About a year ago, being an Indianapolis sports fan felt like you’d bought low on a hot stock and were braced for 10 years of potential championship excitement. The Indianapolis Colts bumbled their way into Andrew Luck, who has already lived up to impossible hype. The Indiana Pacers uncovered a series of diamonds in the rough, from Lance Stephenson (say what you will) to Roy Hibbert (say what you will) to the unexpected superstar, Paul George. Being an Indy sports fan has been mind-numbing fun.
One of the things that makes Indianapolis special is that it’s a “small market” city with two increasingly intertwined professional sports teams. The guys go to each other’s games and host community events together. True, due to the success the Colts have enjoyed over the past 15 years, they have more of a nationwide fanbase, but the Venn diagram of fans locally reflects civic pride. You find a Pacers fan, chances are they’re also a Colts fan.
There have been times over the past few years when, to me, it felt like both teams were feeding off of each other’s momentum, like two children vying for their parents’ attention (“Look ma, I made the playoffs! Twice!” “But, ma, I made the Eastern Conference Finals! Twice.”).
City-wide streaks happen; just look at Boston (or Cleveland, for that matter). A year ago, a streak of Indy sports domination fed by top young talent not only seemed possible, it seemed like we should be a little disappointed if it didn’t happen. Now, after Paul George’s horrific injury, Indy fans are pretty shell shocked. I, for one, am braced for a tough-luck narrative of missed opportunities that I hope never materializes.
Maybe it all started last fall when Reggie Wayne tore his ACL. The Colts actually have had a worrying injury history for several seasons now, but since their roster is so big, it’s a little less obvious unless it’s a marquee guy. Last week alone, in training camp, they suffered season-ending injuries to Donald Thomas and Vick Ballard. Both of those guys missed most of last season too. But it was Paul George’s freak accident on Friday that got everyone’s attention.
The specter of George’s leg will probably linger over the Colts’ preseason, at least in fans’ psyches. Several Colts were asked to comment on the injury during their training camp news conferences, so we know they’ve given it at least a little bit of thought, too. It could linger in the back of coach Chuck Pagano‘s mind as he’s deciding when and under what circumstance to reintroduce Reggie Wayne to game action. It could subconsciously impact how many snaps Luck takes prior to the season opener against the Denver Broncos.
We’re taught to watch for tragedies in threes. If a big-named Colts player gets injured during a preseason “meaningless” game, Indy fans might take it a little personally. Indy’s been building the foundation of a city-wide dynasty, and George’s injury (much like Peyton Manning‘s injury) reminded fans how fragile those foundations can be. I’m sure the Colts will probably be fine. But they should take a look down the block at their basketball cousins’ recent missed opportunity and keep that in the back of their minds.