COLUMN: The NFL is a lot more fun if you don’t exclusively support trashy teams.

The Indianapolis Colts are so bad.

I only mention this because the Colts are the National Football League team I’ve rooted for most of my life. For many years, cheering them on brought me a lot of joy.

They won many games throughout the 2000s, including a Super Bowl. To Colts fans, quarterback Peyton Manning was basically Jesus Christ if the son of God could throw a tight spiral.

Even after Manning left, Indianapolis recruited another generational talent in quarterback Andrew Luck. Then, after seven years of racking up gruesome injuries, Luck abruptly retired before the 2019 season.

Since Luck’s retirement, the Colts started with a new quarterback each year, won 52% of their games, and made the playoffs only once. Five weeks into the 2022 season, they are 2-2-1 and seemingly hopeless of a postseason spot.

I often meet other Colts fans at IU. I hear your complaints about the team’s frustrating performance on the field and your front office’s questionable decision-making. From a comically overpaid offensive line to a virtually non-existent receiving room, there are plenty of reasons not to watch Indianapolis Colts football.

So why do it?

Really. I haven’t seen a full Colts game this year, and it’s been great. I spent my Sunday afternoons doing all sorts of things: calling my parents, catching up on homework, panicking about the incessant flow of time, all of which were drastically more productive than watching a bad football team.

I realize that most sports fans are not ready for that level of commitment. We fall in love with a team at a young age and stay loyal to it no matter how many times it hurts. It’s a classic toxic relationship, and neither of us will have an “eat, pray, love” moment anytime soon.

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Still, even if you can’t find it within yourself to break away from your favorite team, may I suggest you at least find a good team to cheer for on the side?

Obviously, finding a team that is both competent and personable can be a challenge. The Venn diagram of genuinely good teams and teams with zero players, coaches or members of management suspected of heinous crimes against women or children could be two completely separate circles.

Welcome to the NFL, where immense cognitive dissonance is something of a prerequisite for fandom.

Start small. Try watching a Kansas City Chiefs game purely for red zone offense or pick up a cheap Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts jersey. That may sound heretical and disloyal, but think about the sport you’re watching.

Athletes and coaches leave teams for better situations all the time. Manning left the Colts for the Denver Broncos and went to two Super Bowls. Luck went to a lifestyle in which he would not regularly suffer from torn rib cartilage and kidney lacerations.

I totally understand that staying with a team in the lowest moments can make the highest moments even more glorious. But be realistic: Whether it’s the Colts, Washington Commanders or Houston Texans, they’re not going to be amazing any time soon. You will have many opportunities to suffer from time to time.

Why sign up for so much pain up front?

Don’t worry, you can still cheer on your junk team from time to time. Think of it as a guilty pleasure, like dunking French fries in a Wendy’s Frosty or singing along to Leona Lewis’ 2007 hit “Bleeding Love.”

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When you see Colts quarterback Matt Ryan doubled over by a defensive tackle behind his block of Swiss cheese from an offensive line, I see Dean leaving Rory at the Stars Hollow dance-a-thon in the third “Gilmore Girls” season, episode seven.

It’s unfortunate and heartbreaking, and I’d be a little embarrassed if certain people saw that I had a deep emotional reaction. But I can’t deny how cathartic it is.

Follow columnist Bradley Hohulin (@BradleyHohulin) for updates on the world of sports.

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