Saturday, October 21, 2006

Coping With A Losing Season

Make no mistake about it: I think the Green Bay Packers will turn their season around and end on a very positive note. But unlike some of the windbags who do sports commentary on TV, I’m willing to concede the slight, even infinitesimal possibility, that I could be wrong. What do I mean by a “windbag”? Well, here’s an example of one, a quote I pulled from and their NFL Sunday anal-yst Jimmy Johnson:

"Two years ago, Brett Favre would have been too big for Mike McCarthy to control. Now people have grown tired of all his retirement talk and of his 29 interceptions ... I know I am."

Just like the wind, gusts of nonsense like this blow away and are quickly forgotten. Let’s just hit the delete key. And Jimmy’s quote now looks like:

Much better.

Fortunately, there are some strategies fans can employ to endure--even enjoy-- losing seasons. Because Packer fans don’t have much recent experience with defeat, I researched this topic by calling friends of mine who root for perennially awful teams. They were kind enough to give me some very good ideas on how to keep Sunday suffering to a minimum when your team’s season slides down into the dumpster.

Physical Activity. Do you ever notice how NFL players seem to bounce back quickly from a bad loss, but fans of the teams remain in the dumps all week? The reason is physiological. Vigorous exercise releases chemicals in the brain that produce a feeling of bliss, even euphoria. This allows players to forget about last week’s loss and focus on the upcoming game.

(You remember euphoria…like when Al Harris picked off Hasselback in the playoff game and ran it back for a touchdown.

What a wonderful feeling that was…)

Getting out and exercising, then, is one way to rid the mind of unpleasant thoughts about a bad game. One disclaimer though: Tubby-wubbies who haven’t gotten up off the couch in, say, 25 years or so, should visit their doctor before starting any strenuous exercise. We don’t want to lose loyal fans to sudden heart attacks.

Go to the Movies. Hollywood is suffering from a drop-off in box office receipts lately. This trend is troubling because it means Hollywood studios won’t have enough money to make good movies anymore. (Bad movies are generally much less costly to produce than good ones). Even though it may be difficult to sit through some of the dreary, incomprehensible films being shown today, it’s important we support the fabulous American institution called “the movies” so they will someday be able to afford to bring us better films.

Attend Church on Sunday. Churches are those buildings you see people going in and out of while you’re on your way to the store to buy salami and cheese before kickoff. On Sundays in these buildings they put on several shows they call “services.” Churches usually have rousing music to begin the game, and a Coach who stands up and gives an inspirational message at half-time of the service. The Coach offers forgiveness to those in attendance for all the plays they messed up the previous week. And several lessons are usually read from the playbook. Prayer for the sick is always encouraged, whether you’re talking about an anemic offense, or a defense that has lost its way.

House Cleaning. One friend of mine, when the Pack falls behind by 10 points or more, immediately begins frantic house cleaning. She still pops in and out of the TV room to check on the score, but by keeping busy swinging the mop or broom, she doesn’t have to witness the football carnage in its gruesome entirety. By the end of last season, her house was pretty much spotless. A surgeon could have set up shop in her kitchen and built up a successful practice. In fact, you can walk in her front door on a Sunday evening and immediately tell the Packers went down to defeat that day, by the overpowering scent of Pine-Sol wafting through her house.

Stay Away From Dyspeptic “Chat” Forums on the Internet. I used to think a viable way of getting rid of negative emotions built up during a losing game was to visit football forums and “vent.” I’ve come to the conclusion that this does an individual more harm than good. For one thing, you encounter people on these sites who claim to be so close to the team that they know what’s going on behind the closed doors of the locker room. The information these people provide is generally unreliable, because with a losing team, not even the players themselves understand what’s going on in the locker room. And the coaches surely don’t.

Also, the solutions to the team’s woes offered by the relentlessly negative “posters” on these sites are generally not too practical, taking the form of: “Fire the Coach!” “Fire the GM” “Fire the Players!” “Fire the Groundskeeper!” The rhetoric can get nastier than a board meeting at Hewlett-Packard. And according to some of these chat folks, the only indispensable participants in the Packers' efforts are the people who sell the beer at the stadium.

Travel. Since gas prices are dropping back to reasonable levels, it might be a good idea to re-invent that old pastime, The Sunday Drive. Get in the car right before kickoff and explore our great country for three hours or so. See the vibrant Fall colors. Stop and buy a pumpkin or two. Bring plenty of music CDs so you aren’t tempted to get the game on the car radio. And never, ever, stop at a sports bar for lunch. Packing a tasty picnic lunch and a blanket to spread out in a verdant meadow is a much better idea.

But, as you venture out into nature always remember: Don’t Feed the Bears.

Use Technology to Create Your Own Imaginary World. I have a video collection of 50 or so Packer victories I have taped over the last few years. We used to play these during the long off-season, but it can also work to put one of these in the VCR on Sunday, and pretend that game is today’s game. In the glorious little world of my VCR, the Packers always finish the season 16-0.

Admittedly, this requires a certain suspension of disbelief, like when you see commercials for TV series that were cancelled a long time ago and you only have a dim memory of having seen them. But despite the passage of time, some things do remain constant, such as the remarkable breadth of John Madden’s waistline.


Coby DuBose said...

That's classic stuff. I wish I had stumbled across advice like this when the Panthers went 1-15 with Chris Weinkie a few years back. Talk about a long, tough season. That one was brutal. It was almost enough to make me quit watching...nevermind.

Mike said...

Well we ended up 8-8, normally I wouldn't find that very good but we just barely missed the post-season, I think it was by a tie-breaker but it could of been by a game, not entirely sure.

Casey said...

Thanks for the advice! I know how hard it is to cope with losing games, being a Redskins fan here. It's tough, and you're right, fans seem to be upset all week. But, a new game brings new hope.

Sanam said...

Truly inspiring thoughts that would help in coping with failure in other aspects of life as well. If you get too low after loss of a game, you lose your focus. Best way is to spend most of the time looking ahead instead of behind.

Sanam said...

You suggested a great approach, though I must say that it could be difficult to follow. But definitely this approach is a gradual buildup to the next game. Let loss of a game not rob us of our enthusiasm.

Rajbir Singh said...

Yes, definitely. If you can’t enjoy a game, whether won or lost then I think you’re in this for all the wrong reasons. Right kind of positive stress can help keep you on your toes, ready to rise to a challenge next time.

bob said...

"Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose" The most important thing is you know how to rise up every time you fall.