Tired of watching the same results week after week, year after year, in a decade-plus of mediocrity or worse? Looking to take another NFL team for a spin, for the sake of sanity, with the Bills driving a once-promising season into a ditch?
One option is riding shotgun with Colts bandwagon chauffeur Chuck Pagano, who was on the road to recovery and inspiring his team and its fans to follow him. The resilient coach and his football team's unexpected surge have created hope across Indianapolis in his fight against cancer and their battle in the AFC.
The best part: In Indy, it's genuine.
Hope in Buffalo is part of bogus sales pitch, devoured every July and nauseating each November. Hope is the driving force behind capacity crowds at Ralph Wilson Stadium and the notion that the Bills are on the cusp of the playoffs when they're usually on the brink of collapse. See, the Bills create false hope.
Optimism was in short supply in Indy when the season began following an offseason of drastic changes. General Manager Bill Polian, the mastermind of their success for more than a decade, was shown the door. Football god Peyton Manning split for Denver. Coach Jim Caldwell was kicked to the curb.
The Colts won four of their last five games and improved to 5-3 under interim coach Bruce Arians, who is keeping the headset warm while Pagano undergoes treatment for leukemia. If the season ended today, the Colts would be in the postseason. Suddenly, a laughingstock that finished 2-14 last year has become the best story in the NFL.
Andrew Luck has proven to be worthy of the first pick overall. He threw for a rookie record 433 yards last week in a win over the Dolphins. Starting running back Vick Ballard is a rookie who was selected in the fifth round. Their offense is ranked fourth in total yardage. Teams can, in fact, turn around with the right personnel.
Indy beat Cleveland, Tennessee and Miami in the past three weeks, so let's not get too excited. If rooting for them is unfathomable, fine, but how can you root against them?
Pagano was a first-year NFL head coach before cancer pulled him away Sept. 26. He's been staying in the loop while undergoing treatment. Doctors have told him his cancer is in remission, and he hopes to return to the sidelines this season. Really, that's the only hope that matters.
On Sunday, after the Colts beat the Dolphins, Pagano stood before his team and offered his idea of hope. Football is his livelihood, but it's not his life. With his voice cracking and his eyes welling with tears, he told his players that he hoped to live long enough to dance with his daughters at their weddings. He hoped to win championships.
By the time he was finished, his players weren't hoping their success would continue. They were convinced it would. And their hopes weren't pinned to a horseshoe.
Big Papi is big signing
The Red Sox made a wise move when handing David Ortiz a two-year extension worth $26 million even though, at age 37, he's well past his prime. They effectively bought themselves time without getting into a bidding war for a cleanup hitter.
Ortiz batted .318 with 23 homers and 60 RBIs after an Achilles injury limited him to 90 games. In a free-agent market lean on sluggers, he's capable of batting .325 with 30-plus HRs and 100-plus RBIs. Josh Hamilton, for example, is in line for a much longer deal for twice the annual haul.
Big Papi also gained some respect after firing back at Bobby Valentine, who accused Ortiz of quitting on the Red Sox and using injury as his excuse. Ortiz was watching TV and heard Valentine ripping him in an interview with NBC's Bob Costas. His response provided insight into what ailed the Red Sox last season.
“I did not respond to the message and I said to myself, 'This guy must have some mental issues or needs medicine or something?' ” Ortiz told ESPNDeportes.com. “I said, 'I am dealing with someone crazy and I am not going to drive myself crazy, so it is better if I leave it alone.' ”
Time for do-over
Dwyane Wade learned the hard way that he needs to think before he Tweets.
The Heat star created a stir last week with this comment on Twitter: “3 hour traffic just to get into the NY city.. C'monMan...'' The immediate backlash came from people who thought he was insensitive to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
It forced Wade to send out this tweet, designed to correct his first tweet: “2 be clear traffic tweet was meant 2 say... We shouldn't B hre 2 play a basketball game when theirs [sic] so many families obviously R affected by #Sandy.''
Wade quieted his critics when he donated his game check to Sandy victims after a 104-84 loss to the Knicks.
The plot thickens
The soap opera surrounding the Eagles' 3-5 start this season has turned into one ridiculous scene after another.
Defensive end Jason Babin took center stage last week when whining about fans, claiming they screamed vile things about players' wives and children. The poor guy couldn't even repeat what he heard despite his “high threshold for adult jokes.” That led to him getting slammed on the radio, including comments from former Philly players.
“Come on, dude, go out and win some games,” ex-linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said on The Fanatic radio. “The fans do what they're gonna do. Fans are still going to be fans, and they have every right to boo you if you don't go out and put a good product on the field. Dude, get a grip, this is football. You're a man.”
Marcus Vick took off on a rant with some two dozen Tweets while his brother, Michael, was running for his life in the loss Monday night to New Orleans. None was better than this gem: “Please trade my brother. We requesting out of Philly!!!! Please please please ... ”
Said Michael, when told about his brother's actions after the game: “That's something I'm going to have to address after I leave here.”
Carlos Boozer upon hearing forward Taj Gibson signed a four-year deal worth $38 million with the Bulls: “Steaks are on Taj tonight!''
321 - Yards rushing by Oregon back Kenjon Barner, the most ever against USC in the Trojans' 124-year history.
82 - Points scored by James Harden in his first two games with the Rockets, the most by any player in his first two games with a new team in NBA history.
3 - Losses in the first three games for the Lakers, their worst start since 1978.
• Olympic sprinter Lolo Jones will help promote the U.S. women's bobsled team, but it would have been nice if she actually earned the spot. Apparently, she didn't even have a race-off with push athletes who have been with the team for years. It came off like a public-relations gimmick going into the World Cup season.
• Rick Hahn's first move after replacing Kenny Williams as the White Sox's general manager was trading his predecessor's son, minor-league prospect Kenny Williams Jr., to Colorado. Hahn should have traded Philip Humber, who after throwing a perfect game in April had a 5-6 record with a 7.39 ERA in 87∏ innings.
• The Cardinals have lost four straight games since the Bills beat them in overtime, which confirmed Arizona was as bad as it looked. Buffalo has beaten Kansas City, Cleveland and Arizona, which have a combined 7-19 record. The Bills have lost to the Jets, New England, San Francisco, Tennessee and Houston, which together are 24-17.