In 2008, Will Ferrell released the soon-to-be-forgotten “Semi-Pro” — a mega-flopper, screwball comedy about a singer (Ferrell) turned ABA basketball owner/power forward. With the exception of Andre 3000 providing a smooth, strong supporting performance, the movie, for lack of a better term, stunk. It lacked the infinite quotable moments from “Step Brothers” or the original appeal of Ron Burgundy’s “Anchorman.” Yet, while “Semi Pro” stands alone as the worst Ferrell comedy of the 2000s, I can’t recall a time I’ve been more excited for a movie’s release.
The nexus between sports and comedy movies is my ultimate movie niche. “Dodgeball,” “The Replacements,” and “The Longest Yard,” for example, all fall into my “If this movie is ever on TV, I’m watching it” category. “Semi-Pro” was supposed to join the ranks – it had everything I was looking for. Woody Harrelson returning to the basketball silver screen for the first time since “White Men Can’t Jump,” Will Ferrell sporting his best Dr. J afro whilst playing in the ABA, and minutes of well choreographed basketball sequences. I couldn’t wait to see it. My best friend (fellow sports fanatic, Justin) and I bought our tickets days in advance for the midnight showing. Yet, the morning of, I had this growing sense of doubt. I wanted to love the movie — I really, really did — but deep down, I knew that it was going to flop.
Three years later, I’m going through that same conflict of emotions. You see, I’m a big Indianapolis Colts fan. More specifically, I’m a Peyton Manning fan. Since 1998, I suppose you could use the two terms interchangeably. I say that because, since joining the team as the number one overall pick in the NFL draft, Manning has started 208 consecutive games. He has racked up four MVP awards (the most of all time), two Super Bowl appearances, one NFL championship, one Super Bowl MVP, the highest passer rating in a single season, and broken the franchise record for career wins, passing yards, pass attempts, pass completions and passing touchdowns. In the past decade, I cannot think of a player who has been more directly responsible for his/her team’s success than Peyton Manning has been for the Colts.
That is all about to change. Over the summer, Manning had neck surgery, his second in the past year. In the midst of all the over-hyped lockout coverage, the media didn’t fully indulge themselves with the “will he or won’t he” coverage over whether Peyton would continue his iron man streak. Then the lockout ended, and the past few weeks have been full of reports on Manning’s countless meetings with his doctors, family, teammates, and psychiatrist. The drama ended early last week when the Colts announced that Manning would indeed sit out in the team’s first game against the Texans, reporting that Manning received yet another surgery for a herniated disk in his neck. With Manning now on the sidelines, the Colts are left with 38-year-old Kerry Collins (who at this point three weeks ago was retired from the NFL) running the team.
Now, I’m generally an optimist in sports. At the very least, I expect the unexpected. I can’t turn off a game before the clock runs out for fear of missing something momentous. At the same time, I give the teams that I support the benefit of the doubt. I can’t remember a time when my resolve has been tested like this. The Colts are a team designed around the success and talents of Manning. A lethargic run game, an aging defensive line, and a coaching staff whose playbook is based upon Manning calling audibles as he pleases all are not designed to function effectively without their superstar quarterback at the helm. I’m writing this on Sunday morning, and just as I felt three years ago the morning of the movie’s release, I feel today a growing sense of nervousness. I really want to love the 2011-2012 Colts, but I have a fear that things will get ugly. Just as it was with “Semi-Pro,” this season may be hard to watch.
Postscript: I guess the 34-7 trouncing the Texans laid upon the Colts confirms my fears. I figured that the opener would be bad, but not THAT bad. Here’s to hoping that Kerry Collins can muster up the courage to hold onto the ball, and that the Colts’ defense remembers that it’s their job to prevent the other team from getting in the end zone.
Joel Sircus is a sophomore in Trumbull College.