Last night I spent my time watching the Colts and the Eagles win playoff games. The entire football season has built to these moments where winner and loser are barely defined and small moments can cost the entire game. To a seasoned football lover like myself, few things match the drama of the game.
Today, the Green Bay Packers are playing. They’re my home team. For most sports fans, football is a love that has gradients between die hard and casual, but often the line between these is defined by how much the person is into the entire concept of football and how much it’s just something to watch each sunday. The Packers are not this kind of team. I am on the one end of the interest gradient reading ESPN and following the team in detail and my mother is on the other end of the spectrum where she doesn’t care about anything else except for wins and losses.
She shouts louder than I do during the game.
To me, that’s the essence of Packers fandom. She doesn’t know half of what my father and I know, but she is more devoted to the franchise than pretty much anyone else I know. She boos, she shouts, she is entirely in love with watching the game every sunday. Being a Packers fan is caught up in it being part of life.
It’s been part of my life since I was 7. That’s the earliest that I can remember watching the game when Brett Favre was playing on our small and slightly dysfunctional TV set. I didn’t understand half of what was going on, but I was in love with it. And growing up just 35 miles away from the stadium (which is very close in the USA for a rural state like Wisconsin), the love of the game is at a high that the lone Bears fan at our church had to playfully dodge insults and rivalry whenever the Packers and Bears met. Then I grew up playing two hand touch in a large yard near my house and collecting cards. The game became more dramatic as it became a chess match between offensive and defensive coordinators playing their games with players. The game became deep with its precision and athleticism.
But during the game today my mom will shout louder.
And she will shout louder than during the regular season.
The playoff game marks what could be a final run to the Superbowl. In 2010 the Packers were in worse shape, but pieced together a winning run and took the trophy at the end. Today is the first step toward recreating that run. The team is without some players, but the two biggest weapons just returned to the field and last week clinched the game in dramatic fashion. It could be anyone’s game.
And that’s the drama of playoffs in football. I’ve watched the world cup, and there’s terrific drama there. But in football there’s so much precision that is down to tenths of a second in how fast someone can run 40 yards, there’s a world of tension that each play holds. And every failure to do exactly as expected will be matched by a bigger play for the opponent. And everyone plays at a higher level. And because of that, anyone can lose, any top seed can lose to a bottom seed, and the win-loss record from the regular season doesn’t really matter in the end. Last night I saw the Colts come back from the second largest deficit in NFL history. The game was called half way through. And then it all shifted. The game, like almost all playoff games, hung on the very last possession. The game is always in jeopardy. This isn’t like Spain holding the ball to pass time and never make a play forcing the game to come to an anticlimactic finish. In football, the last 2 minutes are often the minutes where everyone steps up, the play elevates, and games are won or lost by thin margins.
Football playoffs are filled with that unique tension, one that lasts for 3 hours. And at the end, I, and my mom, are usually exhausted from the extended adrenaline rush. I’ll shout, I’ll wince, and I’ll hope that the Packers pull one off.