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Beyond the Boxscore

United Airlines flight attendant pimps the Texans, angers insecure Andrew Luck devoted passengers

News_United Continental airplane_May 2010
United Airlines might have a little bit of Houston spunk left in it after all. Courtesy of United Airlines
Arian Foster Colts run
Arian Foster has plenty of fans in the friendly skies. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
News_United Continental airplane_May 2010
Arian Foster Colts run
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

INDIANAPOLIS — The airline formerly known as Continental lost much of its Houston identity with that shameful move of the corporate headquarters to Chicago.

But it turns out that there is still some H-Town pride left in the combined mega United Airlines.

When my United Express flight to Indianapolis touched down Saturday evening, the flight attendant — a perky, actually-often-smiling flight attendant — took to the plane microphone and said, "Welcome to Indianapolis. And go Texans!"

Well, this didn't go over too well with many of the people actually from Indianapolis on the plane.

"Come on now!" an older woman in a Indiana University sweatshirt loudly called out.

 Indy fans could not even let a little light-hearted moment go without exposing their town's rampant insecurities. 

"I ought to report her," another woman muttered around her breath. A guy in a J.J. Watt jersey just grinned at her.

Now, the flight attendant, Ashley, clearly was from Texas. Again, she smiled and was not wearing a Midwest special sweatshirt or holiday sweater. But Indy fans could not even let a little light-hearted moment go without exposing their town's rampant insecurities.

(This group was flying back from Houston. You'd think they'd be happy for having been granted special permission from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce to experience a real major city).

Every time I come to this strip mall posing as a downtown, I'm reminded of how wishy washy the Colts fan base is. I've already detailed how eagerly and disgracefully Indianapolis completely dismissed Peyton Manning to go crazy over Andrew Luck. But even as they pretend Luck is doing something completely amazing that's never been dreamed of being done before in the NFL (rather than just something Andy Dalton did last year to a thousand times less fanfare), there is little real belief in the team.

When I heard someone on Houston radio say this week that the Colts are the worst 10-win team in NFL history, I wished I'd thought of the line myself.

I didn't expect to have so many people in Indianapolis basically saying it themselves.

"Oh, it doesn't look good for the Colts," my cab driver told me, unprompted. "I think they are in trouble."

It was more of the same in the bar at St. Elmo's Steak House, the iconic Indianapolis institution that is the one place worth eating at in all of downtown. (When I asked the concierge at my hotel to recommend a place besides St. Elmo's, hoping for a change of pace, she stumbled around for a few minutes before citing Champps and Weber Grill. Enough said.)

One guy at St. Elmo's said that he believed in the Butler Bulldogs, who happened to be playing Vanderbilt on the main TV, more than the Colts.

So much for that Luck pluck.

It turns out you need to go to Houston to find anyone who thinks the playoff-bound 10-5 Colts can beat the 12-3 Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Even if the Texans are 0-10 lifetime in this town.

Pagano Power

Sure, there is plenty of genuine, heartfelt excitement over the coach Chuck Pagano's courageous return to the sidelines after a three-month leukemia fight. That is going to be one powerful moment at Lucas Oil Stadium, otherwise known as the house that Peyton Manning built, on Sunday afternoon.

There is no doubt that Pagano is one of the great stories in recent sports history. Of course, there is also no doubt that he'll be putting the emotion of his cancer return ahead of winning in the playoffs if he actually goes through with what he said and plays Andrew Luck most of the game.

Then again, maybe making a cancer statement is more important than winning a playoff game.

 Every time I come to this strip mall posing as a downtown, I'm reminded of how wishy washy the Colts fan base is. 

No one in this town seems to really believe in these Colts anyway. (And I still can't believe that Luck will play more than a series or two against the Texans at most. Especially not when they see what J.J. Watt going for an all-time record looks like.)

Indianapolis has nothing tangible to play for on this Sunday (the Colts are already locked into the AFC's fifth seed and know they need a healthy Luck for a playoff game in seven days or less). The Texans are essentially playing to move onto round two of the playoffs and ensure their road to New Orleans only runs right through Reliant.

"We know if we win, we don't have to play next week," safety Danieal Manning says of the bye on the line. "That's big."

That's the type of thinking the people of Indianapolis do their best to avoid. They love their Colts. They're just not sure they're any good.

Which is probably why a sweet, smiling Texas stewardess can drive them so insane.

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