Football is hard. Absurdly hard. Hard to watch, hard to play, and hard to justify. It's become easier for people to explain why they're not getting their kids vaccinated than why they continue watching football. St. Louis is still paying off the debt on their now unoccupied football stadium. Every team only just figured out they should stop paying Greg Hardy to play football (but apparently the Pats should kick the tires on Ray Rice ... good God, Lupica). Teddy Bridgewater's career might have ended while pretending to play. And if his career is over, he'd be considered LUCKY by most NFL retirees' standards. Calvin Johnson just quit at the peak of his powers because of course he did. But it’s become like complaining about your taxes. Yours are too high? Join the club. Pay ‘em and move along, you’re holding up the line. The NFL is everything that's wrong with humanity and capitalism? Sure, but you're still gonna keep watching.
So all existential crises aside, the hard part of football I'm here to discuss is winning and, more importantly, it's correlation to our enjoyment of the game. For better or worse, that's what makes all the other parts of football tolerable. Calvin Johnson might still be playing football if the Lions weren't, well, you know... the Lions. But as fans, complaining about wins, or the lack thereof, has become a competitive sport in its own right. Who has more to complain about? 31 teams end every season disappointed. Yeah, sure, but look at THIS bullshit team I have to deal with. Hell, even the people who cover the league are creating storylines to complain about.
Simple math says the teams we root for are more likely to fail at their ultimate goal than succeed. But who REALLY has it worse? Is it worse to be at the bottom of the barrel looking up? Is it worse to float in middling mediocrity, missing out equally on big draft picks and big moments? Or is it truly worse to come this close to your goal only to have it ripped away from you?
The problem is that this hypothesis has been proven false again and again and again. We can tell ourselves all we want that they’re going to lose this Sunday, but if they jump out early and take a lead into halftime, we will get excited. We will have hope. We will also have that knot in our stomach, but that’s the whole point. That’s why we watch. As soon as I stop feeling things during these games, I’m not sure why I’d watch them anymore. If all I wanted to do was have a logical, measured experience of football, I’d drop all allegiances and tune into whatever game is being called by Joe Buck. Sad!
So if I’m gonna have my heart ripped out and my mind turned into a scene from Falling Down, then I’m gonna go into it with the best of intentions. Or to use a different hacky reference, if we’re all going to wind up in the Pit of Despair, then damnit, I’m gonna expect the best on my way down.
I mean, this IS supposed to be fun right?! For fucks’ sake, remember when we weren’t going to have a team at all anymore?!? By the grace of God, fracking, and Terry Pegula, the Rams are in LA and the Bills are talking about a downtown stadium. But like a real one this time. Our team was saved, but somehow our doomsday expectations stayed six and a half feet under. I’m not saying everyone should be expecting a record over .500 like I am, but where is the proof that we’re one of the worst teams in the league? Seventeen teams finished last season with worse records than ours. One of the ones who finished above us, our divisional rivals the LOLJets, spent the entire offseason trying to convince others that they had convinced themselves that they could do better than Ryan Fitzpatrick. Hell, the Super Bowl champions TRADED for Mark Sanchez. (Seriously, how many teams would cut their quarterback in a heartbeat to get their hands on Tyrod Taylor? If the Eagles were able to get a first round pick for Sam Bradford, a quarterback whose ceiling we’re all painfully aware of, what could the Bills have gotten in exchange?) Somehow Raiders fans have more faith than we do! For the life of me, I can’t understand it.
I know it’s a somewhat weak argument to make: Being optimistic is more fun. But that’s how I feel. If you want to wallow in self-pity and disappointment, don’t let me stop you. In fact, maybe stop reading right now, because it only gets sunnier from here. Translation: DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE, GOD DAMNIT! THE BILLS ARE BACK AND I’LL FUCKIN' SHOUT IF I WANT TO!