This is the 12th in a series of 18 stories examining the best events an Indiana sports fan would want to see over a lifetime.
No one walks into Lucas Oil Stadium without looking up and feeling small.
The Luke, as its corporate sponsor does not want you to call it, is a monument to the extravagance of the NFL. It is huge, immaculate and shiny, with the largest TV screens you'll see this side of Dallas.
And it houses the Indianapolis Colts.
These are the golden years of the Colts in their Indy incarnation. These are the years by which all subsequent years will be measured. The Colts have one of the best quarterbacks in history in Peyton Manning. There are other potential Hall of Famers in Dwight Freeney, Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Adam Vinatieri. They've won and won and won.
Watching a Colts game, particularly one against a real rival, is a sensory thrill.
It starts with the introductions. Loud bursts of bass-driven music. On days when the offense receives the intro treatment, you'll never hear the words, once the thunderous applause starts, after “Quarterback, No. 18…” The cheerleaders gyrate for the masses. The male half of the masses seems to approve.
Game time comes, and there's nothing quite like the rush as Manning drops back to pass, Clark barrels over the middle, Wayne dashes toward the sidelines on a curl pattern and Joseph Addai veers out to the flat. Wait. Is that Pierre Garcon going long? Manning steps and throws deep, and a spiraling football cuts through the climate-controlled air. Garcon has it. The crowd erupts. Touchdown. Confetti.
Next thing you know, the Colts are on defense and some unlucky quarterback from the Titans or Jaguars or – better yet – Patriots is being engulfed by Freeney or Robert Mathis or both. The quarterback falls and the ball squirts loose. If you're really fortunate on your game day, you'll see one of those arrogant coaches, such as Bill Belichick or Rex Ryan, lose his cool.
The Colts experience doesn't come cheap. Tickets. Parking. Food. An Austin Collie replica jersey. You can blow $300 easily. But you'll leave satisfied.
There's nothing like the NFL. There's nothing like the Colts during the Manning era. The sooner you get there, the better. See them while the team is still huge enough to fill that stadium.