REGGIE HAYES: Colts fans miss the joy if they root for losses

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton runs for an 80-yard touchdown following a catch against the Houston Texans  on Sunday in Houston. (Photo by the Associated Press)

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton runs for an 80-yard touchdown following a catch against the Houston Texans on Sunday in Houston. (Photo by the Associated Press)

I’ve never been one to tell sports fans what they should do.

If you want to buy tickets, buy tickets. If you don’t want to buy tickets because your team stinks, don’t buy tickets. If you want to boo poor play, boo poor play.

But I draw the line on one thing, and it’s something being debated by at least a faction of Indianapolis Colts fans.

Don’t root for your team to lose.

After the Indianapolis Jacoby Brissetts beat the Houston Tom Savages 20-14 on Sunday in Houston, some of the fans of the Brissetts (aka Colts) were upset that the team – now definitively without Andrew Luck – had the audacity to beat the Savages (aka Texans).

Winning and improving to a still lousy 3-6 is going to negatively impact how high the Colts pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Colts-should-lose argument goes. They need to lose as much as possible, from now until January, to get the highest pick possible.

I can’t get behind rooting for losses, for three reasons:

1. Your team is part of you. It’s innate that you root for your team to win. If not, what’s the point of spectator sports?

2. The players are risking far too much – in terms of their future health – to have their own fans pull against them.

Here’s a hypothetical: What if T.Y. Hilton, who hauled in 175 yards and two touchdowns worth of passes in Sunday’s win, goes down with a nagging injury? That’ll make the Colts more likely to lose, since Hilton’s most productive days tend to lead to wins. So, if you’re rooting for the Colts to lose, those types of circumstances play into your hopes, right? That’s ludicrous, you say? No one’s rooting for injury? OK, fine. You’re not rooting for Hilton to be injured. You’re not even rooting for him to play poorly. You just want him to stay out of the end zone if possible? That’s so counter-intuitive to being a fan.

3. If you’re rooting for your team to lose, you’re robbing yourself of joy.

Of the many Colts games I covered during the Peyton Manning era, one of the most memorable to me was the final home game in the disastrous 2011 season, when Dan Orlovsky hit Reggie Wayne for the game-winning touchdown in a win over, as it turns out, the Texans. The win was only the second that season and put the No. 1 draft pick – which would eventually bring Luck – into doubt.

After Wayne caught the pass, he held his hands aloft and the fans starting chanting his first name. (I always liked that chant.) At the time, it was thought that might have been Wayne’s last game with the Colts. Thankfully, for the fans and for Luck, Wayne was re-signed to return.

If you were rooting for the Colts to lose then, you wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the true beauty of the moment.

The same applies now. If you are rooting for the Colts to lose, you couldn’t enjoy Hilton’s incredible touchdown catch Sunday, when he went down – untouched – and with savvy worthy of Wayne and Marvin Harrison, bounced up and ran for the score.

Can you be a Colts fan and cheer for that not to happen? Can you be a Colts fan and cheer for Hilton to stay down, don’t score, don’t risk that theoretical draft pick next spring?

Again, if you don’t want to root for the Colts, and you have tickets, and you want to sell them to avoid being in the stadium, go ahead and sell them. If you want to boo when coach Chuck Pagano makes a questionable move, or challenge, or calls an odd timeout, go ahead and boo.

But don’t call yourself a true fan if you’re rooting for the Colts to lose. If you’re doing that, you can’t revel in that defensive stop at the end Sunday, when it was all or nothing and the Colts defense found a way to keep Houston out of the end zone.

Too many wins and they fall out of the Top 5 picks next year? Too many wins and they might not even end up without a Top 10 pick?

Too bad.

Here’s the dirty little secret: Top 10 draft picks are good, but there are plenty of good players in the first round, and far beyond the first round.

Wayne was a 30th pick. Hilton was a 92nd pick. Antoine Bethea – remember him? – was a 207th pick. Good players, in other words, will be available no matter what pick if general manager Chris Ballard and his staff are smart enough to recognize them.

If you’re rooting for the Colts to lose, you’re rooting for future wins that may never materialize. And you’ll rob yourself of the joy of moments like Hilton delivered Sunday. When they’re as rare as they are in this Colts season, only a fool would choose to miss the fun.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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