INDIANAPOLIS – Inside a chilly Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night is a unique case study in American fandom.
What happens when an icon in a city for 14-years returns to the stadium to which his success help build to face the team he was once on wearing a different uniform? It appears there are a number of answers to that questions on Sunday night.
Prior to the Colts’ game with the Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium-the first in which Peyton Manning will face his old team since his release in 2012-the gallery is scattered with blue and orange jerseys as fans anticipate the return of the best player in the history of Indianapolis professional football.
A few fans were indecisive about who to root for and are wearing specialty “Half-Colts, Half-Broncos” jerseys to the game, including one fan who traveled all the way from Texas to see the game in Indianapolis.
“I’m rooting for Peyton. Go Broncos!,” said the man when asked who he was going for in the game as he wore his hybrid Colts-Broncos Manning jersey.
Manning emerged for pregame warm-ups around 7:40 P.M. to a number of cheers from the crowd. When he came out for the start of the game, he was greeted with a two-minute video on the big screens at Lucas Oil Stadium which featured a number of clips from his 14 years as a member of the Colts’ organization. To end the video, there was a shot of Manning raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy and then a graphic which read “Thanks 18.”
The video board then showed Manning who waved to the crowd in appreciation. The camera was on the quarterback for around 90 seconds as Colts and Broncos fans alike greeted Manning with a deafening roar until the Colts players were announced.
Fans even showed their support for Manning during the national anthem when a loud roar erupted when Manning was shown again on the big screens.
Sunday is arguably the biggest regular season game in the history of the Colts, ranking above the Super Bowl banner unveiling against the Saints in 2007, the undefeated showdown with the Patriots that same year, along with the team’s rare Monday night home appearances in 1987 and 2005.
“It’s the biggest day ever in Indianapolis,” said Colts fan Doug Shaffer of the event.
The Elkhart man had a unique Super Bowl XLI banner hanging over the railing near the tunnel which the Broncos will enter and exit on Sunday night. Shaffer acquired it in Miami following the Colts’ win over the Bears in that Super Bowl and he brought it on Sunday in hopes of getting it signed.
“I’ve had it since 2/4/07, waiting for Peyton to autograph it,” said Shaffer, who even placed a “Peyton Please Sign” banner on the banner itself in hopes of getting an autograph.