Preseason predictions are the bane of my die-hard Green Bay Packer fandom. It doesn’t matter how ‘great’ they’re supposed to be, they lose in spectacular fashion. And it’s not just the Packers. All good teams lose. In your mind, your squad has a chance to win it all. In reality, they lose in the most horrible, gut-wrenching fashion. Thus is the plight of rooting for a good, not great, sports team.
Fans get the same story every year. The team makes some logical and some questionable off season moves. As a fan, you tell yourself you love it and the GM is a genius. The team drafts or signs some position players they need and a few players whose playing history is somewhat suspect. As a fan, you convince yourself you’re all in and your GM is still really, really smart. The team starts off hot, but cools down the stretch. As a fan, you still believe, since the playoffs are a whole new ball game. The team either blows their chance to make the playoffs or loses in the early rounds. As a fan, you drink heavily and tell yourself next season will be different. They’ll do better. They’ll play the correct players who will catch the damn onside kick. They’ll focus on improving their defense, offense, or other obvious weak link. They’ll win it all.
But that just doesn’t happen. You root for a good team. And good teams don’t just lose, they lose in style.
Traditionally, great teams are given the benefit of the doubt during the year. They draft virtual unknowns from FCS sometimes-powerhouses and they let seasoned veterans walk to free up cap space. But it’s all good because there’s a certain expectation that the organization knows what they’re doing. All questionable decisions pan out—and if they don’t, they’re swept under the rug and forgotten faster than you can say “Tom Brady was a sixth round draft pick.” Fans, reporters, and the general audience excuse their mistakes because of the insane prowess the football gods supposedly gifted to people like Bill Belichick. They’re allowed to make a mistake every once and awhile.
Good teams crash during the regular season but actually burn during the playoffs. They don’t just make a few mistakes; they mess up in grand fashion. Who would’ve thought the Vikings would have a good enough defense to win the NFC North? Despite the fact they’ve drafted a defensive player in the first round of 4 of the last 6 NFL drafts, of course they weren’t focusing on improving their defense. Good teams are given a solid pat on the back and a Good Job! sticker because “Boy howdy did they play well.” They’ve exceeded all expectations just to be in a playoff position in the first place. Of course, they’re not good enough to play with the Big Boys full time, but man just look at that effort. They’ll be great next season.
So now I’m sitting here in my cubicle on my annual post-playoff loss Monday morning trying to figure out what I and the great state of Wisconsin did to piss off the football gods. The Packers were supposed to be great. But yet again they’ve clocked in another good, not great, losing effort. Even with this season’s Hail Mary heroics, I once again ended the night on the couch crying into my Spotted Cow. It’s physically painful to keep losing like this.
But just wait, next season will be different. They’ll win it all. Mark my words..
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