The Colts were my world as a kid. I watched every game, read every article, cried when they lost, and cheered when they won. I was obsessed. Whenever there was a choice between spending time with my family and watching a Colts game, I would choose the game.
Sometimes, I didn’t have a choice. There were Sundays when my parents forcefully pried me away from the TV in favor of some family activity, telling me that while I would inevitably forget the result of a game, the memories I would make with my family would last forever. Some examples:
- That time they made me go apple picking in 2002 instead of watching Peyton Manning lead a come-from-behind 22-20 victory over the Ravens.
- That time they made me go apple picking in 2008 instead of watching the Colts beat the Texans 30-27 in the “Rosencopter” game. (Our family loves apple picking.)
- That time I had to go swimming during our 2002 Christmas vacation instead of watching the playoff game against the Jets. The Colts lost that one 41-0, but that’s beside the point.
I didn’t choose to remember the scores of those games to prove a point to my parents. I remember them because, to me, they mattered. Somehow, football was an escape from real life; a place where I could pace, scream, and jump up and down like a maniac without anyone caring.
As I got older, I slowly lost that passion. Family did become more important. The cares of life took precedence. And besides, once you’ve watched enough games and gone through enough seasons, you start to feel like you’ve seen that movie before.
But none of that is what this post is about.
This post is about January 4th, 2014.
For context, 2013 was a miserable year for me. It started going south in March when my girlfriend of 3 years, the person I thought I was going to marry, unexpectedly dumped me. While I think any serious breakup is going to be hard, this one was way worse than it had to be. At first, we decided to just be friends, but that turned into 5 months of me somehow making her mad every time we talked. Then we stopped talking entirely, and she substituted my friendship for that of my roommate.
It was a dark time. There were a couple of nights when I felt like I couldn’t even go home to my own apartment because they were going to be hanging out there. Towards the end of the year, I figured out why: she was into my roommate’s brother, and the two of them were going to have their first date on January 4th, 2014.
I was numb. It was like a nightmare, except there was nothing I could do to wake myself up.
That brings us to the afternoon of the 4th, when still-very-much-in-love-with-his-ex me was trudging through the streets of downtown Indianapolis trying to sell his two tickets to that evening’s Colts-Chiefs playoff game. Even though I wasn’t as big of a fan as I had been, a couple of friends and I had gone in on season tickets together, thinking that the resale value would turn us a pretty profit. In reality, our shared OneDrive spreadsheet tells me we lost more than 20% that year. The tickets to this particular game were $153 each, but the most anyone offered me was $100 for both. For that price, might as well go, right?
So while my ex and my roommate’s brother were on their first date, my buddy Matt and I ended up begrudgingly entering Lucas Oil Stadium to take in the Colts against the Chiefs. Maybe a playoff win would be the magic serum to make my day less crappy.
Not so. After a relatively close first quarter, the Chiefs took a 14-point lead and then increased it to 21 after an Andrew Luck interception. The Colts looked terrible, and as we approached halftime, I told Matt, “If we don’t score before halftime and again right after, I’m leaving.”
Luck threw an interception before halftime. He threw another to start the second half, and the Chiefs scored again to go up 28. Game over.
Everyone else in our row left. Most of the rows in front of us cleared out, too. But I still sat there, wallowing in freakish misery. Seriously, God? This is already one of the worst days of my life. Did you have to make me lose money on the tickets AND watch my favorite team get plastered?
Yes, I know that’s not how God works. But it’s how I felt.
“One more drive,” I said to Matt. He nodded.
And then something incredible happened.
The Colts flew down the field and scored a touchdown. The deficit was now 21. Forced a fumble, drove down, scored again. Down 14. The Chiefs kicked a field goal, and the Colts countered with another touchdown. Down 10. The Chiefs punted. The Colts took the ball down to the 2-yard-line, handed it off to a running back who fumbled, only to have Andrew Luck scoop up the ball and dive into the end zone. 3-point game.
The Chiefs kicked another field goal, and with 5 minutes left, the Colts had the ball and a chance to go down and win.
The tension in the air was palpable. I don’t remember whether I was sitting or standing, but I definitely wasn’t breathing. None of us in the stadium could believe what we were seeing, or dare to hope for what happened next.
Andrew Luck dropped back, set his feet, stepped up, and launched a 64-yard pass to TY Hilton, who ran into the end zone directly in front of Matt and me. We lost our minds. Screaming, hugging, laughing at the people around us who had left, and high-fiving those who had stayed. The Colts ended up winning 45-44 in the second-biggest comeback in NFL Playoff history, and somehow, despite all my efforts to skip out, I was there.
Matt and I got pizza afterwards, and mostly we just sat in stunned silence. Neither of us could express what we had just seen. It defied explanation. The game had been over, and then somehow it wasn’t, and then somehow the Colts won.
And you know what? I completely forgot about that date.
Somehow, once again, football had allowed me to escape from my life – if only for an evening – and momentarily experience euphoria. Boy, did I need it. That was the moment I knew things could get better. That I was still capable of experiencing joy – I just had to be patient through the trying times. It will probably sound insane to those of you who aren’t sports fans (or who root for the Browns), but that game was the light at the end of the tunnel. Life wasn’t all bad – there were still things that could make me feel alive.
It wasn’t until much later that I remembered specifically chastising God about how He was making that day terrible. Little did I realize in that moment that you can’t have the second-biggest comeback in NFL history without being down 38-10 in the 3rd quarter. God knew exactly what He was doing when He allowed those tickets not to sell, and when He allowed me to stay through halftime when I specifically said I wouldn’t.
The title of this post is “God Cares About Football,” and I think that, in a sense, it’s true. I don’t think God made the Colts win in order to touch my life, but He did use that win to touch my life. The Lord used the very specific desires and dreams of a kid who cared more about football than anything else to let me know He cared about me.
The Colts ended up losing the next week, my ex married that guy, and we never did make a profit on those season tickets. But the lesson I learned that day is one that will stick with me forever: things might get bad, I might believe that joy is a feeling I’ll never quite experience again, but the Lord knows how to break through that despair, meet me exactly where I am, and give me exactly what I need. Even if it’s something as simple as being able to cheer for a Colts win.