When Winning Doesn't Matter: How the Colts Defrauded the NFL

Daniel MuthSenior Analyst IDecember 28, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 27:  Jim Caldwell the Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts is pictured during the NFL game against the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 27, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Somehow when Chad Ochocinco dons a sombrero after a touchdown he is "damaging the integrity of the game."

And yet when a team blatantly throws a game in a manner that leaves no doubt as to their intentions, this is deemed acceptable.

Let me say this again because it sounds so ridiculous.

Wearing a sombrero is more damaging to the game than intentionally losing.

Tweeting during halftime is more damaging to the game than intentionally losing.

Criticizing referees is more damaging to the game than intentionally losing.

In an era of NFL football that seems to be more and more concerned with the trivialities, apparently trying to win (the core value) is no longer important.

Apparently throwing a game to a team ensconced in a playoff race is deemed acceptable, exactly the type of behavior that got Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe Jackson banned from professional baseball.

And they were just suspected of maybe altering a game by gambling or accepting money.

In this respect maybe there needs to be a serious investigation as to which of the various Colts higher ups had their money on the Jets.

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If the Colts were really that concerned that the iron man himself, Peyton Manning, was going to be injured after nearly 200 consecutive starts, then he shouldn't have even made the trip.

In fact, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble simply by not showing up.

Why didn't they try that?

Well for a number of reasons.

First of all, that's against the rules.

In the NFL you can't just not show up, but you can show up and intentionally blow the game, though I'm not exactly sure what the difference is.

More importantly, the Colts wanted to gouge their fans for their hard earned money in the middle of a horrific economy, even though they had no intention of winning.

So while some columnists are "sickened" by the way Colts fans booed the team in the second half after shelling out two weeks salary to take their family to a game, I would have condoned them had they rushed the field with pitch forks and demanded their money back.

And if the Colts organization has any integrity left they should consider doing just that.

This was perhaps the worst display I've ever seen on a football field (perhaps in any sport), and it will catch up with the Colts.

I'd rather see Dominic Riola flipping off the Detroit Lions fans or Lagarrette Blount popping Byron Hout in the face, because these are uncalculated crimes of passion, the type our legal system has devised lesser penalties for.

What Indy did was calculated and vile and completely destructive to the integrity of the NFL.

First of all, the Indy players themselves were devastated that their chance at history was taken from them.

After all their hard work, trying to accomplish something that no team since the 1972 Dolphins had done, their efforts were scuttled from within the organization itself.

Though they all said the right things (more or less) after the game, not one of them said it was the right decision, and you could tell by the way they hung their heads on the sideline and moped into the locker room that in many ways they felt betrayed.

Peyton Manning doesn't give up, and the fact that he was forced to by his own coach is gnawing at him even now.  What's more, it's gnawing at the whole team and if this season ends badly, I expect some of the players to break rank and point to this humiliation.

To make this episode worse, the Jets are in the midst of a playoff race and by handing them a game, the Colts have inexcusably created a laughingstock of the entire playoff system.

As a Lions fan, there have been many times that I really wanted a win, probably more than most.

But at no time would I have accepted a cheap win like this just to pad the stats or finally make the playoffs.

I'm a fan of the game first and foremost and I find this type of farce absurd.

Being given a win is not winning, and though I don't blame the Jets one bit for scrapping out a victory, they've got to have rather mixed feelings about it themselves.

And in defense of this decision, too many columnists have reiterated the nonsensical verse, "The Superbowl is the only thing that matters," as if there was any truth in that, or any proof that the Colts have somehow strengthened their Superbowl bid.

NFL history matters.

Sportsmanship matters.

Competition matters.

Integrity matters.

Winning matters.

Because if none of these things matter, then Sports don't matter at all, and I should be saving my money for something more utilitarian and less disappointing.

The Colts defrauded the entire NFL, it's fans, and even themselves in their loss to the Jets, and though I'm not a man of mysticism, I can't help but feel that it's going to catch up with them.

Too bad for the players and the fans because it's not their fault.

But there's a name for people who think that winning doesn't matter.

They're called losers.

And the Colts were losers in more ways than one during their disappointing give away to the Jets.

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