Most of you know that I’m a huge Packers fan. You might also know that the Packers lost in the wildcard round yesterday, putting an end to their all-too-brief playoff run. So as part of fulfilling the five stages of playoff loss grief, I’m posting something I wrote last season after the Packers lost to the 49ers in the playoffs. (Yes, again.) Apparently it was foreshadowing – it more ways than one (broken collarbone?!).
If you love a team, you might be able to relate to these sentiments. If you are on the fence about whether or not to become a football fan, hopefully this can sway you to go all-in. If you think loving a team is straight up crazy but someone you know is in the depths of postseason loss despair, maybe this will persuade you to be a little nicer to them today.
Because we really are crazy. There’s nothing quite like being a fan and loving your team.
(If you are looking for the lowdown on all of the weekends games, check out MMQB this morning. They always have great coverage of all things NFL. At The Water Cooler will return next week!)
Loving a team, when you really love a team, isn’t like having a favorite clothing store or a worn out take out menu. Loving a team is like being in love. When times are good, there is no joy that is paralleled. When times are bad, the lows will completely wreck you. You loathe those who betray you – the refs who make bad calls, the celebrating players on the other sideline, in your end zone. You couldn’t love those who help you more if they were members of your own family.
And really, the players and the staff do become like family. Because, like family, in the same second you can’t believe how much you love them and also can’t believe how they could make such mind-numbingly painful errors in judgment. You can point out their mistakes and inadequacies, but woe to the person who dares to speak ill of your team.
Loving football, in particular, is it’s own variety of passion. It sees your loyalty chips and raises you a lifetime of servitude. I’d say that it steals your time and sanity but it doesn’t – you willingly hand them over.
Football will take your hopes and crush them. Your #1 seed headed into the Divisional Round? Lost by 14. Season over. Your 10-point 4th quarter lead? Pick six. Then, touchdown. Lead lost. Your promising roster of feared veterans and dangerous rookie talent? Torn ACL’s. Broken collarbones. Inability to work cohesively as a unit. Not so promising after all.
But it will also take your hopes and elevate them. You are the underdog who beat the #1 Seed in the Divisional Round! You are the team that wouldn’t take no for an answer in the 4th quarter! You are watching the evolution of a unit that was all it was projected to be and so much more!
Every year, 31 teams go home disappointed. It’s a gnawing, desperate, unfulfilling feeling to know that it’s over. It makes you wear your pajamas for 48 hours and ignore the light of day. It makes you wallow in a gallon of ice cream and ask repeatedly, “What happened, you guys?” It’s all part of the mourning process, because you just lost something special. You won’t see your team take another snap for at least another 6 months. You may never see that same team take the field again. Players leave. Players come in. It’ll never be the same as it was this season.
But every year, one team goes home victorious. And it’s the sweetest, most elated, vindicating feeling. Your team defied the odds. Your team gets to bring the Lombardi trophy home. Your team gets to be feared and respected by all the rest for the next 6 months.
I’d say that it makes all of the hardship worthwhile, but it’s already worth it. What football gives you can’t be measured in wins and losses – even Super Bowl wins and losses. What it really gives you is a reason to hope for a few hours every weekend. To believe that this game could be your game. This year could be your year.
There’s nothing quite like it. And there are few things better.