sedate. Reggie Wayne wore a construction hat in the post-AFC Championship game locker room because the Colts still have work to do. In your face, Saints! Somewhere, Chad OchoJohnCincoson is shaking his head disapprovingly and telling him to try harder.
You can’t even go off roster in the quest for rancor. Colts fans? They aren’t in any way annoying at all collectively and most of my best friends bleed blue-and-white. Indianapolis? Not my favorite city, but nothing to dislike about it either. I went to high school there, lived with my wife there. It’s just fine.
The Colts could, of course, be playing for a perfect record if they hadn’t shrugged their shoulders at immortality and pulled their starters with perfection on the line. Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. But as much as I hated that decision by the Colts, they did get to the Super Bowl, so I can’t conjure much more than tepid irritation. Pity that.
As for the Saints? New Orleans is one of America’s great cities, their fans are colorful and have suffered as much as any NFL fanbase and they similarly have a roster bereft of punks. You even have the added local connection of Saints head coach Sean Payton, who was once an assistant coach at Indiana State.
Hopefully, Colts fans won’t latch on to the silly meme that the Saints are going to try and hit Manning as much as possible. Call me crazy, but last I checked, that’s what the opposing team is supposed to do. Nothing to see here … move along.
So next Sunday, somewhere in the Great Plains where I will watch the Super Bowl as I travel on ISU’s men’s basketball road trip to Wichita State and Creighton, I will kick back and like what I see.
Sigh. Oh well. Hate ’til next year.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.