Colts fans' dismay widespread

'It's going to take some years for us to rise again'
March 8, 2012 12:01 am
  • The Manning news conference resonated throughout the country. In Chicago, it was televised on a large outdoor monitor.
    The Manning news conference resonated throughout the country. In Chicago, it was televised on a large outdoor monitor.
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Bert Owens is just one of the countless Colts fans with broken hearts.

"I'm sad I didn't get to relish his last games with us because I didn't know they would be," Owens, 56, said after the Colts released Peyton Manning. "It's going to take some years for us to rise again."

The dismay stretched from the streets of Indianapolis to the governor's office and beyond as Manning said goodbye, standing beside team owner Jim Irsay.

"I sure have loved playing football for the Indianapolis Colts," Manning said. "For 14 wonderful years, the only professional football I've known has been Colts football."

The move brings an end to a golden run in a city that Manning helped turn into an NFL power. He changed the sports hierarchy in a city known simply as the home of the Indianapolis 500 and the capital of a state that prized basketball over all else.

"I think in terms of the sport and the state of Indiana, he made football relevant in Indiana," former Colts executive Bill Polian said. "When he first arrived, Indiana was a basketball state. The pecking order was IU basketball, the Pacers, and then the Colts. Now, although IU basketball is back, and we're thrilled about that, and the Pacers are back, and we're thrilled about that, the Colts and football are at least sharing top billing, and that's all due to Peyton Manning."

Just before noon, the Indianapolis Colts Grille downtown was packed with customers waiting to watch the announcement, some asking for towels and tissues in anticipation of the bad news.

When Manning finished speaking, the restaurant patrons broke out in applause. General manager Mike Duganier quickly changed the channel to Big East basketball to lighten the mood. "We're a Colts grille, not a Peyton Manning grille," he said. "We're all Peyton fans, but this is a restaurant by the Colts for Colts fans."

Manning has been a popular figure for years in Indianapolis. His work with children became so prominent that St. Vincent Hospital renamed its children's wing in his honor, and his imprint is everywhere including a painting of him in the lobby. Manning shows up, too. Employees raved about how he comes and walks around, no reporters in sight.


First Published 2012-03-07 23:37:15

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