On December 29th I left my home for five hours to get a cheeseburger, see a friend, and watch the last weekend of regular season football. I hadn't left my home in days working on grant proposals for a play about modern ennui and a book I want to write this summer about me and my dog traveling the countryside, interviewing people on what makes them tic. The burger and the game was a late Christmas present to myself. My Colts were playing the Jags and I knew we would win, and we did, but when I came home I found my front door smashed open. I ran in yelling for my dog, Dusty. Among the debris and scattered remains of my life I found Dusty hiding in the bedroom.
I've been a Colts fan for a long time. I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana and started watching football in the second grade when a neighborhood boy was drawing the helmets of all then twenty-eight teams by memory on the school bus. I was amazed by his skill and when he asked me which team was my favorite I pointed at the one with the blue horseshoe, not wanting to looking dumb. I had no idea who they were, but one year later the team moved in the middle of the night to my backyard. It was weird, really. I have family in Baltimore, and I felt they were stolen by Indianapolis, but secretly it was as if my Colts moved to be closer to me. That same year I was uprooted from school and sent to special class on a small school bus. Most of my childhood I felt dumb and useless, but I identified with the Colts in the 1980's. They were under dogs, whipping boys, with rare moments of greatness. The Colts were nationally televised version of myself. When they won I felt like I could do anything, and when we lost, I lost with them. That same year I took an IQ test, most "special" kids have to, and this special kid scored a 142, genius level. I had to stay in special class, but it was small victory.
Growing up the team had up and down years, just like an adolescence boy. I hated school and thought that maybe college would be just the place where I could find my groove. I started listening to the Pixies and The Jesus and Mary Chain and was convinced nobody understood me. Everything was dramatic and negative, and it all got worse when every college I applied to rejected me. I mean, not even clown college would take me. I felt like giving up on my higher education dream just as the Colts became the worst team in the NFL. Then the Colts drafted Steve Emtman, a monster of a man known for a fierce tenacity, and in one game against the Miami Dolphins Emtmen snagged a Dan Marino red zone pass and won the game for us in the closing seconds. I thought Marino was going to put a knife in my heart the way he had so many times before, but in that moment Entman showed my moody teenage-Nirvana-listening-self that you must never give up. The next day I applied to Ball State University, and got in.
Ball State was hard for me at first, and I struggled to find what I wanted to study, but campus was only thirty minutes north of the Colts summer training camp. I'd sneak down after summer school (I had to take some classes twice to graduate) and I got to meet Marshal Faulk, Marvin Harrison, and the whole offensive line. They were amazing and walked like Greek gods. One summer I cut my finger chopping lettuce and when I appeared at camp with a bloody bandage Jim Harbaugh signed a Colts hat my grandfather had given me for Christmas that year. "Stay healthy, we need you out there" he said and I like to think they did need me. That was the year Harbaugh became known as Captain Comeback, and in the same year I wrote my first play. I named it after a Pixies song, Ball State produced it, and, all of a sudden I was getting offers to study playwriting at the graduate level.
When the cops arrived at my home they carefully explained that this didn't look like a normal burglary. There was destruction, and things had been displaced, but almost nothing was missing. My computers, television, and a gold coin my grandfather gave me when I graduated from college were all still there. My Colts hat with Harbaugh signature was still on the shelf. The thief took only pennies, nickels, and dimes, and destroyed a poster from one of my old plays. And, of course, there was Dusty. He looked unharmed but scared. Everyone in my life became a suspect, but I imagined a monster scarier than Steve Emtman had done this. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, and a week after the break in I sat down with a shrink. I boiled with rage. I don't care about my things, I don't even care about my Colts hat, but my dog was my best friend, he has become my writing partner and my football-watching sidekick. I found Dusty at the dog pound, he had been abandoned twice, and when I adopted him I promised nothing would ever happen to him. My therapist diagnosed me the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. She asked if I could say one thing to the robber what would that be. I told her "I have a genius level IQ and estimate you will stop feeling pain in twenty minutes. Now, I want to know if you hurt my dog."
PTSD, for me, has no rules. It is an ambiguous thing. It is as if I have multiple windows open on a computer screen, each with a flashing image trying to get my attention. It is exhausting, disorienting, and, in the end, depressing. When I got home from the shrink, I turned on the Colts play-off game with Kansas City. The Chiefs where hammering us to pieces, on our field, in our home. Usually I pace back and forth during games, but I laid on my sofa feeling numb and I didn't care. But the Colts didn't give up. Andrew Luck threw bomb after bomb to T.Y. Hilton, the ball bounced our way, and soon enough I was pacing the floor again. We won, the second greatest comeback in NFL history.
Four days later I got a call from the detective on my case. They caught the guy. The giant monster in my head was just a boy with problems. He was drunk, among other things, didn't know what he was doing, and didn't hurt Dusty. I am a playwriting professor, but mostly I teach developmental classes. That is what we call "special" in college. I don't make a lot of money, but the guy who robbed us saw me walking Dusty and thought I was rich. He destroyed the poster out of frustration when he couldn't find what he was looking for. He needs help. I feel sorry for him and wish him all the best. The next Colts I watched at home. Andrew Luck and the boys lost to the Patriots and our season was over, but that is okay. We have lost to the Patriots before, and the underdogs can't always win. That night Dusty snuggled with me in bed and I started sleeping again. The reality of a loss is nothing more than a state of mind. Anyways, Dusty and I have a road trip to plan and I'll get distracted if my Colts are playing.
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