It is an unwelcomed yet familiar feeling that we have all experienced. That moment when your dream has been extinguished and there seems to be not even a smoldering ember buried beneath the failure. It happens every day for someone and in Green Bay, the little town that football built, the devastation of a Super Bowl dream dashed is real. The kaleidoscope of emotions is as relentless and diverse as the snowflakes of a Wisconsin snow storm.
It is a whiteout of white hot emotions and blinding perspective.
Too many fans are irrationally too upset at this hat trick of Packer catastrophes. They are quick to ask for people’s jobs and send players packing as they identify the villains that have sparked these failures. They lament the hours they have committed to this team and some vow to never watch them play again. The extreme fanatics have even issued death threats to the green and gold criminals they deem responsible. It can be a scary, extreme and completely unrealistic reaction to an event they have absolutely no say in. Not even their framed Packer stock certificate can be considered safe.
I have never coached or played at an elite level like the NFL. As a high school coach for decades I do understand the time, effort and emotion that go into each season. I can only imagine that at the elite level that commitment is tenfold. The year-round training, the sacrifice for some of living away from their families, the injuries they play through and the public scrutiny of their lives is something few us know anything about. I can only laugh at fans that believe their level of commitment, in any way shape of form, comes close to what the players and coaches endure. I have even less time for those who throw stones from their warm and comfortable Lay-Z-Boys.
My first question is how many of us have set a goal to be the absolute best at their particular craft? How many of us have really honestly tried to climb that mountain? And I am not even talking about just being the best in your company or perhaps local field of competition, but the best in the country or maybe even the world. If you have never planned and started that journey I don’t believe you have any rationale comprehension of its degree of difficulty. And if you have, maybe your quest is largely dependent upon just you, not forty-five teammates and multiple coaches. In a team sport, the weakest link is not within your control, and all are dependent upon each person doing their job perfectly.
In each of the Packers last three playoff loses and those before that, we have identified those who did not do their job perfectly. Brandon Bostick will forever be a part of Packer infamy. Packer head coach Matt LaFleur accurately stated, “It's never one individual's fault”. It is one of the key building blocks in the foundation of any successful team; you win and lose as a team. Mistakes and failures are an unavoidable component of every athletic contest. There is multiple potential game changing plays from start to finish. Unified team accountability is paramount to team success.
Only one team finishes the season with a win, is often the battle cry of those who come up short. If you are an accountant or a dentist or work for a restaurant and we put you in a contest against the thirty-one best in your field from across the country, how would you do? The magnitude of the task of winning a Super Bowl is something most of us can’t realistically process. While Tom Brady has admittedly made it look easy, it is not. Reaching the top of the mountain is dependent upon multiple factors, many of which are completely out of your control. In the NFL one of those factors may be your quarterback. Packer fans should not mistake the blossoming and hungry, “chip-on-his-shoulder” Aaron Rodgers of 2010 for the current version. And as valuable as quarterback play is both Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen got sent home last weekend and Allen couldn’t have possibly played any better. It always comes down to a total team effort.
I can sheepishly admit some of my overreactions to Packer defeats in the past. My long and winding journey to win a state championship has taught me just how challenging a task it is to achieve. My pride in completing each journey, now far exceeds my disappointment in the result. Our obligation as a fan is to be entertained and not consumed by their dream. We should applaud those who have dedicated themselves to their craft and be proud of another thirteen win season. The debilitating emotions of coming up short should be reserved for those who were actually climbing the mountain, not those just observing. Imagine the passion inside David Bakhtiari, after twelve months of grueling rehab to get on the field at Detroit, but not at Lambeau Field on Saturday night. That is real heartbreak and disappointment.
As he should, head coach Matt LaFleur accepted the blame and held himself accountable for the Packer’s loss. It is part of the job description of any coach who expects to stay employed in professional sports. LaFleur promised to do the only thing he can do, move on and learn from the experience. "We've got to keep searching for whatever it is to help us get over the hump,” said the coach who has engineered three straight thirteen win regular seasons. “My commitment to this organization, to the players, our coaches, our fans, everybody is we are going to be relentless in that pursuit to get us over the hump." The irony for me is those who praise him all season long as a blossoming coaching “genius”, then are ready to fire him in the post-season. In the ultra-competitive world of the NFL, few if any jobs are scrutinized like an NFL coach. How would most of us do if we had our competitors pouring over video of our day-to-day operation? No coach develops game plans or plays they expect to fail. No coach teaches players to make game changing mistakes. That human element is what makes sports so unpredictable and exciting.
Every journey to the mountain top begins with one step. For those who have never taken that single step toward that seemingly unreachable dream, maybe consider taking a step back from your unreasonable and unwarranted emotional melt down. Theodore Roosevelt captured the essence of those who willingly and enthusiastically chase their dreams.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Those who have chased their dreams understand there is a vast difference between being in the arena and simply at the arena. I wish everybody understood the difference.
Dan Bauer is a free-lance writer, retired teacher & hockey coach in Wausau, WI. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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