We're hours away from the Super Bowl and a potentially awkward evening for Indianapolis Colts fans. Fortunately, I'm willing to offer free advice.
Here, then, is “The Colts Fans Guide to Rooting for Peyton in the Super Bowl.”
Follow these guidelines and the only indigestion you'll feel after the Denver Broncos play the Seattle Seahawks will be from too much jalapeno dip:
1. It's OK to cheer for anything Peyton Manning does.
You need to keep in mind that this is not your team. This is another team that you had no long-term or short-term ties to a mere two years ago. Your only tie is the fact you loved Manning when he quarterbacked the Colts all those years. So you can root for him because of that loyalty. Nothing wrong with that – as long as you keep your cheering contained to Manning's direct play.
That means if Manning throws a touchdown pass, you can cheer.
However, if Champ Bailey intercepts a pass, the correct response, with even-keel voice, is: “Nice play by Bailey.”
Do not name-drop “Pot Roast,” as if you knew his nickname before the AFC Championship game.
One exception to the rule: You can raise your voice slightly if Jacob Tamme makes a big play. (Former Colt, so he's grandfathered in.)
2. Under no circumstances should you refer to the Broncos as “We.”
This is bad enough during games involving the real team you root for, as you pull out such phrases as “We need to go no-huddle more,” or “We need to remind Pep Hamilton he has Andrew Luck” or “We need our heads examined for continuing to use Trent Richardson.”
You cannot pull the “we” card with the Broncos.
They should be referred to at all times as “The Broncos,” “Peyton's team,” or “The team Tim Tebow was sacrificed to create.”
3. If Manning throws a touchdown pass to Wes Welker, you cannot use your outdoor cheering voice.
Welker is a former Patriot, as in New England Patriots, as in Evil Empire. You may say, “Way to go, Peyton!” but you definitely can't stand up for a Welker score. No fist-bumps or high fives. You may mutter, “Take that, Belichick!” under your breath.
4. Don't speculate how Luck would play if he, rather than fellow second-year quarterback Russell Wilson, was playing for the Seahawks.
Critique Wilson all you want on his play, but remain focused on the game at hand. Compare Wilson's drives to Manning's. That's fair game. But Luck is not playing in this game, and you don't want to flirt with destiny by speculating how he might look in another jersey. Remember, you can't just say, “He'll always be our quarterback,” because you said that about another guy not that long ago, and I'm not referring to Jeff George.
5. Don't say, “If Richard Sherman's so great, why'd he get beat by T.Y. Hilton?”
First of all, every cornerback gets beat from time to time. Secondly, that's actually a slam on Hilton, implying that he shouldn't be good enough to beat the best cornerback in the game. The correct analysis would be to mention how good Hilton is going to be, since he's already burning Sherman.
It's acceptable to go online and research when Sherman is up for free agency and imagine you're Ryan Grigson with a blank check.
6. Avoid the use of the word “thug.” If you don't know why, you haven't been paying attention.
7. Don't wear an orange shirt. Go neutral. A Manning jersey, purchased while he was still with the Colts, is acceptable. No orange. See No. 2 item on “We” for reasoning.
8. Make fun of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's antics. This is acceptable for fans of all teams.
9. If the Broncos win, don't watch Manning's postgame interview. He's going to thank the Broncos organization, his Broncos teammates and, hardest of all, the Broncos fans. That will hurt. Better to head to the cooler for one last cold one.
10. Remind fellow Colts fans that only one team in the NFL beat both Denver and Seattle this season. It'll help ease the pain.