I have been watching a lot of football this season and I am noticing a trend. Long before the final clock runs out, there is a quarterback on the sidelines hanging his head, dejected, towel over his face. I want to reach through the screen and shake him and scream WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THE GAME IS NOT OVER YET! The quarterback is the leader of the team. He calls the plays and directs players on the field. So why is he giving up before the game is over? I saw this with my home team, the Carolina Panthers. I’ve seen it with my all-time favorite Dallas Cowboys. And I saw it yesterday during a play-off game with the New England Patriots.
I got news for these quarterbacks. If your team mates see you looking all down in the dumps because the game is not going well at a particular moment, it brings them down. They lose their steam. And the third quarter looking rough does not mean that you won’t score again. It does not mean the game is lost. You cannot give up.
If you follow football, you know that the quarterback gets blamed for everything. While I feel this is not fair, after all he is part of a team, when the game is not going well is when you need the quarterback to step up and lead. Even if it means nothing more than NOT looking dejected on the sidelines. Get aggravated. Get mad. Talk to the coaches and your team mates. But don’t ever give up. Don’t let anyone see you give up.
Many people say that American football players are whiny kids playing a game for a lot of money. Yes, sometimes they whine just like we all do. And yes, they get paid well. But they also train very hard to be the best at what they do. At least they earn their money (unlike some politicians I could mention). They put their bodies and minds on the line every time they put on their pads and step onto the field. I read an article in ESPN magazine about Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and how he developed a work ethic back in his college days. Romo wasn’t the best player on the team. But when he saw that he needed to work on something he practiced and practiced until he got good at it. He does the same today, studying game footage to see where mistakes were made and where he needs improvement and then he takes that to the field to work on those issues. One of his team mates said he did not know anyone who worked harder to perfect his game. That is how you become a leader.
Let’s talk about the fans for a moment. I have been a football fan for as long as I can remember. My dad was a Redskins fan. So of course I had to pull for the Cowboys just to aggravate him. The Cowboys are still my team, even after my home state got their own NFL franchise. Football fans are loyal, rabid, passionate, and insane. Fans will cheer and boo and have superstitions (yes, I’m talking about the beer ads). If these athletes are going to risk broken bones and concussions to play the game, we owe it to them to be as fanatical about our fandoms as they are about competing. However, when our team loses, we should hold the whole team accountable (coaching staff included). The flip side of this is that we have to be accountable as fans. The NFC playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers was played in the noisiest stadium in the league. The crowd has set records for how many decibels they can reach. Quite the opposite from the AFC game at Denver. I saw the big screen flash “Quiet please. The quarterback is talking.” And the crowd would be so quiet when Denver had the ball that Manning was heard clearly throughout the stadium. These crowd responses are what fans should be doing in every stadium.
So, remember this as you prepare for Superbowl weekend: do not blame the quarterback; cheer like your life depends on it; respect the effort put into making a professional athlete. And have fun. That’s what these guys are doing on the field. It should be fun. And we should have fun watching the game, not just the commercials.