Not too often do I get the pleasure of interviewing a book author, but I never pictured my first interview to be an author of a book that is all about the hated rivals to the Jaguars.
Enter Nate Dunlevy, who operates 18to88.com, a website devoted to the Indianapolis Colts. Nate recently wrote a book called “Blue Blood” that highlights the history of the Colts; from the dark night the Colts left Baltimore right up until the most recent Superbowl loss.
As a Jaguar fan, I wasn’t sure about how I would feel reading a book on the history of our hated rival, but I have to say, the book was very entertaining and I definitely recommend it to any football fan, no matter your team affiliation.
After reading his book, Nate was kind enough to answer some questions for me about the his favorite memories of the Colts, the “bandwagon” years they are currently experiencing and the striking similarities both Indianapolis and Jacksonville share from past to present.
Hit the title/read more to see the full interview…
How old were you when the Colts first came to town?
I was 7 years old when the Colts played their first season and was in the second grade. I went to my first game in 1986 when I had just turned 10.
Do you remember the feeling in the city?
As I talk about in the book, the city was excited, but most people were Bears fans. The Bears were right in their heyday, and they sucked all the oxygen out of the sports world. The Colts struggled on the field in those days. Most people supported the team out of a sense of civic duty, but the Bears were the first love of many Hoosiers.
How hard was it to remain a true fan to team when it did poorly for so many years? How do you feel about post 2007 Colts fans because of this?
It wasn’t hard for me because I’m hard wired to be loyal. My first two years as a season ticket holder, the team went 6-26, but I had already suffered through horrible teams like the 1-15 ’91 Colts, so it didn’t feel that bad. Plus, at least I was watching future Hall of Fame players like Marshal Faulk and Marvin Harrison, not to mention a very young Peyton Manning.
As for the bandwagon effect, my brother and I started 18to88.com because we sensed there was a new generation of fans that had no appreciation for where the team had been in the 80s and 90s. My reaction is to try and educate them. Many of those fans are young, and it’s not their fault they don’t know what came before. That’s partly why I wrote Blue Blood. I’m glad the bandwagon is full, but as long as you’re on it, you’d better learn what you need to know about the history of the team.
When did you decide you wanted to write a book on the Colts?
I’ve been blogging about them for three years, so it’s been percolating for a while. Honestly though it all came together the night of the Colts Jags Night game last season. It seemed like the perfect time to summarize the history of the team.
How did it take to write your book? Did you find it fun to write the book? What was the most challenging?
I started just after new years and wrote like a mad dog through the Super Bowl, just in case I needed a quick release to capitalize on a post Super Bowl marketing rush. Once they lost, I slowed way down and finished around the end of March, so three months total.
I love writing and it was a ton of fun to go through old newspaper articles about games I had been to as a kid. The hardest part, and the thing I’ll NEVER do again, was trying to write during the playoffs. That’s my peak time on 18to88.com anyway, so having to do extra playoff work PLUS write a book made for too many late nights. I almost went insane. So did my wife. Fortunately, we came through ok.
Out of all the players featured in your book, who did you enjoy writing about the most?
I love writing about Bob Sanders. He gets a bad rap from fans because he’s hurt so much, but he’s been giving his body for the team, one limb at a time. He’s a special player to watch, and I’m grateful for everything he’s given to the fans of Indianapolis.
How soon did you know that Peyton was special?
November 15, 1998. His first comeback win. He drove the team down-field in the final minute, throwing a touchdown to Marcus Pollard with seconds remaining. He had complete control of the team, and Pollard broke two tackles to score. They were like 1-9 at the time, but everyone was still playing hard, still trying. You could see the game ‘slow down’ for him each successive week. I’ll never forget being there for that moment.
Would you consider the Pats your hated rivals? If so, what would you like to do to the most obnoxious Pats fan if no one would ever find out?
Yes, I do consider the Pats our most hated rival.
Ironically, I KNOW the most obnoxious Pats fan. His name is Jeremy and he’s a drunken buffoon who happens to be a ‘regular’ at 18to88. He’s been around almost from the beginning and is one of our most loyal, and profane and insufferable readers. I hate him so much that I regularly chat with him and even wrote him a recommendation for his business. What can I say? I’m a ‘love thine enemy’ type of guy.
That’s not to say he’s not an obnoxious clown. He is. Trust me. But, he’s been around so long he has 100% immunity on the site to say whatever he wants, however he wants. Everyone hates him. He’s like family. Annoying, drunken family.
Can you explain the feeling of what’s it like to witness your favorite team winning a SuperBowl?
Tears. I openly wept.
Based off the near miss of another Superbowl win last year, how do you think the Colts will fair this season?
Same old same old. 12-14 wins and then the crapshoot that is the playoffs. The Colts are stacked and should actually be a better team than last year. It’s just a machine that churns out wins. I cherish every moment of these days, believe me.
From reading your book, and as a Jag fan, I noticed a lot of similarities between what your city went through trying to establish the team and from the Jaguars are currently going through revitalizing their fan base, do you have any kind of advice to fans who feel frustrated at the lack of support?
1. Stop whining. I read Ask Vic every day and I find the attitude of the Jags fans to be self-defeating. Stop worrying about why the world is out to get you and start going to games.
2. Be realistic. I feel like the Jags tasted too much success too soon. People thought the road to a championship would be easy. Now when the team outperforms its talent (like they did last year), people feel let down. It’s up to the die hards to set realistic expectations.
3. For the real fans who are spending their money and going to games…hang on for dear life. If you survive this threat to your existence as an NFL city, you’ll be able to walk tall for the rest of your life knowing you helped saved the team.
As you probably know, Jag fans treat Colts games very very seriously. Do the Colts fans get geared up for match ups against the Jags too?
I do. I hate the Jags (no offense). In the 18to88 fantasy league we have a rule: no Patriots and no Jags players can play for any team. There is something about the Ask Vic crowd that makes me crazy. In general, Colts fans don’t care as much as I do, but rest assured, I circle the Jags games in red.
In your book you described a Titan’s game where over 10,000 fans showed up at your home field. Can you describe what it felt like to see “the enemy” being able to cheer in your home team’s endzone?
That was a some kind of massive screw up. Some ticket agency bought a whole block of tickets and a Titans fan club bought them. It was frustrating, but I don’t begrudge fans who sell tickets. NFL tickets are CRAZY expensive and selling a few choice games can pay for the whole season. That was a dark day in general, and one I prefer not to think about.
What was your favorite/worst memory as a Colts fan to write about in your book?
Favorite memory: Writing about how incredible Marshal Faulk was. He was the most amazing athlete I’ve ever seen, and it’s always fun to think about him.
Worst memory: Writing about Mike Vanderjagt.
I hate him with the fire of a thousand suns and writing those pages made me physically sick.
I often wonder if a Superbowl win and all of the Colts success in recent years is enough to ease the pain of losing in another Superbowl. Does last year hurt more or less than the loss in 1995?
Way way less. The Super Bowl loss maybe makes the top 5 worst losses as a Colts fan, but only barely. 1995 and 2005 were a million times worse. Losing to the Pats in ’03 was worse too. So was the 2004 season opener to the Pats. It’s kind of like that line in High Fidelity…”If you really wanted to screw me up, you should have gotten here a long time ago!”.
The thing about the 2009 season is that it was a great year and a successful one. Losing to the Saints (a really good team) in the Super Bowl isn’t a source of shame. It’s disappointing, but not haunting. Not even close.
How do you predict the Colts will fair in the coming seasons? Do you see any real threats in the division? How long do you think the Colts can continue their AFC South domination?
The Colts will stay on top as long as Manning stays upright. QBs can play well into their late 30s and do so at an All Pro level. We’ve already seen it many times. I don’t like where any of the teams in the division are headed, to be honest. The Jags need a quarterback as do the Titans (I’m not a believer in VY). I don’t think the Texans are the best run franchise.
How has the reception been from fellow Colts fans on your book?
Wonderful. Everyone has been incredibly supportive and receptive. The book is a smooth read and very personal. It works for long time die hards while being perfect for the new or younger fan. I’ve been really gratified by the response.
Do you think you will ever write a follow up?
Sure. When Peyton’s time is done 6-7 years from now, it’ll be time to write another chapter of the story. If they win it all this year, I might consider writing an addendum and republishing it. We’ll just have to see.
Thanks so much to Nate and the guys at 18to88.com for providing me with insightful and hilarious answers to my questions. To purchase a copy of Blue Blood, you can visit the website for purchasing instructions or its available at Amazon. The print version retails for $20 and the ebook version costs a mere $10.