Fans & Expectations (Plus sleepless nights)

It has been a while since I’ve written anything about sports on this blog, as a matter of fact, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything at all on this blog, but that’s not really the point here. If you’ve followed this blog before you know it happens quite frequently where I go into long hiatuses followed by frequent, random bursts of words. Anyway, let’s get back to sports (those words may have told you to close the window if you couldn’t care less about sports – lol). Then again this post isn’t about any specific sport, or team, it’s just about being a fan. Being a fan is hard, or maybe stressful is a better word. When a new season begins, expectations are high. It’s tough to sleep when your team struggles early on. When the dust settles things. become clear as do your expectations for your team, and you might even be able to sleep a little better. But no matter how high or low these expectations are, letdown/stress/frustration is always right around the corner. That might sound like a pessimistic way to look at things, but think about it. Only one team finishes the season as the champion. Every other team “failed”. Even the champion didn’t just coast through the season not having caused any stress for their fans. There are ups and downs to every season for every team. That’s something all fans realize and deal with each year, but it’s the years where our teams try to convince us that our expectations should be higher than what they are. Prime example — the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals (yes, we all knew this was coming back to one of my favorite teams). They entered the season with questions all over the diamond, but they managed to hang around for half of the year. The second half came, and they slowly declined to a position where everyone thought they would be. Meanwhile, the fans (aka me) understood that this year wasn’t their year. I was okay with that since my expectations were not that great to begin with. The Cardinals had a lot of issues, and they were finally catching up to them. Fair enough; we all knew this was their fate, or so we thought. I’d go to bed quietly at night thinking about football and worrying more about my fantasy baseball team than the actual one I followed. The results of the games didn’t really matter to me anymore because the expectations were now nonexistent.

But wait a second…Atlanta collpased, and STL played out of their asses and snuck into the playoffs. We thought, “Wow, that was impressive.” What-if’s began to creep into our heads until we realized STL had to beat the Philadelphia Phillies (the best team in all of a baseball I might add) three games before they could do it to us. That wasn’t going to happen was the consensus. Once again, zero expectations. Anything that happens now is just icing on the cake was the mentality. Five games later, STL prevailed by somehow managing to take the series from the Phillies. Holy shit – maybe this really isn’t a fluke!! Now it is starting all over again, expectations are through the roof. The Cardinals didn’t make it this far by chance; they actually have a good baseball team. They can win now and could play in the World Series.

Shit! Now I’m back to sleepless night, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is exactly why we root for our teams in the first place.

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The NFL & My Emotions

It has been a while since I last wrote about the Dallas Cowboys, for good reason — 4-8 doesn’t quite cut it.  This post is not necessarily about them but inspired by them.  Dallas has been playing much better football as of late and has been able to get a couple of wins. Each Tuesday, Bob Sturm writes an article for the sport’s section of the Dallas Morning News called “Decoding Garrett” where he breaks down important plays throughout the last football game (here is the link for this weeks post). Watching these plays is obviously much more enjoyable after a win.  In this case, I cannot help but get the chills because you know your team made the crucial plays when they needed to.  And the other side is often the complete opposite, you do not want to relive the game because you see the little things that went wrong that inevitably sealed your team’s losing fate.
This all leads me to this.  I realize the Cowboys are out of the playoff hunt and the rest of their games are essentially meaningless in the long run, but this could not be further from the truth for diehard football fans. Before each and every Dallas game I am a nervous wreck.  It’s tough to say this for my other teams in different sports because they play so many more games throughout the season that it’s hard to say each game carries the same weight although they all technically do.  With football, it seems like every game is the season, and everything is much more magnified.  I really think this is why football’s popularity has surpassed every other sport in America.  The fact that each team only plays once a week allows a lot of critiquing to be done for each game and a long time for losing teams, and fans, to redeem themselves.  These outcomes often play a  huge role in how our attitudes are going to be the following Monday.  After a win you walk into work with a little hop in your step because you know you get to brag a bit, but when they lose you walk a little slower with your head slightly down. Of course, this shouldn’t be the case, but it’s tough not to let the outcome of the game carry over and determine your emotional state for the next few days.  This emotional toll is exactly why the record of your team becomes irrelevant because there is still a period of time you get to experience the emotional high of a win (assuming your team wins at least one game).  Their record aside, I am still rooting just as hard for a Dallas win every Sunday as I would be if they were Super Bowl contenders because I know how much better it feels the following Monday.


Other than the score…

…Lambeau Field and the Dallas/GB game was amazing.  The whole trip went about as smooth as possible as well.  We drove to Appleton, WI which is about 30 miles south of Green Bay since we were not able to find a hotel room in Green Bay at such late notice.  The last thing we wanted to worry about was driving to and from the game.  We managed to find a sports bar down the street from the hotel which offered a shuttle to and from the game – how perfect.  The bus left three hours before the game and took us to the same sports bar in Green Bay.  This all sounds peachy, but about the only thing that was brutal during the entire trip was the 45 minute bus ride that ensued with just about everyone needing to go to the bathroom ten minutes into the ride.  I did fail to mention that the buses were the big yellow ones…no coach buses for us.  I don’t think anyone pissed their pants (at least no one in my group did).

Once we were near the stadium and out of the bus, it was essentially 70,000 people eating, drinking, and yelling at the top of their lungs. I don’t think I could have asked for anything better.  The atmosphere was insane.  I went in rooting for the Cowboys, obviously, but knew deep down it wasn’t likely they’d win.  Regardless, I was THAT guy in the stands yelling when the ‘Boys scored to make it 28-7 thinking we were back into the ballgame. The final score didn’t quite rile me up as much as usual (their 1-6 record coming in probably had something to do with it).  I was there to experience Lambeau, win or loss.  And that is exactly what I did.

I also failed to mention the score was 45-7, if you didn’t know.

Good thing the beer was cold.


Cross It Off

I think it is quite obvious I am a huge sports fan seeing as 95% of the posts on this blog focus on sports, but there are a number of things holding me back from taking that next step up the sports fan ladder. One thing that separates fans is how many sporting venues they have attended, but not only that, it’s how historic the venues really are (Wrigley, Madison Square Garden, Fenway, Lambeau, Augusta National, etc). Another important thing is thecaliber of events they’ve been to. The World Series, Super Bowl, Final Four, the PGA majors, the list goes on. Those are the events we always remember regardless of who played or what happened because it’s just special being there. It might truly be a once and a lifetime experience.

I have been to my fair share of sporting events, but when it really comes down to it, the big games and venues are what is missing from my list. So in the past six months I’ve made it a point to get to a couple of famous stadiums and events. I finally attended a baseball game at Wrigley field (and it was against the STL Cardinals – they won) and sat in the bleachers. it was incredible. There were about 15 of us wearing our Cardinal red and cheering loudly. I was also able to attend the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. I will say golf events are not one of my favorite sports to see live, but the course itself was truly amazing to see in person. And one more that I plan on crossing off this weekend is seeing my dreadful Dallas Cowboys play at Lambeau. It would probably be more exciting if the Cowboys weren’t 1-6 and underdogs by 9.5 points, but hell, the experience will be awesome and to boot, it is the Sunday night game on NBC. We plan on tailgating with the best of ’em and trying to stay warm.

I am going to put together a list of events/venues that I need to attend – sort of my sports fan bucket list if you will – and continue to make an effort to cross them off.

Go Cowboys!


Dumb Football

The Dallas Cowboys are doing some amazing things this year. No, that is not a joke. They are dominating on the offensive side of the ball and on the defensive side of the ball – both sides are in the “top” five, whatever that truly means is beyond me. Of course, this does not mean anything considering that they currently sit in last place with a 1-4 record, but it is truly amazing to watch moments of brilliance and dominance followed by utter stupidity. It seems as if the Cowboys’ players skipped Pop Warner and high school football and went directly to college and the NFL. Things like protecting the football, not committing penalties, and playing smart are all some of the first lessons you learn when you begin playing football. Although, I do not have much playing experience except for the years I spent in elementary and middle school playing flag football (Madden as well, if you want to count that), but these are lessons even I was taught. This is why it is amazing. These professional athletes are getting paid to play football at the highest level. They can catch, throw, and run with the best of ’em, but they cannot commit less than 10 penalties a game…seriously?! Maybe I have it all wrong. Who knows. It is easy to say what you want from the sidelines and as a fan, but I don’t see many other teams struggling with these same issues.

This all leads me to exactly why I think firing Wade Phillips is just a way to cover up everything else. It is the easy thing to do; it’d buy the Cowboys a few extra weeks to dig up different excuses. With every loss, firing Wade will be brought up even though Jerry Jones has said numerous times he will not be fired during the season. Like I said in a previous post, sometimes you just have to look at the players. Example one and the only one I am going to use: Dallas gets an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Tennessee for excessive celebration after a TD. This costs them 15 yards and plays a pivotal role in them losing the game. This week, after their first TD against the Vikings they get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for excessive celebration. Ummm, I don’t care who the coach was, is, whatever – that is just dumb football.


1-3.

That didn’t quite go as planned, but then again, what has this year for the Cowboys? It has been an up and down ride thus far through four games. My analysis is no different than it has been for any of the other losses – too many penalties, too many turnovers, blah, blah, blah…we’ve heard it all before. The one thing many articles I’ve read this week are focusing on the run/pass ratio of Dallas. The one game they made a point to run was their lone win of the season at Houston. If you really look at it though, many of the runs came in the 4th quarter when Dallas had the lead so this is a bit misleading. Dallas believes it’s a passing team with all of the receiving threats that they have, but they cannot simply drop back and throw every time and win like the Colts, Saints, and Pats. They try to sprinkle in the run and keep the defense honest. I do believe they need to run the ball more, but is it really that simple? We’ve heard all season long how bad their offensive line is so what makes everyone think they can run the ball? Is running the ball just to run the ball going to be effective? I do think the offensive line is a little better than everyone thinks. The one thing that might happen if the Cowboys run more: less penalties. The offensive line struggles in pass protection which was clearly evident against Tennessee. This results in them holding and false starting more because they cannot consistently block their man straight up for the extended period of time that is needed. If they run the ball they only need to block their man for a short period of time.

Hey now, I am just trying to look on the bright side. They’re 1-3 so I think it’s more than just the run/pass ratio.


Sports Everywhere

The Dallas bye week is behind us. The MLB playoffs are underway. It is a great time to be a sports fan right now. The Ryder Cup was as thrilling as I’ve ever seen, albeit I have not seen many Ryder Cup’s in my short existence here. Either way, seeing Hunter Mahan duff a chip when the cup was on the line makes me feel a little better about my golf game; I am not quite sure why, but it does. Then again I am not sure I’d my golf game a golf game after the way I played last weekend. I think I ended up losing more golf balls than the number of holes I played.

Speaking of the MLB playoffs, there have been a number of great performances already. Roy Halladay threw the second postseason no-hitter ever, and it was his first postseason start – can we say clutch? Tim Lincecum also dominated last night striking out a SF Giants’ playoff record 14 batters. The Minnesota Twins have also put on quite a display. They have continued their utter abysmal play against the Yankees. It really is impressive that the Twins have scored first in the last 9 games against them and lost every one. And apparently the fans knew what they were doing in Tampa by not going to the games seeing as the Rays have been outscored 11-1 in the first two games. Who would have thought the Rangers would be in the ALCS this year? It is impressive, and they have as good of a chance has anyone to beat the Yankees.

I am thrilled Dallas will be back on the field this Sunday, and I will have more to root for than my fantasy guys. I will be watching to see if Dallas can get their first W at home this season against the Titans. I would prefer the duo of Tony Romo and Miles Austin to dominate the game and box score. That way the ‘Boys as well as my two fantasy teams will all finish the week as winners.

Until next time, enjoy…