Super Bowl Recovery Mode
Youth in the Indianapolis Metro Area have grown up with a Colts team that won more regular season games than any team in NFL History. And while that has been enjoyable for young Colts’ fans they know nothing about what it was like to see the Colts play in the early 1990’s. The Pankos were Colts’ “Season Ticket Holders” for a few years in the early 1990’s, but not as people would recognize it today. Five or six games a year Dad would take his two sons down to the Hoosier Dome; there was a dumpster around W Henry St and Madison Ave that served as residence for a panhandler. While every other sucker paid to park, for a tithe of granola bars and warm beverages, the panhandle would watch Dad’s 1984 F-150. After leaving the truck in good hands, Dad bought tickets from a scalper post kickoff for around $10 per, after entering the half capacity Dome, patrons seated themselves where they pleased, in a different spot each week, and watched the worst football being played in the AFC.
Randy Panko is a fascinating individual. His sales background and extensive international travel have made him too comfortable in unnecessary situations, though his latest adventure has advised one should never eat the shrimp tacos in Lima Peru. He is well known for attempting to order in native tongue at ethnic restaurants, and the treasures he has haggled from third world jungle merchants of Asia and South America are better suited for the dump. He has an uncanny cool when fitting in during uncomfortable situations. On one of his mid-quarter excursions of the concourse in the Dome, he found a door that led to stairs that led to a door that led to the post game family meeting area for both teams, when he brought the news back to the bleachers; it was as if Francisco Pizzaro has found the lost city of El Dorado. At the final gun for the next three years, he would coyly drag us to the doors and down the stairs as if we were some distant Slavic cousins to someone on either roster. It turned out to be players, families, personnel, staff, waiting bus drivers and the Pankos. “Boys, just act like you have been here before. Be cool.” It rendered three years’ worth of autographs and a handful of Hall of Fame handshakes.
The only NFL game for the Panko boys outside of God’s Country was Week 13 of the 1994 season. The Cleveland Browns were the heartbeat of the Panko house, and to this day the last time Dad cried was on November 6th, 1995 when Art Modell announced he was moving our beloved Brownies to Baltimore. Fifty one weeks prior, we laid eyes on a most precious piece of real estate – Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Browns hosted the Houston Oilers (Tennessee Titans) on a snowy Sunday after Thanksgiving. Taking in that old sanctuary of football was unbelievable, the smell of beer, tube steak, and Lake Erie air, the Dawg Pound, and the dump of a stadium. The experience was heightened when two Browns fans lit into the head of a family of four tomahawk style with rolled up programs for not standing during the National Anthem. That family’s situation deteriorated with coffee and beer being dumped on them and chicken bones being thrown at them. They only lasted a quarter or so and left. The Browns scored 17 unanswered fourth quarter points, moved to 9-3 and made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
The last two memories are much more recent. Indiana High School Football is, in this opinion, not appreciated on a national level. Twice in high school my season was ended by Cathedral. In the two years I played them, six offensive linemen (TE included) played Division I football. Two of them, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jeremy Trueblood now play on Sundays. A tackle and a tight end, they played side by side for three years in high school, they both earned scholarships to Boston College. Imagine how that double team went. Super Bowl XLVI yielded Kiwanuka his second ring, an awesome feat for an alumnus of autumn Friday nights in Indiana.
I had a great opportunity to lift in Tom Zupancic’s “Zup’s Lift for Kids” a few times. It was held on Blue Alley south of the RCA Dome during the tailgate. For a Monday night game, we got the chance to hold it on Monument Circle. In addition to the bench press, we got to deadlift an Indy Car and squat a front loader/backhoe. We were rewarded with game tickets to Wil Wolford’s suite. Wil is now the color man for Colts games on Emmis, but at the time he was the owner of the Louisville Fire in the Arena League. Top to bottom, getting to lift, being treated like a VIP, and NFL games were an incredible experience.
Finally, a lot of people were excited about Clint Eastwood’s halftime commercial. He portrayed powerful ideas and a resilient presence, but his words are flawed. Halftime is nowhere on the celestial horizon for America. The game has just begun and America is still winning, and because of the independent nature of entrepreneurial Americans, she will continue on her path as man’s last best hope on earth.
PANKO Strength & Speed, Proud Stewards of the American Dream