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The Real Reason for the Colts Transformation: Frank Reich's Facial Hair
To paraphrase Dinah Washington: What a difference a year made. This time last year, the Indianapolis Colts were wallowing in misery, licking their wounds after another season whose bright spots offered at best, only glimpses of mediocrity. Colts fans were crying for a new coach, new leadership. Andrew Luck remained injured on the sidelines, his relentlessly optimistic, sunny disposition barely able to break apart the clouds of doubt concerning his destiny as a franchise quarterback. (You might be groaning over this corny metaphor, but I can't hear you because I'm too busy giving my self high fives over my superb use of figurative language.) Basically, the Colts SUCKED, AGAIN, and they were tired of sucking. Then, like the end of the Lion King when the rain stops pouring down and all the new animals look to a new leader, in strolled Frank Reich. I was skeptical, because, well, the Colts hadn't been serious contenders in a long time. Even if Reich could turn the team around, how much could he do in a year? Then it was confirmed that Luck was actually (queue every Colts fan across the state crossing their fingers) healthy, and going to play football on the field, not just play call and cheer his team on from the sidelines. Well, if you're any sort of football fan, you know what happened next. Unlike last January, when Colts fans were longing for the good ol' days, feeling a painful twinge in their souls every time they saw Peyton Manning singing jingles in life insurance commercials, this January, the Colts are prepping for a playoff game. Playoffs! Many "experts" and "pundits" and "slightly charming weasels who convince airhead ESPN producers to employ them every year" are contributing this turnaround to different things. The Colts' investments in offensive linemen are paying off. Andrew Luck has returned and sparked an offense that Indy hasn't seen since Peyton Manning was commanding the field like General Washington and leading the Colts to greatness. Or an overall, organizational makeover is to thank for the Colts return to postseason contingency. Wrong! All wrong! I propose to you the real reason for the Colts transformation. Though respect for the Colts is now snowballing around the league, recall how they started this season: A miserable 1-5. Do you remember what head coach Frank Reich looked like during that stretch? Let me refresh your memory! Reich, with his big, 1950's-style eye glasses and clean-shaven face, didn't exactly look intimidating. As a matter of fact, his appearance was absolutely vintage nerd: No wonder the Colts were drowning! Their fearless leader looked like he was auditioning for a "pushover tax accountant role" in "Leave it to Beaver". Then, Reich put down the razor and picked up an air of infectious, manly confidence: Reich morphed from a dude who looked like he spent his free time constructing life-size papier-mâché Princess Leia statues to a man that could lead a squad of big, burly pro athletes to greatness on the gridiron. He looked like another leader of extraordinary individuals: Bristling with confidence from his whiskers down to his toes, Reich's transformation was complete. Like the mystical werewolf adopting a new physical appearance and inheriting superhuman strength, the new rugged, outdoors-enthusiast Reich brought an abundance of virility and confidence to the Colts. And the rest, as they say, is history. Well, not exactly history. The Colts still have to play this weekend. But win or lose against the Chiefs, Indianapolis should be proud of how far they've come. And while all the success will unfairly be attributed to "players who work hard", "building an offensive line" and "team morale", we'll know what's really at the heart of the change: Frank Reich's beard of wonder. I don't mean to alarm Reich or his family, but I think he needs to be on guard until the end of the season. I wouldn't be surprised if the Chiefs hired an assassin to sneak into his hotel room with a can of shaving cream and a sharp razor. With his beard of greatness, Reich is now like Samson from the Bible, his strength tied to his (facial) hair. Colts fans should pray he never succumbs to a modern-day Delilah. (If Reich's wife doesn't like his beard, well then, that's just too damn bad!) Of course, I could be way off the mark, and Reich's beard could have nothing to do with their success. Reich could shave right before the game, and Indy could glide to the AFC Championship. But that's not a risk I'm willing to take.
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