Monday, September 24, 2007

Lucky Socks

For a football fan, perhaps the biggest thrill you can experience comes from seeing your team win a game in the final seconds, and the biggest letdown is losing a close game. A blowout win or loss doesn’t seem to have the same emotional effect on us—perhaps because most of us have never actually stayed around to see the final seconds of a blowout loss, and we assume all of the Packers' games should be blowout wins, so we aren’t surprised when that actually happens.

But after this intense feeling of elation or depression fades, and the passage of time gives us a chance to look back at the game with at least a certain degree of objectivity, it’s an interesting exercise to ask the question: Why did the Packers win in such thrilling fashion? Or, Why couldn’t the Packers pull the game out at the end?

There are a number of factors that contribute to a team’s ability to win close games, and with the razor thin talent margin between so many NFL teams these days, that ability is critical to staying in the playoff hunt.

With the Packers, for the last decade and a half, it’s been pretty easy to identify one of the chief reasons the Packers win more close games than they lose: Brett Favre’s amazing will to win, or we could also say, his absolute refusal to lose. Having a player like #4 as your leader is bound to make the other players on the team more confident of victory. And in any profession, if you approach your task with confidence you are more likely to succeed.

The other important reason the Packers have been able to win so many close games over the years is:


I don’t know how many hundreds of NFL games I’ve watched, but I’ve seen enough to come to the conclusion that the collective will to win of a team’s fan base is a kind of energy that is transmitted to the players on the field. And I don’t just mean the so-called “12th Man” the media speaks of, the fans attending the games whose raucous enthusiasm creates a hostile atmosphere for the opposing team.

I would include the millions of Packer fans around the world who have never set foot on the Lambeau Field parking lot—or have never even been to Wisconsin. These are the loyal fans who gather in sports bars all around the country and live or die by how the Packers perform on Sunday. And of course the fans who put on their green and gold garb on Sunday morning and stay at home and watch the game on satellite TV.

How, you might ask, can the stay-at-home fan in California or South Carolina contribute to a Packer victory in faraway Lambeau Field? I’ve learned the hard way that for your team to be successful it is extremely important for you, the fan, to have a pregame ritual, and never deviate from it.

The two key aspects of the ritual are: 1) What you eat for breakfast on Sunday; 2) What you wear to watch the game.

The consequences of not sticking to the ritual can be disastrous, as you'll see in the blog that follows.

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