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Peyton Manning completely disrespected by Indianapolis' fair-weather Andrew Luck love

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INDIANAPOLIS — Luck mania greets you as soon as you step off the plane. There it is for sale in the airport gift shops — women's T-shirts suggestively reading, "Let's Get Lucky."

Andrew Luck gear is available in adult male and kids' sizes too. In fact, Luck junk is the only individual athlete merchandise you can buy in the Indianapolis airport.

Want Pacers or Indiana Hoosiers stuff?

They only come in general team shirts.

It's stunning how quickly the rookie quarterback from Stratford High School and Stanford has taken over this Midwest town. It's like no quarterback existed before this supremely-schooled, ultra-composed 23-year-old came along.

 Take away a big race that isn't quite so big anymore and Peyton Manning and Indianapolis would be as minor league a sports town as you can get. 

No. 18? Who's that?

"People don't even talk about Peyton Manning anymore," Colts fan Irene McReynolds tells me. "Unless it's to wonder if Andrew can be even better than him.

"I never thought I'd see the day."

She shouldn't be seeing it this soon. Indianapolis is showing just how fair-weather a sports town it is, completely disrespecting the quarterback who put their nowhere hamlet on the map.

Take away a big race that isn't quite so big anymore and Peyton Manning and Indianapolis would be as minor league a sports town as you can get.

Still most of its citizens have shown absolutely no hesitation in kicking dirt over the still touchdown-hot arm of Manning and going gaga for Luck.

Never mind that Andrew Luck is mostly a game manager at the moment — way more than Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, who often gets saddled with that label. Never mind that he hasn't shown close to the brilliance that Robert Griffin III has displayed while carrying a flawed Redskins team.

Never mind that Peyton himself continues to pile up touchdown passes in Denver for what's looking more and more like the AFC's second or third most dangerous team.

You'll find little angst over this in Indy.

In fact, having visited both cities on gamedays this season, there is clearly more Tim Tebow lament (as in, why the hell is he still not here?) in Denver than Peyton concern in Indianapolis.

It's still easy to find Tim Tebow shirts and jerseys in the Mile High City. Peyton Manning gear in Indianapolis? Not so much. Unless you're looking in someone's trophy case.

Sure, there are some Manning jerseys in the crowd for the Buffalo Bills game, but Luck is the unquestioned toast of the town. The Colts get the win (20-13) and Luck draws all the praise. It doesn't matter that he throws for only 240 yards, marking the second time in three games that he hasn't cracked 250 yards. It doesn't matter that he's put up more interceptions (five) than touchdown passes (three) in his last three weeks.

Andrew Luck is still on the cover of the new Sports Illustrated out today.

His intangibles are off the charts, Luck's defenders — and he has a media army of them that Tebow could never grab — will tell you. Which is a nice way of saying, Please don't look at the actual stats.

 Andrew Luck is still much more myth than reality at this point. He is a magazine cover boy propped up by others. 

Instead, the Luck brigade will spin one that has little to do with the quarterback and a lot to do with real luck and a surprising defense: The Colts' 6-1 record in games decided by seven points or less. 

"I think you're right with a normal quarterback," acting Colts head coach Bruce Arians says in weekly press conference when asked if all the close wins are unusual. "I don't think we have a normal one."

Luck's pedestrian numbers (13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 76..9 passer rating, good for 29th in a 32-team league) may look good when compared to the 28 interceptions Peyton tossed his rookie season. But this isn't the NFL of 1998. Quarterbacks come into the league much more familiar with pro passing games these days, reared on seven-on-seven drills and high school and college coaches who appreciate pro offenses.

And Luck's numbers do not seem so spectacular when stacked up next to Andrew Dalton's 2011 rookie season. Dalton only threw 13 interceptions in 16 games while leading the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs.

Why isn’t anyone comparing the redhead from Katy to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time?

Let alone RG3, whose 16 touchdowns passing, six touchdowns running and only four interceptions blow away the rookie taken a pick before him. Think the Texans should fear having Luck in the AFC South for years to come?

Robert Griffin III in your division would be much more unsettling.

The Colts are a great story this season, with the team playing ultra hard with its coach Chuck Pagano fighting leukemia and unable to be on the sidelines. But a great story is not the same thing as a great football threat. And it doesn't create a great quarterback.

Smoke & Mirrors

Andrew Luck has a high-character dad (Oliver Luck, the former NFL quarterback and Houston Dynamo president, and current West Virginia athletic director). He already has the aw-shucks quote cadence that worked so well for Peyton Manning early in his career.

Heck, even Texans quarterback Matt Schaub may be a more interesting quote than Luck.

 Lucas Oil Stadium wasn’t built because of this stubble-loving, unproven rookie. 

“We understand the position we’re in, but again, nothing has been accomplished yet,” Luck says after the Buffalo win.

The young quarterback is talking about the 7-4 Colts quest to make the playoffs. And with two games against the 10-1 Texans and a game at dangerous Detroit among Indy’s last five, he’s not kidding.

But Luck just as easily could be summing up his own career.

Nothing’s been accomplished yet. Andrew Luck is still much more myth than reality at this point. He is a magazine cover boy propped up by others.

To so completely disregard the memory of Peyton Manning for that is pretty classless and even more clueless.

Luck can eat at Indianapolis iconic St. Elmo’s Steak House, which for years was Peyton’s place. But Lucas Oil Stadium wasn’t built because of this stubble-loving, unproven rookie.

Indianapolis isn’t a regular in the Super Bowl rotation because of Andrew Luck.

That’s all Peyton. This town should know better. Its bit of giddy amnesia is more than a little unsettling.

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