You’re having a hard time finding a dog in this fight, and I get it.

Whether you’ve lived and died with the New England Patriots since the days of Horace Ivory and Schaefer Stadium or boarded the bandwagon in February 2002, there’s no joy to be experienced, no glory attainable in watching today’s AFC championship.

Colts-Jets? Seriously. Lethal injection or gas chamber? Nancy Pelosi or Newt Gingrich? Lady GaGa or Miley Cyrus? A fast-moving case of H1N1 or a gnawing head cold that leaves your ear plugged for a month? Choose wisely.

Far as I’m concerned, however, the hate-fest begins and ends with Indianapolis.

The complete list of reasons to abhor the Ponies would require enough ink to bankrupt this publication. So we’ll limit ourselves to the most galling ones.

Peyton Manning.

We could move on. The mere mention of Manning’s name paints the picture of a whiny muttface pointing his fingers all over creation while Jim Nantz and Phil Simms recite sonnets about how they wish they could have his children.

Brett Favre used to be the most overrated quarterback since Joe Namath, but Manning has supplanted him.

Career playoff record: 8-8.

Super Bowl wins and appearances: 1.

Given a spot in The Game of the Millennium and the opportunity to select an active quarterback surrounded by an all-world array of backs and receivers, I would choose Tom Brady, Kurt Warner, Favre, even Ben Roethlisberger before I’d guarantee myself a heart attack with Manning.

Twelve years experience have taught us what will happen when the Jets get their mitts into No. 18 today. The better the defense and the bigger the stage, the more likely Manning will try to squeeze the ball into triple-coverage, fail, and begin ripping his corps of no-name receivers a collective new one. And with the most pedestrian rushing offense in the league to fall back on, that scenario equals curtains.

Another reason to despise the Donkeys is the absurd yet widely accepted theory that somehow they are competition for the Patriots’ unoffficial status as Team of the Double-Zero Decade. On the basis of what, regular-season wins over Houston and Jacksonville? At last check, Indy defeated New England twice out of roughly a dozen games that boasted a bigger audience than “American Idol.”

Indianapolis defined its, um, greatness for generations to come by tanking, ignoring and spitting in the face of the chance to go 19-0. Colts logic dictated that getting Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne the magic number of 100 receptions each was worth the risk of catastrophic injury but winning every game on their schedule was not.

Look, Haywood Jeffires once caught 100 balls in a season. What, was somebody worried he was going to hurt himself dancing around with a champagne bottle if Clark and Wayne stayed stuck at 99? 

Root for the Colts as the lesser of two evils and you’re endorsing the only cardinal sins in football: Lack of effort and a paucity of pride.

Of course, pride is nothing but a cheap slogan when your team’s owner loaded up the moving trucks under cover of night and hauled the franchise halfway across the fruited plain, abandoning one of the NFL’s great, traditional towns because he couldn’t finagle a new stadium. The Indianapolis Colts were the original Oklahoma City Thunder.

And really, what’s so harmful and nauseating about the Jets? Hating on them is like jeering the skinny kid with braces for finally procuring a prom date.

Don’t be petty and go all Yankees fan on me. The Patriots own three times the hardware and have accomplished it in one-fifth the time.

The Jets aren’t a remote threat to that legacy, and they have — dare I say it? — likable qualities.

Soundbiteasaurus Rex Ryan is a refreshing, self-deprecating alternative to the other 31 coaches who step up to the microphone, appear perpetually constipated and act as if they’re protecting secrets that are vital to international security.

Darrelle Revis is a shutdown corner in an era whose rules have made it almost impossible for him to exist.

And in a related story, his team wins on the strength of time of possession and defense, something the NFL tried to render imposssible about two seconds after Bill Parcells pulled it off in Super Bowl XXV.

The dice have been loaded in the favor of Manning, Favre, and yes, Brady for years. Now there’s a team on the cusp of something special by doing it the old-fashioned way and the right way.

Don’t know about you, but it’s impossible for me not to tip my hat to that.

Even if I have to use the other hand to plug my nose for three hours.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected]


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