O Football, Football! Wherefore Art Thou Ludicrous?
Brought to you by The Weekly Tailgate.
At around 4:00 PM Sunday afternoon, I was feeling anxious yet optimistic. The Steelers had tied the Bears at 17 with 8 minutes left in the game and had yet to allow the Bears to score in the 2nd half — I expected them to get the ball back quickly, and they did, with just over 5 minutes left. Adding to my anxiety and optimism, my fantasy football team was in a close game as well, down a tenth of a point, 59.7–59.8, despite Jordan Howard racking up over 100 yards against my favorite NFL team AND my starting fantasy D/ST while sitting on my bench.
Fast forward 30 minutes…
Jordan Howard had just scored a game-winning touchdown for the Bears in overtime (pushing his fantasy total over 30 — again, while on my bench) and my fantasy football team was losing by OVER 80 FREAKING POINTS, 49.6–130.4.
Thanks to Big Ben getting sacked and the Steelers D/ST giving up close to a hundred yards and a TD in the last 5 minutes and OT, my fantasy team lost about 10 points. Furthermore, thanks to Tom Brady, Brandin Cooks, and DeVante Parker, my opponent scored 60 or so points in those 30 real-time-minutes (the other 20 or so came from the Seahawks D/ST’s game starting at 4:15 PM— sure, that does not really count, but it still added to my misery while seeing that score).
I know there is nothing worse than hearing/reading complaints about someone else’s fantasy team, so I will move on to the main point of this piece:
Football is bonkers.
And that is why we love it. It is also why we sometimes hate it more than anything but always come back for another fix. Watching football has provided me with some of the most joyous moments of my life and some of the most miserable. I do not choose to have such monumental reactions to a mere game. It is embedded in my brain’s deepest and most powerful neurons that football elicits such feelings. To put it bluntly, it is an addiction (anyone who watched the “witching hour” on RedZone this Sunday is still high from that rush).
Due to various conflicts, I barely watched football during the first two weeks of the regular season (AKA the extended preseason). I caught a few minutes of the Steelers first game and none of their second. Blissfully unaware of the minutiae, I occasionally checked the score on my phone, seeing the Steelers take control rather early in both games — a wonderfully peaceful football experience.
On Sunday, as I watched my beloved Steelers and my tortuous fantasy team (aptly titled “Used to be Good in Years Pryor” — I have not had a successful season since my astonishing championship run in 2013) get obliterated in a matter of minutes, I yelled and paced around my living room with a feeling of indignation so resounding that I never wanted to watch football again.
The entire game against the Bears was utterly frustrating, countless miscues by the Steelers causing me to burst out in anger. I spent half the game standing/pacing, yelling at Martavis Bryant for dropping a 50-yard bomb on the first play, Eli Rogers for muffing a punt, Chris Boswell for being the slowest field goal kicker in the league, and the defense for being inept at stopping the run the entire game. Sure, the Bears committed countless penalties (primarily holding) and made one of the most boneheaded plays I have ever seen, but Todd Haley and Big Ben never capitalized, drives always ending after a poor 1st down play led to predictable 2nd and 3rd down play calls.
Color commentator Trent Green pointed out countless times that Jordan Howard was running tentatively, turning his injured right shoulder away from contact, yet he still rumbled through numerous defenders nearly every time he touched the ball. Tarik Cohen provided the perfect change-of-pace, slicing his 5’6” frame through our defense as quickly as Colin Firth slaughtered 40 churchgoers in this epic scene from the first Kingsman movie. Those two, along with Mike Glennon being more Alex Smith than Alex Smith (15/22 for 101 yards), allowed the Bears to possess the ball for over 6 minutes longer than the Steelers.
Howard and Cohen were all the bears needed in overtime. It took those two a combined 4 plays to move the ball 74 yards for a touchdown (in reality, it took Cohen 1 play, a run that made the entire Steelers defense look like a MWC team playing Alabama; he was called out of bounds at the Steelers 37 yard line, without indisputable evidence to overturn). Sure, it was hot (89°F, 48% Humidity) and the defense was probably tired from being on the field for so long, and the refs may have a missed a few holding calls, but their performance in OT was not an outlier. They gave up a combined 110 yards to Howard and Cohen in the first half and 216 total, failing to slow them down for the entire game.
At around 4:30 PM Sunday afternoon, I stood there in my living room as the Steelers game ended disgusted at what I had just watched, both on my TV and on my ESPN Fantasy App. Sigh. I texted Jared, TWT’s own constantly frustrated Packers fan, to share my misery. “Don’t worry, Pack will lose too”, he pessimistically texted back as the Packers/Bengals were beginning their late afternoon game (he was nearly right, witnessing his own absurdity as the Bengals, yet to score a touchdown coming into this game, scored 21 points by the 10-minute mark in the 2nd quarter, saved only by Aaron Rodgers’ ability to throw a ball at Mach 1 while on the run). My misery, combined with his text, left me confused…
Why are we doing this to ourselves?
A life without the stress of seeing each individual mistake made by our favorite teams, that I enjoyed during the extended preseason, is available for all of us to enjoy. “Take it, it’s yours!” Yet we all still choose to watch, Sunday after Sunday, year after year, through countless lows and occasional highs.
After I read Jared’s text I switched the channel from CBS to FOX, just in time to catch the final 7 seconds of the Giants/Eagles game. Those final 7 seconds are the reason people watch football. Carson Wentz hit Alshon Jeffery near the sideline amidst 3 defenders, throwing a touch pass that could not have been a split second off, allowing Jeffery to step out of bounds with :01 left on the clock. On the final play of the game, Jake Elliott drilled a 61-yard, game-winning field goal that missed the upright by inches and possibly earned him an extra $32,000.
As I watched my intrastate rivals win in an unbelievable way, I did not feel anger, or jealousy, or disdain. I instead realized that these moments are the reason we all watch football; that opposite me being unhappy about the Steelers’ loss was a joyous Bears fan that just watched their team upset a perennial playoff team in overtime; that next Sunday at 4:30 PM the Steelers may win on a game-winning score and my fantasy team may go up 80 points over a 30 minute span. And so, the addiction continues…