Recap - Colts 26, 49ers 23 (OT)
As much as I was looking forward to this trip, my first time to Indy followed by a return trip to Chicago (one of my favorite cities), it coincides with the start of the baseball playoffs which means I’ll miss a lot more of them than I care to. And there are some great matchups in this round. But, no doubt I’ll survive.
I took a red-eye out of Newark on Friday evening into Indianapolis and shacked up in some $60 a night airport motel for the night before getting up and transferring to my downtown hotel. When I boarded my plane in Newark – the Yankees had a 5 run lead over Cleveland in the 6th inning. When I landed in Indy, I saw they blew that lead and lost the game!
I had a full day of sightseeing and eating in the city. The epicenter of town is the beautiful Soldiers and Sailors Monument which is surrounded by lots of shops, bars and restaurants. On Saturday mornings, they have an outdoor market in the circle with vendors and food.
The highlight of my Saturday was making my way over to Lucas Oil Stadium where they were unveiling the new Peyton Manning statue. There were lots of guest speakers including Tony Dungee, David Letterman and of course, Peyton himself. Later I walked over to Massachusetts Ave which is an area bustling with shops , bars, restaurants and an energetic vibe. I later took a trolley tour of the city which included a visit and tour of the Indianapolis Speedway and museum. We got to take a lap around the track and kiss the bricks. My hotel was over by White River State Park and the Canal Walk which takes you past the NCAA Hall of Champions and is a short walk from Victory Field, home of the Indianapolis Indians - the Pittsburgh Pirates AAA affiliate. The water in the canal was dyed pink for breast cancer awareness. At night time I headed back downtown for dinner at St. Elmo's home of the legendary shrimp cocktail. Indy may not be a tourist mecca by any means , but it is a really nice city with plenty to see and do and brimming with mid-west hospitality
This morning I set out for breakfast to a place that at least a dozen people recommended, Cafe Patachou on Washington Ave. I was so looking forward to having some Indiana Sweet Corn Cakes, but there was a line that extended all the way to the Ohio border. So, I opted for frigging Panera instead!
I walked over to the stadium a little before 11 stopping at Touchdown Town on the way. This is a place to gather together to celebrate and build excitement before the game. Fans can enjoy a variety of activities including live music, football drills, giveaways and food and drink specials. From there was less than a 5 minute walk to the stadium.
The weather couldn’t be more ideal. Clear skies, 70 degrees, beautiful sunshine. Without doubt, the roof will be open, right? Not a chance! Baffled, I later found out that the Vice President was in attendance so, as a security measure, the roof stood closed. Really? As it turns out, the guy could give jack squat about the game, it was purely a BS political stunt as he and his entourage walked out after the national anthem because players took a knee and didn’t participate. It really sucks when politics invades sports. Also turns out that I had much better seats than he had.
The stadium itself, built in 2008 as the new home for the Colts after moving out of the RCA Dome, was great. Clean, roomy, well laid out and filled with fun and interesting features. Through the security gates, you enter into the main plaza where along with all of the displays and artifacts to Colts history, there are also plenty of displays to highlight Indy being famous for their racing history. There is also a sound stage with live music, a really nice team store , over-sized collages of former Colts players and moments against the wall entitled “A House Built by Champions” and lots of great dining and boozing options.
Tickets for Colts games were substantially cheaper than what I paid for the Packers, Vikings or Falcons and I was able to get affordable tickets on the 25 yard line 10 rows back. There was some nice Peyton Manning SGAs on the seats. About 70% of the fans in attendance had their #16 Manning jerseys on since at halftime, they were retiring his number and had some nice festivities planned. Despite not playing here since 2011, this still is and no doubt will always be Peyton’s house.
The Colts have a pretty cool mascot named Blue who makes his appearance during games both in furry form and inflated form.
As far as food - there's a lot of basic game day fare like nachos and hot dogs as well as some unique offerings like quesadilla egg rolls, smoked brisket sandwiches , Colts Nation dog (a chicken sausage topped with apple jalapeno slaw), and shredded pork banh-mi sandwiches.
The stadium is within walking distance of a good variety of downtown eating and drinking establishments for any pre/post game activities two of the more popular being Scotty's Brewhouse and The Slippery Noodle Inn. Also nearby is the trendy/quirky Fountain Square District where there are plenty of fun venues and activities.
The Colts franchise has a storied history beginning play in 1953 in Baltimore winning the NFL championship in '59 and making it to the Super Bowl in '69 and '71 (winning in '71 on a last second FG by Jim O'Brien). But owner Robert Irsay wanted a better stadium for his team than the old Memorial Coliseum. Indianapolis had the new RCA dome and a fan base hungry for a team, so after the '83 season, Irsay packed up his team and moved them to Indy.
Traditionally a basketball state, the Indy fans warmed quickly to their Colts. But it wasn't until the Manning years that the fan base became substantial. This all came to a peak with the Colts winning the 2006 Super Bowl over the Saints in a downpour. Two years later, Lucas Oil stadium opened.
The town of Indianapolis has transformed as well over the years. David Letterman in his speech at the Manning statue unveiling joked that when he was growing up in Indianapolis, it was like a "minimum security prison with a racetrack".
After blowing a 14-point lead in the final eight minutes of regulation and surviving an interception in scoring position in overtime, Marlon Mack's 35-yard run set up Adam Vinatieri for a 51-yard field goal that gave the Colts a 26-23 overtime victory
Vinatieri made four field goals to move into second on the NFL's career list. Mack and Colts QB Jacoby Brissett each scored on TD runs for the Colts. Mack rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries. Brissett finished 22 of 34 for 314 yards. Frank Gore had 14 carries for 48 yards in his first game against the 49ers, for whom he played 10 years.
Despite the OT victory, the most memorable part of the game was the Manning jersey retirement ceremony at halftime which featured many great former Colt players and a really nice speech from Manning.
As soon as the game ended, I had to rush to get back to my hotel, grab my bag and head to the Greyhound station. I know I swore off Greyhound, but there is no way anyone with a shred of sanity that can help it would drive in Chicago. Post game traffic was sheer gridlock. After sitting in an Uber that moved about 40 yards in 12 minutes, I got out and walked the last mile barely getting there, but making my bus.
Fans - - B+ - Friendly, fun, polite. Some more outgoing than others. Manning's special day raised the energy and enthusiasm no doubt
Features - A - Main plaza is nice. Live music, cool race cars and motorcycles, lots of displays of Colt history. Cool mascot. Touchdown Town. Manning statue in front is nice.
Location - A - Very short walk from downtown.
Food - B - Decent selection, good prices
Game - B - Not a really well played game, but OT home victories are fun
Overall Experience - B+ - Nice experience from start to finish. The only stress was after the game trying to catch my Greyhound to Chicago on time.