Last Updated on February 6, 2021 by Michelle Dials / Cass County Online
Photo from NFL.com
Lori Haynes and her husband, Michael, missed the Super Bowl two years ago because he had the flu. She doesn’t remember last year’s big game because she had neck fusion surgery on February 5, 2020, but her husband says she watched.
This year, as the 2020 Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lori be watching from her home in Cass County with Mike and their son Jacob, but the cardboard cutout version of Lori will be in the stands at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Tomorrow, she’ll be able to log onto NFL.com and tag herself among the 20,000 cardboard cutouts that will be there, due to capacity restrictions as a result of COVID-19.
Last fall, Lori found out that each NFL team was honoring a Fan of the Year, and she applied.
On November 2, she’d just started a new job with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and Mike kept asking her when she’d be off work. Finally, he told her there was an emergency, then sat her down at his computer. There, she saw several faces she recognized, including relatives, friends and representatives from the Indianapolis Colts, who told her she’d been selected as the Indianapolis Colts’ inaugural Fan of the Year.
Mike led her outside, where the Colts’ mascot, Blue, was waiting on top of his van to present her with a #20 Colts Fan of the Year jersey.
She and Mike were invited to attend a Colts game on December 20, which is something they try to do annually. She and the other Fans of the Year were also invited to participate in weekly Zoom calls with NFL representatives including Roger Goodell. Lori’s favorite was one called “You Make The Call,” which she describes as “a master class in officiating with all 32 of us.”
Lori says she’s been a Colts fan since high school. She joined the band at Maconaquah in 1988 and they got to perform at half-time for the Colts in the Hoosier Dome. She credits Michael for teaching her about the game itself.
In the Fan of the Year announcement video, Lori is wearing a neck brace because the surgery she had last year failed. She’s hoping one day she may be able to talk with a former Colts player who also had neck surgery.
Tonight, Lori will be watching to see if that same player is among those inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. She’ll also be watching to see which of her fellow Fans of the Year is named the NFL’s Fan of the Year.
“Only one person can be named Fan of the Year,” she says. “Just like the League, there were 32 to start.”
Lori says the fans, who refer to themselves as FOTYs, have started a Facebook group to keep in touch. (Read more about them here).
“This is the first year and we’re the inaugural group,” Lori says. “We compare ourselves to the ’72 Dolphins. There will never be another group of inaugural Fans of the Year. Thanks to the NFL, they brought 32 people from 32 teams together and we’ve all formed our own little family … that’s what football is. It’s a family. It’s a community.”
Lori’s game day menu which she’ll enjoy with her husband and son includes a “whole day full of mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers and football dip.”
Lori, who is a long-time volunteer and coach for Special Olympics, says she’s also trying to incorporate some of that organization’s tradition of passing the torch or baton.
“I’m trying to convince the Colts and Jim Irsay to let me have a gold foam finger and pass it to the new Fan of the Year next year.”
Which team will the local stand-up comedian who opened for Donnie Baker at the State Theatre be rooting for Sunday, as quarterbacks Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes face off?
“I’m a Hoosier … ” she said.