Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Noodle in a Haystack

There are moments in sports that will be remembered forever. Carlton Fisk willing his home run fair, Franco Harris snatching the immaculate reception out of the air, Jordan drilling a buzzer beater over Ehlo. As a fan, these are the moments you live for, this is why you watch. Over the years, I have seen each of these moments replayed hundreds of times, but nothing could prepare me for seeing the next finish that will be etched in to our collective memory forever, especially since my team found itself on the wrong side of history.

As I watched it all unfold from my seat in the upper deck of the Hoosier Dome, it seemed surreal. Following a season of unparalleled success, the Colts came out looking more Gary Hogeboom than Peyton Manning. Superbowl dreams were all but over by the time Troy Polamalu picked Manning with under 6 minutes left to play. The crowd was shuffling towards the exits when the first Miracle happened; the call was dubiously overturned by replay. It was a stunning and uplifting turn of events; hopes that had been dashed just moments earlier now seemed plausible once again. In what seemed like an instant, the Colts had scored a TD and a 2 point conversion, and followed that up with defensive stand.

After 3 and a half quarters of lackluster play, just 82 yards and 2 and a half minutes separated the Colts from redemption. With Peyton Manning and 3 timeouts, I felt this game was in our grasp. It quickly turned ugly again as Manning was pressured relentlessly, finding himself in the grasp of Joey Porter and James Farrior on a 4th down play.

Crushed by this turn of events, but always looking for of hope, I said to a fan in front of me that we still had 3 timeouts. Little did I know that the Colts wouldn’t have to take even one of them to get the ball back.

Staring dejectedly across the stadium to the east endzone, I saw with my own eyes a moment that is sure to join short list of unforgettable moments mentioned above. With a minute and twenty seconds remaining, the normally sure handed Jerome Bettis plowed straight ahead in to the pile where he was met by Colts linebacker Gary Brackett. As the balled popped loose, my sliver of hope had turned in to a legitimate opportunity, an opportunity that was improbably scooped up by Colts cornerback Nick Harper.

As Harper came barreling down the field towards me, the endzone and history, there was no time to think about how unbelievable it was that a man who had been stabbed less then 24 hours before was now scampering towards what looked as though it could be a 96 yard touchdown. I stared in amazement as the crowed roared louder than anything I had ever heard in my life. Even as Harper was brought down by desperate reach by Ben Roethlisberger at the Indianapolis 42, my body still tingled with anticipation of the inevitable. With a minute remaining, there was no conceivable way that my beloved Colts would not at least get this game to overtime.

In just 2 plays, the Colts managed to move the ball 30 yards to the Pittsburgh 28. On second and short, Manning went for the whole thing. Reggie Wayne seemed to have a step on Bryant McFadden, but the rookie CB came up with the biggest play of his life, reached out and tipped the ball away just before it reached Wayne in the endzone. After a 3rd down incompletion, the moment of truth had arrived. Mike Vanderjagt trotted out to try a 46 yard FG that would make or break the Colts dream season. A kick through the uprights would send it to OT, while a miss would send us all home unsatisfied.

As Bill Cowher burned a timeout to ice the most accurate kicker in NFL history, I suddenly found myself in the mold of a religious man. Unable to clearly see if a kick is wide or true from our vantage point, I stared only at the ref after the ball was away. Holding hands with fellow fans in the stands, it seemed like an eternity waiting for the signal to come from the refs. All I could tell was that it had plenty of distance.

When the signal came, I slumped down, no good. I stood there in a daze for a moment, trying to comprehend everything I had just seen and felt. The human body is not meant to go through such a series of emotional swings, and I was drained as a result.

As I walked out of the stadium, I felt conflicted. As a Colts fan, I was crushed, but the football fan within me knew that I had just been lucky enough to witness one of the most amazing finishes in the history of the sport. Its tough knowing that even if I live to be 100, I’ll likely never see a better game than the one that ruined my teams dream season. I know one thing for sure, I’ll never look at the Fisk homer, the immaculate reception of the Jordan fist pump again without thinking of the other side of the coin. History celebrates the winners of the classics, but the pain of losing one will be around until the end as well.


wikkidpissah said...

hear that, noodles - my condolences. did u see letterman's description last night of watching his home town team? "well, that's it - no chance....oh, wait - look at this! we're back in ba...awp, no chance. well, i think i'll...no, wait we got another chance!...damn. and i'm a heart patient!". fear not, tho - if they learn the lesson that u cant be cute about your options in fb, just go out and kick some ass, then kick some more, they'll win it next yr fo sho. nufced

Noodles said...

I'm trying to think of it this way; any of you guys who aren't Colts fans would have loved to have been at a game of that magnitude. Just because my team lost doesn't mean that I shouldn't acknowledge the fact that I was lucky to see that game in person.