Monday, January 23, 2012

Sometimes Being a Football Fan Sucks

On Sunday, two teams were crowned Conference Champions. Their tickets to Indianapolis were punched. Their fanbases were sent into a frenzy. A great "rematch" storyline was created. And both games were decided in the final moments. It was an amazing day for football. But I hated it.

Let me begin by stating that I had absolutely no rooting interest in either game. In fact, I didn't particularly like any of the four teams playing. My disdain for both games has nothing to do with the emerging winners. Rather, as a diehard football fan myself, I couldn't help but feel sick for the losing teams and the manner in which they lost. 

As you probably know, both conference championship games were basically lost on two gut-wrenching plays. The Ravens lost their chance at overtime when their kicker, Billy Cundiff, hooked a 32-yard field goal wide. The 49ers season ended after their punt-returned, Kyle Williams, turned the ball over for the second time in the game, giving the Giants a chip-shot, game-winning field goal. Two prominent goats. Two players who will have to live with these agonizing moments for the rest of their lives. Two athletes whose reputations may have been written and permanently sealed for the rest of their careers. 

And the humiliation of these two players doesn't end with google and youtube searches. Williams has to deal with classless fans on twitter (although a search of @KyleWilliams_10 tweets comes up pleasantly positive this morning). Cundiff has to live with the misery of having that kick be synonymous with his name. As a kicker, your chances at being a hero are incredibly low, and your ability to change your legacy after a blunder like that is extremely limited.

All this leaves the other players on the losing team in an awkward position. Both the Ravens and the Niners played well enough to make it to the Super Bowl, but fate had other plans. So where do you channel all of the hate, anger and shock of the past 24 hours? It's easy to point the blame at the sacrificial lamb of the game, but throwing a teammate under the bus is a despicable act that will get you thrashed by fellow NFL players (just ask anonymous Jets player). For the most part, players are very good at swallowing these tendencies, and they typically say the right things. But you can imagine what some of these players are screaming to themselves when no one is around. How could you not be mad at Cundiff as a Ravens player? How can Niners players not be thinking to themselves how different it would've been if Ted Ginn wasn't injured? How do you think Ginn is feeling right now? I couldn't stop thinking of all the torment that the ending of these two games created, and it ruined both games for me.

And what about the fans? For the first time in twelve years, I felt the stinging pain of a post-season loss. I felt the pit at the bottom of my stomach. I felt the shock of the sudden, bitter ending to the Lions' season. I felt the putrid realization that four months of only draft talk laid ahead. But I can't even begin to imagine what Raven and Niner fans are going through this Monday morning.

Deadspin posted this video earlier this morning of a clearly distraught Ravens fan (NSFW language).

In the past, I've been a big fan of Schadenfreude, but today, this video gives me no pleasure. In fact, it's agonizing to watch. I've been there. Maybe I haven't experienced such a heart-shattering loss, but I've gone through that same frustrating feeling. That feeling you get when something you experience something incredibly infuriating and you want everyone around you to be just as miserable as you are in that moment. But then you realize that nobody around you cares like you do and their blasé attitude only fuels to the fire of your rage.

I was there when Michigan lost to Appalachian State. And every bandwagon fan that carelessly shook off the loss and walked out of the stadium with a smile was in serious danger of my nearly unrestrainable rage. When the Lions went 0-16, I fantasized of doing unspeakable things to every Lions fan who thought that it was "a good thing". There is nothing in the world more frustrating than having everything taken from you only to find yourself in a room full of people who don't have the ability to empathize with you. 

I guess that's why I wrote this. Baltimore fans, San Francisco fans. Billy Cundiff, Kyle Williams. Ravens and 49ers. I'm sorry. You suffered from unspeakable losses yesterday, and the pain won't ever fully go away. It sucks and is going to continue to suck. Watching the Super Bowl in two weeks will sting beyond belief. But we've all been there. They call us "die-hards" for a reason, and today you have my full empathy.

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