We are officially less than a month before the start of the NFL season, so it's probably time to start previewing the monster. The key to the NFL's success — other than fantasy football and gambling, of course — is the rabid nature of its fans. That is to say: You don't see a lot of people painting their faces for their favorite golfer.
We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, even a TV guy or two, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, why My Team Is Better Than Your Team. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever. We will be running two a day until the beginning of the NFL season.
Right now: the Indianapolis Colts. Your author is Will Carroll.
I drew the easy assignment here. My hometown team, the Colts, have dropped the beatdown on all comers over the past five seasons. Sure, Edgerrin James and his gold teeth have moved on, which is sure to prove just how dominant Indy's line really is and that running backs are essentially interchangeable parts. Dominic Rhodes did it once before.
But what this comes down to is the Monkey. You know the monkey. You might have seen him last January in the RCA Dome or the year before in Foxboro. You might have even seen the baby monkey and its Vols orange butt back in Knoxville. Some athletes sport tattoos or load up their Hummers with guns and speakers. In Indiana, we like our heroes to have a monkey. (Yes, that really is Smoke Stewart's monkey, Mojo. And yes, I just called him Smoke. We're tight like that.)
Peyton Manning is, hands down, the most talented quarterback in the league. Apart from the annoying pre-snap Tourette's, the worst you can say about Manning is that he hasn't won a big game. Fine: Monkeys don't like big games. It scares them. When you have a monkey on your back, you don't want the monkey scared. That never ends well.
Some people have suggested that the monkey could come off this year, that Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne have considered some sort of monkey intervention. Some have discussed bringing in Dane Cook to get Peyton to reconsider. Some have even suggested that it's not a monkey, swearing they saw the monkey away from Peyton during the offseason, hanging out with some anorexic actress and singing country, but I'm telling you, that wasn't a monkey and it certainly was never on Peyton's back.
There are no holes in this team; there are no weaknesses, no problem with depth and, hopefully, no off the field issues to distract the team. In fact, it's the newcomer, Joseph Addai, who may finally do away with the monkey. The kid is everything the Edge once was, a running, slashing, blocking, speed and power combination that the league simply didn't see coming. Already, he's absorbed the playbook and is making a beeline for the first squad. He won't be there at the start of the season, but at the end, I fully expect to see Addai standing at midfield of Dolphin Stadium with the Super Bowl MVP trophy.
Tony Dungy will be on one side, Peyton Manning on the other and the Monkey lying dead under his foot.