Guest Writer: Elisha Deluhery
One of the only true glimpses a fan of the NFL will get into their favorite team’s franchise is the annual attraction of training camp. For years, franchises have happily opened their doors to fans in order to give them a raw sports experience unlike any other.
During camps, football enthusiasts can find themselves mere feet away from their respective team’s roster, usually in a little-to-no cost endeavour, and in the dead heat of a professional operation. Real franchise-altering decisions are made at these camps. Very real stakes are at hand.
Every player at camp is potentially on the cusp of stardom. For some, their seasoned talent may be enough to carry them for another season in the NFL. Youngsters undoubtedly battle each other to make the roster for the first time. In the midst of all of these real stakes lies the fan, overwatching and observing every player, coach and executive’s moves.
The casual fan, if they make their way here, will assuredly find themselves grasping at straws for “action.” Camps are business in motion.
While business and boredom may be downsides for most, the real downside of camp was shown to me during my last visit. On Aug. 15, 2019, I attended the Colts’ last public practice. Swimming around me was every sort of fan in the land. That day, everyone from the casuals to the hardcores watched in awe as NFL legends Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy took the field as guests for the day. The crowd cheered.
Midway through the practice, one of the Colts’ players went down. For nearly 10 minutes everyone on the field cleared and silently communicated just how bad the injury was. Colts’ wideout T.Y. Hilton simply squatted, shook his head and patted his leg. Medics were flagged, stretchers were ran out and eventually the player (later identified as second-year wideout Reece Fountain) was carted off.
The ugliness was in the silence. Someone’s year, a competing player’s year, was over. Through the silence there weren’t calls for comfort or reassurance. Instead, calls of, “Oh, thank God it’s not a starter,” and, “He wasn’t good anyway,” were hushed through the air.
Instead, eyes were still on Manning and Dungy. Undoubtedly, not their fault as they are extremely well-regarded in the sport, but still, were the lack of empathy. The almost disregard for humanity by the crowd wrenched my stomach.
Coupled with this moment were the final seconds of camp. After moving on from the injury, camp ended and the athletes began making their way off the field. People screamed and clamored for players to sign autographs, begging them for the sake of their commutes, their loyalty to the team and even their children. Of course, the fans cursed the names of anyone who didn’t walk over, including Manning and Dungy. Yet, after Fountain’s injury the rampant actions of the fans seemed overly disgusting and distasteful. And then I realized the cold truth about these camps. It’s not the business part that’s rotten; it’s the people.
Elisha Deluhery is a sophomore cinema and media arts major from New Palestine, Indiana.