- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

12:38 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — For long-suffering Indianapolis Colts fans, it’s not just their beloved team that has made the big time — it’s their hometown, too.

“The city’s been waiting for a long time,” said Dax Peterson of Indianapolis after the Colts won yesterday’s Super Bowl 29-17 over the Chicago Bears.

“They say this city doesn’t have a flavor of its own,” he said. “It’s because we’ve never grasped anything like this. I think we’re ecstatic.” Customers were buying up Colts Super Bowl championship T-shirts and hats this morning at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Indianapolis’ southern suburb of Greenwood. Several sporting goods stores in and around the city were open right after the apparel became available last night and this morning.

Louie Russell drove about 50 miles north from Columbus to grab nine shirts.

“I’m just so glad to see that … nice guys can finish first,” he said of the Colts.

After years of dashed hopes were washed away in the Miami rain, elated Colts fans poured out of the sports bars and into the frigid streets of downtown Indianapolis. Strangers stood shoulder to shoulder on the steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument downtown, some bundled against the 6-degree cold, others shirtless and too happy to care.

“This can legitimize us as a town,” Spencer Venable said. “We’re not some small Podunk town anymore.” Some fans climbed on top of cars and danced, while others wearing blue and white Colts jerseys posed for pictures with the giant statues on Monument Circle. Traffic in downtown Indianapolis was at a near standstill amid cheers and blaring horns.

Police reported some traffic tie-ups and a few alcohol-related incidents but said there was no violence.

“No vandalism; you’re not seeing any fires burning,” said Jim Wainwright of Indianapolis. “You’re seeing people giving high-fives, you’re just seeing good, clean classy fun.” For those who stayed up late to watch the game, some businesses and even government organizations offered a respite today.

The Indiana House canceled its session because many legislators attended the game. Several schools closed, including Indianapolis Public Schools, which had planned for classes but canceled them this morning after several bus drivers called off work. Businesses such as Indianapolis-based Monarch Beverage Co. provided a paid holiday to its 630 employees, as did Five Star Distributing Inc. in Huntington for its 100 workers.

Indianapolis was preparing to welcome the Colts home with a parade today.

The parade was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. in downtown Indianapolis and end with a rally at the RCA Dome, said Myra Borshoff Cook, a spokeswoman for Colts owner Jim Irsay. The time was moved up because of cold weather, she said. The Colts players will remain in buses during the parade, she added.

For many, the team’s Super Bowl appearance was the culmination of a dream that began when the late Robert Irsay spirited the team from Baltimore to Indianapolis to avoid eminent domain proceedings by Maryland legislators.

The years since the Colts arrived, even after quarterback Peyton Manning joined the team in 1998, have been filled with promise and disappointment, including last year’s 21-18 divisional-round loss against Pittsburgh at home.

All that disappointment dissipated last night like a frosty breath in the winter air.

“I’m happy for Tony Dungy, I’m happy for Peyton,” said Matthew Ricketts of Fishers. “They did it the right way, all the way. They were never flashy, never gave up. They just kept on believing.

“Finally, the good guy won.”

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