The city of Indianapolis is no stranger to the Final Four. They have hosted the prestigious NCAA basketball event six times, most recently in 2010. But this year’s NFL Final Four represents a plethora of storylines for teams hoping to vie for Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium.
First, there are the New England Patriots. Perhaps the Colts’ biggest rival, nothing would incense the locals more than a city overrun with Chowder-heads rubbing it in that their beloved Pats are vying for their fourth Super Bowl title while the Peyton Manning-less Colts have only one (in 2006 at the expense of those Patriots).
Then, there is San Francisco’s connection via its head coach. Jim Harbaugh’s name is plastered on the facade of the upper deck as a member of the Colts’ Ring of Honor. “Captain Comeback” brought the Colts within a Hail Mary of the Super Bowl following the 1995 season in Pittsburgh.
The Giants’ connection to the city is rather obvious. Forget that the Colts and Giants once played in the 1958 NFL championship game dubbed “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, but in the here and now, it’s all about the last name Manning. Eli would be playing for his second Lombardi Trophy — surpassing brother Peyton much to many people’s surprise — in front of his family and likely a city full of fans pulling for him to carry on the great Manning tradition. That sentiment would especially escalate were the Giants playing the Patriots again as they did in 2008.
And of course, we save the best for last: the Ravens. On a blustery night in late March of 1984 — just over three months before I was born — the Colts were ushered out of Baltimore via Mayflower vans and trucks and settled in Indianapolis. For 12 years, the city of Baltimore was left dry on the NFL front until the Ravens were born and began play in 1996.
Surely, Baltimore fans would let their distaste for the Colts organization and the city of Indianapolis be known, but by the same token locals will have to be somewhat accepting seeing as how that bitterness is to be expected. If the Super Bowl were in Cleveland and the Ravens went, well, let’s just say fans might want to keep a low profile.
Still, it is my guess that there is no team the city and its fans want to see less than the New England Patriots. Even if the Ravens come to town, Colts fans can take solace knowing that at least their team has had the Ravens number with two playoff wins in two meetings and would also have to have at least a little bit of happiness reserved for the city they stole their team from. They simply would not want to see the Patriots, who will always have an asterisk for their 2003 and 2004 playoff wins over Indy because of their videotaping antics, and have to hear about it from their obnoxious fans.
The chance to welcome an old friend (Harbaugh) or a family friend (Manning) is ideal, so the NFC is a win-win for Indianapolis. Getting the Ravens over the Patriots is, for lack of a better term, getting the best of a bad situation.