Over the past decade, as the Colts have risen to prominence and the Pacers have fallen victim to sub-.500 seasons and off-court issues, the dynamic in the city of Indianapolis has changed. Just ten years ago in 2000, this was still clearly a Pacers' town, and the Colts were still struggling to fill the tiny RCA Dome. The Indy sports-scene has done a complete 180 since.
It's not just the city's attitude towards the teams, but their attitude towards the individual players.
A perfect example of this is John Gill. Who, you ask? Gill is a low-level reserve defensive tackle, who recorded all of nine sacks last season, mostly during garbage time of the team's Week 16 loss to the Jets. He was arrested after being found passed out in a ditch drunk. He was charged with public intoxication, but that was later dropped (for no apparent reason).
I went on the IndyStar message boards today assuming that most Colts' fans would be talking about the strong message the team needed to send to the young reserve. Instead, what I read made my jaw hit the floor...
"OMG, a 20 something football lineman drinking? Say it ain't so!"
"Just because he was found intoxicated doesn't mean he is an alcoholic. He might have been on some type of medication that didn't mix well with the alcohol that could have caused this to happen. At least he wasn't driving."
"Wow! One drunken night out, no charges filed, nobody hurt, and all of a sudden the guy has to give up a whole year from his career and attend rehab?! A bit drastic!"
What people didn't mention was what possibly drove a guy on the cut-line to choose to get hammered drunk on the team's only off day of Training Camp? "Hammered" isn't even the right word. Being drunk enough to pass out in a ditch and (excuse my language) piss yourself in the process is way past a simple night on the town. People do stupid things - I get that. But what I don't get is when a person does something so idiotic that it's totally inexplicable.
Judging from the reactions of fans in this city over Pacers' players scrapes with the law, I can assure you that they would've been less forgiving had Gill donned the Blue and Gold. The comments section would be littered with references to "thugs", and how the entire team should either a) be thrown in jail, or b) move to a different city.
So, it's hands-across-Indianapolis for a 4th string defensive tackle, while Jermaine O'Neal is crucified for defending himself during the melee in Detroit.
What a difference a decade makes.