Sunday, December 18, 2011

A sports fan’s NFL magic carpet ride just came to an end.

Professional sports are the ultimate reality TV show; between the multi-million dollar personalities and the non-stop media coverage, this is as real as it gets.  There’s drama, intrigue, surprise, suspense… often all in one game.  Professional sports is the ultimate live event, for there really is no telling what may happen;  and there is just something special about seeing it live as it happens—in person or on screen—that makes it so entertaining. Sports are one of the few TV programs people watch live anymore; it’s easy to DVR a show or movie, yet watching a game on tape delay just isn’t the same.  Besides just the difficulty of avoiding the results of the game (“earmuffing”), there is the general let-down of fast-fowarding through all the tension filled drama.  There’s the 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, the 3rd and goal in the 4th quarter, the last-second shot attempt, and so on.  What makes sports great is that it happens live, in the moment, and as fans as spectators our heart races, we move to the edge of our seats, and we turn up the volume as we anxiously wait for what will come. Professional sports is a about enjoying the present.

This current NFL season has given sports fans some great moments, from the 13-0 Green Bay Packers to Tim Tebow’s magical ride with the Broncos; these two stories alone are perhaps the best examples of what makes sports great.  As sports fans we long to see greatness, whether it be the Jordan’s ’96 Bulls winning 72 games, the ’98 Yankees winning 125 games and a World Series, or Justin Verlander lighting up the speed gun and in so doing make so many batters whiff.  We watch sports to see greatness happen.  We also watch sports to see the unexpected happen; Villanova shocking Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA final, Boise State pulling the “Statue of Liberty” play to beat Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, and The Dallas Mavericks beating the Miami Heat’s big three of James, Wade, and Bosh in the NBA Finals.   We also watch sports to see the unexpected happen—for as much as we want to see the best at their best, we also love the upset, we love seeing the little guy knock off goliath.  The 2011 NFL season had, up to this point given us both.

The Green Bay Packers were 13-0 entering this Sunday’s game; an offensive juggernaut and a defensive-takeaway machine, the Packers showed no signs of slowing. All talk centered around whether or not the Packers would rest their starters after this weekend’s assumed win over the Chiefs or continue to strive after a perfect season.    The Denver Broncos were 8-5 entering this Sunday’s game, having started the season 1-4 and being left for dead after a week 7 trouncing by the Detroit Lions, the Broncos had somehow managed to win 6 straight games and take over first place in the AFC West due to some Tim Tebow magic, some great defense, and some incredible special teams play. 

This Sunday both of these magic carpet rides came to an end; the Packers shockingly lost to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs, able only to score 14 points against a team which had just fired its head coach. The Broncos meanwhile, after racing out to a 16-7 lead, promptly turned the ball over 3 times in a disastrous second quarter leading to 27 straight points by the Patriots.  It was a disappointing Sunday for myself and any other true sports fan.  Not only did one team trip up when they were so close to true immortality and greatness, another team came up lacking when the big boys came to town.  Rather than getting to see greatness (the Packers) and the unexpected continue to happen (the Broncos), we had to see greatness lose some of its shine and see normalcy return.

All is not lost; the Packers are still incredibly talented and with any luck will use this loss as a springboard into the playoffs and to the Super Bowl, where they will be able to display their greatness for all to see.  The Broncos too still have a stingy defense and a ridiculously competitive quarterback who with a couple more wins can get into the playoffs where once again, we will hope to see the unexpected.  

This is what I want for Christmas as a sports fan:

A dominant run to the Super Bowl by the Packers with a great performance by Aaron Rodgers, accomplishing what Brett Farve for all his greatness could not do—win back to back championships.  What a great sight that would be to see! 

More gut-wrenching, hand-clinging, heart-racing, last minute games and wins by the Broncos and Tim Tebow. At this point I don’t expect them to do much beyond making the playoffs, yet it’s that suspense of knowing that this is a team from which to expect the unexpected which makes this team so exciting to watch!

So while sports fans lost a chance to see a team go 19-0, and another team make yet another improbable win, sports fans will continue to watch, for we know that these teams give us what we really want to see in sports; greatness (Packers) and the unexpected (Broncos).  

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