For the eighth time in eight years, I woke up on the day of the Colts’ kick-off, pulled my Peyton Manning jersey out of my closet, and got ready to watch the game.
This tradition, started my junior year of high school, is my greatest sports superstition. Days where formal wear has been required for school related events the jersey has simply gone over my button-up shirt or jacket. The Peyton Manning jersey has all but become my signature piece.
Why not? The Colts have boasted an impressive record over the past eight years. And have never been anything but fun to watch. Manning has directed the team to numerous play-off appearances, two superbowls, and one superbowl victory.
Peyton Manning has been nothing but consistent.
And fans, like myself, have taken Peyton’s consistency for granted. Playoff appearances have been all but guaranteed. But perhaps what has been taken most for granted, was that Peyton would be there.
For the first time in 14 years, for the first time since I started wearing my jersey, for the first time in 227 starts, Peyton wasn’t there.
I had held out hope until the announcement that Manning’s neck injury was too severe for him to play was made early last week. Despite the knowledge that it was likely Peyton would miss his first Sunday in 14 years, it couldn’t resonate with me until the official announcement (and even that took time).
So on Sunday, for the eighth time in eight years, I woke up and put my Peyton Manning jersey on. But for the first time in that same period, Peyton didn’t.
Watching the Colts under veteran-replacement Kerry Collins’ lead was painful. Not only because of his two fumbles in the first half, but because it wasn’t the same as watching Peyton. Seeing the Colts get stomped on by the Texans, despite Arian Foster’s absence as well was painful as well.
But, the good news is, I survived my first Sunday without Peyton. And the Colts’, though bruised and defeated survived theirs as well. As with every new football season there is still hope, because anything can happen. There is still hope for the playoffs, hope for young players like Austin Collie to fully develop, and mostly, hope that Peyton will come back healthier and stronger than ever.
And I think all Colts’ fans have learned a valuable lesson: never take even the most consistent person for granted.