Everybody loves an underdog.
Projected to finish in the NFL gutter before the season began, the 5-and-3 Colts are now, somehow, a playoff contender and America’s sweetheart team.
And all it took was the head coach being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
Earlier today, CBS This Morning ran a segment about the team’s players getting their heads shaved to show solidarity with Chuck Pagano, who’s undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia. It was the second time punter Pat McAfee cut his hair for a cause (he had previously offed his wild-man mane for Locks of Love), and his brainchild #ChuckStrong movement has helped raise six figures for cancer research. On the show, James Brown, host of The NFL Today on CBS, called the Colts’ surprising success “the best story in the National Football League.”
The national media consensus seems to be that Pagano’s cancer fight has given a team crowded with rookies and new guys something to rally around—and you can hardly argue, if you’ve heard Pagano’s now-famous locker room speech, delivered after the game last Sunday, about dancing at his daughters’ weddings and raising the Lombardi Trophy. “If this doesn’t get your heart beating,” nationally syndicated radio host Jim Rome said of the performance, “you don’t have one.” (Indeed, the address threatens to supplant coach Norman Dale’s Hoosiers pre-game pep talk as the most motivational sports exhortation of all time.)
Of course, Rookie of the Year candidate Andrew Luck has a little something to do with the Colts’ turnaround as well. (Rookie of the Year? Try MVP). Regardless, after last season’s stink fest, it’s nice to have the local team smelling like a rose again.
Photos via Colts.com