Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dealing with a loss

When your team loses a game, there are many different reactions. These reactions often depend on when the game occurred, i.e. early or late in the season; the importance of the game (regular season or playoffs); and the success of your team – are they a team that loses more often than they win, or a team that rarely loses?
I dealt with a loss on Sunday, when the Patriots embarrassingly gave up a 21-0 lead to the, admittedly, up-and-coming Bills. I went through the typical stages as the lead was squandered:

1. Denial: There is no way the unshakeable Tom Brady threw four interceptions in one game! They’ll come back!

2. Anger: How could the mighty Patriots give up 369 passing yards to the Bills? Where the heck was the defense?! 

3. Bargaining: OK Tom, you threw four interceptions – you can make up for it with a few out-of-this-world big plays! 

4. Depression: The Bills?! They are losing to the BILLS, a team they’ve beaten 15 times in a row, and 20 of the last 21 games. This is it; the season is all downhill from here… 

5. Acceptance: It’s just one game. They’re a god – a very good – team. Maybe this loss will be a good thing, a wake up call: the defense needs to step up and stop allowing more first downs than any other team in the league, and the receivers and tight ends need to be in the right position to make plays. Oh, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Time to start running for gains, OK? Thanks.

For fans of teams like the Patriots, the Jets or the Texans, we are still optimistic. We can swallow this week’s loss and hope it’s one of the few this season; we are confident enough that we believe this is just an early-season blip on the radar, and we still expect a successful season. 

Then there are fans of teams like the Minnesota Vikings or the Seattle Seahawks, who are starting to see the writing on the wall: that this is going to be a long season full of losses and disappointment. 

What do you do if you fall into this category? You have a few options: If you have a rival, you put your energy into cheering against them – this is made worse when your rival, such as the Green Bay Packers for Vikings fans, is very good. If that isn’t working for you, throw your time and energy into your fantasy team. Don’t have a fantasy team? Well, then hopefully you have another sport you can look forward to. I hope for your sake it’s not an NBA team, because the 2011-2012 season isn’t looking too good. 

No rival to cheer against, no fantasy team and no college football, baseball or NHL team to cheer for? Well either hope for a miraculous turn-around, or accept that this is going to a season with many downs and few ups. Maybe you can take the opportunity to spend Sundays with your family – remember when you used to do that?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fantasy vs. Reality

All of us who play fantasy football have felt that tug – do I cheer for the outcome for my NFL team or the points for my fantasy team? 

Indisputably, fantasy football has increased overall interest in the NFL – it has brought in casual fans like nothing before. But how does it impact fans' rooting interests in their favorite team? We all say that we’re cheering for our team above all else, but if we really look inside ourselves, we realize we’ve all said something like “well, if Welker scores and not Gronkowski, I have a good shot at winning this week,” or “If the Packers win but Rodgers throws less than 300 yards, everybody wins!”and that’s when we see how much fantasy football has impacted our standing as fans of our favorite team.

If we are absolutely cheering for “real life” ahead of fantasy, then there is no way my husband, a diehard Vikings fan, would have chosen Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback. Yet he did, and each week it literally pains him to “cheer” for Rodgers to have a good game. I told him if I was in the same situation I never would have drafted Rodgers – but am I being honest with myself? Sunday afternoon as I watched my Patriots pummel the Chargers, I was thinking, “please don’t let Gronkowski score again – anyone but Gronkowski!” Luckily, he didn’t hear me, but each time he scored it felt bittersweet – my team was building on their lead, but I saw my chances at a win in my fantasy league slipping away. 

We convince ourselves that there is a way to win both – but the second we cheer for a certain player on our NFL team to have a lousy game, we’ve let fantasy football negatively impact our fandom.   

Those of us lucky enough to have teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl should always cheer for our NFL team over our fantasy team. But if you are a fan of, say, the Kansas City Chiefs or the Seattle Seahawks (or the Manning-less Colts), when does it become acceptable to cheer against a player on your NFL team for the sake of your fantasy team? Some would say never, but many would take any good news during an otherwise dismal NFL season – “Sure, the Vikings stink, but at least I won my fantasy league!” At what point does the outcome of one completely squash the other?

A real fan never, ever roots against their NFL team, or any player on their team, on Sunday (or Monday or Thursday). On the flip side, a good fantasy player will forget their real-life loyalties when doing their line-up. So when the Patriots play the Jets I’ll keep Shonn Greene in my starting lineup, and I wouldn’t mind if he had a 100 yard game with a touchdown if the Pats still win. That being said, if someone asked me whether I’d pick the Patriots to win and Greene has 13 yards on the ground with no touchdowns, or Greene has 125 yards and two touchdowns to give me the fantasy win but the Patriots lose, I’ll take the Pats every day of the week. 

The question we all need to ask ourselves is this: do I feel better when my fantasy team wins, or my favorite NFL team? For me, I feel a lot worse if the Patriots lose… sure, a win in my fantasy league softens the blow but in the end, I’ll swallow the loss in my fantasy league if it means the Patriots earn a “W” and increase their lead over the Jets.

Friday, September 9, 2011

This lady is ready for some football!

Football is back and I can hardly contain my excitement! Last night for the first time since the Super Bowl, I sat on my couch and watched an NFL game – not a game from last season on NFL Network or a game on ESPN Classic or even a preseason game, but a real, live game.

I know there are a lot of women out there who are disappointed that the NFL lockout ended. I’m friends with a lot of those women, who hate losing their husbands to the television every Sunday, and the occasional Monday and Thursday, from September through February – but I am certainly not one of them. Unlike most of my female friends, I countdown the days from the Super Bowl until the NFL is back; I look forward to the draft, to the first day of training camp, to preseason games and, of course, opening day. On Sundays, I’m not just the understanding wife letting my husband watch the Vikings game without interruption – I next to him on the coach, screaming and jumping up and down.

I've long ago realized that I can't sit around with my girlfriends and talk about football because after about three minutes their eyes glass over and I've lost them. I tend to be the only female in the room who actively follows football, so I’ve found that usually the people I can talk about football with are men.

Yet every time I’m talking to a man about football for the first time, he is always – always – shocked with my football knowledge. They are always surprised that I, a woman who couldn’t play football herself, know as much about the game as I do. But there are a lot of men who follow football who didn’t play at all, or past Pop Warner, even some of the so-called experts on TV. So what’s the difference? Even though I was never able to play myself, I know a lot about the game: I know the different between a cover-two and a cover-three; I know what a blitz is and when it works best; I actively follow the NFL and am well-informed on current teams, players and stats; I love fantasy football and I know who to draft and why.

Some men appreciate that I know as much as they do about football, but I also know there are some who think I should keep my mouth shut and get back in the kitchen. I've read from some of sports writers, including one of my favorite columnists Bill Simmons, that a woman who knows too much about sports is suddenly less attractive because women are supposed to be feminine and for some reason knowing about football makes her less so. I find that to be offensive, mainly because the two have no correlation what so ever.

Clearly I'm not the woman sitting on the couch during a football game whose only comments are how attractive Tom Brady is ... don't get me wrong, I can appreciate Tom Brady for his chiseled features, but I also appreciate his 77 percent winning percentage, his play-making ability and his on-field leadership. And you know what? I'm proud that I know that and can stand with any guy and hold my own in a conversation about football. If you can't handle that, you can't handle a real woman.