Originally written on StraitPinkie.com  |  Last updated 11/20/14

The year was 1998. Tiger Woods had won one of his fourteen major championships. Bill Clinton was president. Matthew Stafford was ten years old. And Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” was number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Indianapolis Colts would never be the same.

That year, Peyton Manning took his first snaps as a Colt. In the next 13 years, Indianapolis would see three mayors, a population increase of over 5%, and a new stadium – but only one quarterback. That is until the calamity that was this past season, when Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins, and Dan Orlovsky all proved what many football fans had assumed for years: Peyton Manning is the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore in 1984. Before Peyton Manning took the helm, they were a laughable franchise. In their first 14 years in Indianapolis, they had only five winning seasons (all 9-7) and an overall record of 88-137. Since Manning became the face of the franchise, the Colts have had 11 winning seasons, and not counting this year, a record of 141-67.

Peyton Manning and his superb quarterback play saved the franchise. It brought a Super Bowl trophy and a Super Bowl weekend to Indianapolis. It built a new stadium. It made the number “18” synonymous with superstar. And now, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that the era will end. Andrew Luck is coming. And Indianapolis isn’t big enough for two franchise quarterbacks.

The argument seems simple enough. Manning’s health and the strength of his regenerating arm is a huge question mark – almost as huge as the paycheck the Colts’ management would owe him if they keep him. Andrew Luck (aka the Colts’ Second Coming) is the surest thing since John Elway. Clearly, the future and the long-term win column seem to be pointing to a single conclusion: Draft Luck and let Manning ride off into the sunset.

But I think it’s time to dispel one of the newest myths of sports: “It’s all about winning.” I mean no offense to Vince Lombardi or his newest contemporaries who spend their afternoons throwing knives at Lebron James and Dan Marino, but this mantra is simply not true. Sports are not all about winning. Winning is not the only thing. If winning were all that mattered in the world of sports, steroids would not have left fans sick to their stomachs and tainted an era of baseball. If winning were all that mattered, Ted Williams would be a chump –another good hitter that never won the October classic. If winning were all that mattered, we wouldn’t celebrate the stories. But we do. The stories are what matter in sports because there is a human connection. When we lose that, we lose everything –even when we “win”.

The emotions that this image of Joe Namath produces are why this Manning situation goes beyond “winning”. It just doesn’t feel right. Teams will always win championships. Fans will always faithfully fill the seats. What is truly rare is finding a player that is not just a star and not just a champion, but a hero – the entire town, the entire franchise – the embodiment of the horseshoe. What is the price tag on that? How many wins is that worth?

It’s easy to be practical. Sometimes, it’s harder to do what is right. Without Peyton Manning, the Colts may have been a football franchise located in Los Angeles. With Peyton Manning, the Colts breathed new life into the city of Indianapolis, and more importantly, gave fans young and old a town hero.

Is it worth a good Luck charm to throw all of that away?

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