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Muzzled: Indianapolis Colts Mistreating the Media?

No one likes a loser.

We, or most of us, are Americans after all. It's our God-given right to be front runners.

When a team hits 0-12, it's only natural that the local media will be hard on them. While the fans have been remarkably patient this season, many of those who cover the Colts professionally have not. Most notably writers from the Star have been whithering in their attacks on the Colts front office. While the public has not forgotten that the Colts have been good for a while, the media has largely seized the opportunity of a losing season to settle old scores.

The Colts have treated the media, especially the local media as the enemy for too long.

I violently disagree with most of what Phil Wilson and Bob Kravitz in particular have written this season about the team. I haven't found it fair and balanced, and I'm not alone in that opinion. I don't blame them one bit for the vitriol, however.

The Colts have been THE story in Indianapolis for a decade. They have also gone out of their way to be antagonistic to the local press. It's not just the Indy Star. My friends in radio have told me horror stories about how difficult it is to conduct a simple interview with a Colts player. The team treats every innocuous interview as if it were a trip to the witness stand for a man accused of murder. They demand all questions to be pre-screened. The PR staff hovers over players to insure that no one gets asked anything they don't like.

For the love of Christmas, people, it's just football.

Of course, I have to rely on second-hand stories of how hard it is to interview Colts players.

They won't let me anywhere near the complex.

I'm not writing this piece to whine about my own outsider status. I have my very polite bi-annual conversation with the Colts about being denied access. It always goes the same way. Going in, both sides know the outcome before it begins. They say the same thing every time. 'You are perfectly qualified. There's nothing more or extra you could possibly do to merit credentials. We just aren't letting you in because you work on the internet'.

For years, I didn't really care how the team treated the media. I'm anti-media by nature. It doesn't offend my sense of fairness that the Colts refuse to credential me. If I had to choose between a team with a great and open media policy and one that wins every year, I'd much rather have a winning team.

Now, however, the Colts' media policy threatens to hurt the team.

In all honestly, it's never helped. Being restrictive to the local media has not helped Indy win one more game. Not one. Keeping out internet writers hasn't helped complete a single pass or make a single tackle. It accomplishes nothing positive for the team.  All Jim Caldwell's bizarre 'say nothing' pressers are coming back on his head. He's a firey engaging man with a great intellect. If everyone in Indy sees him as a stoic moron impassively calling timeouts and punting, it's his own fault. He perpetuated that myth week in and week out by stonewalling the media.

If the Polians' penchant for by-passing the local guys to leap straight to the arms of Chris Mortensen on every story leads to some bitterness, I can understand that. If the local media see an 0-12 season to take shots at the men who have made their jobs difficult for a decade, I don't blame them. When you treat people like dogs, eventually they start to bite.

Hall of Fame personnel men are hard to come by. If Bill Polian gets run off by the local press, it will be his own fault. I'll blame no one but him. The Colts will suffer for years because of it. Now, when the team most needs 'friends', they find the fourth estate in Indy has abandoned them. The media actively wants the Polians gone. It would be an insanely stupid move, but would be met with universal acclaim from the press who are rightfully sick and tired of being treated badly by the team.

Should the press be more objective? Meh. I don't much believe in objectivity. It's always been a mirage. Expecting it from people is just as unrealistic as claiming you have it yourself. I've never claimed objectivity, and I certainly don't expect anyone else to have any.

The Colts can talk in platitudes all they want. Perception is not reality. One voice. Don't listen to the media. I've got one for them:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It's way past time for the Colts to start treating the media with respect. The local press is not the enemy. They never have been. Some guy who wants to talk to a corner back for five minutes on the radio is probably going to HELP your team gain fans. Responsible, credible internet writers can be your best asset when things go wrong. The paper and television aren't going to churn out multiple 5,000 word missives full of research about how your team has really drafted. The internet is actually THE place to find in-depth, well researched pieces that are longer than 500 words. If you want a nuanced, detailed look at a situation, you aren't going to find that in a newspaper column or on the 11 PM sports report.

The Colts need the fans to be patient, level-headed, and to take the long view. The long view on the Colts has been amazing for a decade, and still is moving forward.

Good Luck finding anyone to preach that message in Indianapolis these days.

It's past time for the Colts to stop stoning the prophets.

So the next time Kravitz writes something crazy like "the Colts are tanking because they won't start Orlovsky" (a statement so patently insane it caused my keyboard to twitch involuntarily as I typed it), remember that the mess was really caused by Bill Polian himself. If Polian gets himself fired because the short-sighted and ridiculous calls for his head grow too loud, and if he has too few friends to fight for him, then I blame only him. Oh, I'll remind everyone else of each and every person who helped ruin the future of the Colts, for sure, but the real blame will fall on the heads of Bill and Chris Polian themselves. Media relations is part of the job of running a team. Now is exactly the time when it's most important. They've done an awful job with it.

I don't blame the media. I blame the Polians.

It has to change before it's too late.

It's threatening to hurt the team for a very long time.


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