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Once again, it’s September in the NFL. All over the country, fans feel a new found sense of hope. The most beautiful thing about sports remains to be that no matter how much speculation goes into a game, at the end of the day, the game still has to be played.
This adage is no truer than in the NFL, where for hundreds of hours every week, media constantly banters about who will win games, which players are the best, who will win MVP awards, who will play in the super bowl, etc. It goes on and on year round, simply third party speculation.
If there’s something the NFL teaches any fan, it is to expect the unexpected. Surely no one expected the Packers making their run at the Super Bowl prior to the 2011 season with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Not to mention the analyst that predicted the Baltimore Ravens winning the super bowl after dropping four of their final five regular season games.
Now, those unexpected championship-winning teams are part of football lore and what makes the game so beautiful. Football is a game of sheer will and coincidence, and less of a clear cut science.
From time to time it seems fans forget that the teams are full of passionate people, not just football playing robots with preprogrammed skill levels. In the NFL, anybody can be great any day of the week, it’s vitally important that we don’t over-speculate on the successes and/or failures of teams.
At the end of the day, it comes down to whoever is the best team on that particular day, a trait that is near impossible to measure.
Being the guy who picked the Falcons and the Texans to play in the Super Bowl last year, I know firsthand that what is expected in the NFL can drastically change at any given moment. Were the Giants supposed to beat the 18-0 (undefeated) Patriots in Super bowl 42? Was Aaron Rodgers supposed to be the next innovator of the quarterback position? Was Joe Flacco supposed to tie Joe Montana’s record of 11 TD’s and 0 picks over 4 post season games? Of course, in the world of logic and reason that is sports media, none of these things were conceivable possibilities, but often we forget that sports journalism is just talk.
When all is said and done, the unpredictability of the NFL will prevail and I’m sure in just a few years’ time, the world will be shocked again, leaving writers like me looking foolish.
But isn’t that just the point?
No one wants a sport that is predictable or that can easily be capsulated, understood and mastered. The beauty of football is the struggle every week, where even teams like Cleveland and Oakland play week in and week out just as hard as any other team, only to fall short and receive constant criticisms from media and fans alike.
The NFL isn’t about the rules, big hits and excitement. The National Football League is about the test of human will and resiliency that comes every year from September to February.
In a speech to the Baltimore Ravens in the locker room, John Harbaugh delivers a message about resiliency: “You’ve got the hearts of lions. Good things, bad things, it doesn’t matter, that’s who you are. … And everyone’s talking about what we couldn’t do, and what we wouldn’t do, and what we shouldn’t do, right? You did it week after week, day after day.”
In these words, Harbaugh captures the popular mentality of teams around the NFL. Simply, in Harbaugh’s own words, “It doesn’t matter what they say.”