I remember stretches of days where I just LOVED being a sports fan. You know that I’m talking about – those days where every team you root for manages to pull it out and it just seems like nothing can go wrong. Here in Boston, this past weekend was the opposite. From the Celtics to the Bruins to the Patriots, each team managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and it was hard to watch. On the bright side, none of the teams were eliminated from anything and, even in defeat, there are some positive take-aways.
Patriots: Let’s start with the most painful one first (and the one with the most to discuss). Quite simply, this was a game we should have won. We totally outplayed the Colts for 56 minutes, but couldn’t close the deal. And it wasn’t just the ‘interesting’ clock management and decision making by the head coach. With 4 minutes left we were up 13 and the Colts were 80 yards from the endzone. Giving up the game at that point is inexcusable. Looking back over the entire game, however, we see that the Patriots left, at best, 10 and, at worst, 18 points on the field because of failures to convert key plays and redzone turnovers. Despite dominating throughout they let the Colts hang around and, in this league, when you do that you often pay for it.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on “the play.” I am not one of those who is going to jump all over Belichick for going for it on 4th down at his own 28 with just over 2 minutes remaining. I don’t agree with the call (and I said so before the play) but I do understand the rationale. A first down seals the win and a punt allows one of the top 2 QBs in the league a chance to win it. Think about it. When the Pats were facing that 4th down, was there any doubt in your mind that Manning was going to be able to drive his team down the field and put them in a position to win? None in mine. Do I trust a banged-up and tired D vs. Manning or Brady to get two yards against a fairly inexperienced Colts D? Tough choice.
I’ve looked at replays and pictures of Faulk’s catch and boy is it close. It seems to me that he initially made the catch somewhere around the 31 yard line and did bobble the ball momentarily. However, he regained full control at the 30 yard line which would have been enough for the first down. Either way, don’t you think it odd that the official who made the call was positioned in such a way that he could NOT have seen Faulk’s arms. He made the call looking at Kevin’s back. Sure, the Patriots should not have been so careless with their timeouts so they could have had the option to challenge the play, but that doesn’t excuse the official being in the wrong position to make that call. However, I am pretty sure (and I’ve read a few others who agree) that Faulk did have enough for what should have been a game-winning first down. One final note on this: If Coach Belichick knew he was going to go for it on 4th down (and I’m sure he did) why not run on third down to keep the clock moving and get you a bit closer. I have more of a problem with that call than I do with the decision to go for it.
What are the ramifications? Well the failure to put the Colts away will cost us any shot at the #1 seed and, because the Bengals are playing so well (I can’t believe I just wrote that), will make getting a first-round bye a real challenge. Does this mean we won’t go to the Super Bowl? Absolutely not. But it does mean that the road to Miami won’t go through cold and snowy Foxboro and that, my friends, will make the road much more difficult for Brady and company.
Bruins: The B’s have been tough to figure out all season. They have some real talent on their roster yet have had trouble scoring. They have one of the best goalies in the NHL, yet have had days where they seem to forget how to play defense. However, they are still a fun team to watch and that is why I, and many other Bostonians, were so keyed up for the tilt against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Sadly, the incredible excitement when they scored twice in three minutes to take a lead with just over 2 minutes remaining was so cruelly dashed. Even when Pitt. got possession of the puck in their defensive zone with about 10 seconds left, I NEVER thought there was any chance they could mount an attack in time. But attack they did and, old friend, Bill Guerin put it past Thomas with a scant .4 seconds on the clock. We were .4 seconds away from a HUGE win against one of the best teams in the NHL. After that, it was no surprise we lost in OT and the one point we got was no consolation.
Celtics: The Celtics are one of the best teams in the NBA and will certainly be one of the top seeds in the playoffs again this year. However, this weekend, they played like they were all hung-over or thinking about something other than basketball. Losing to Atlanta can be excused – the Hawks are a good team and seem to always play the Celtics tough. However we have so much more talent than the Pacers and our sloppy and unfocused play pretty much handed them the game. It is time to get back to fundamentals. Losing 2 in a row and 3 out of 5 makes me nervous!
With all that gloom out of the way, let’s end with some positive take-aways.
1. The Patriots were about 24 inches (or an official’s mistake) away from knocking off an undefeated team, on the road. Even in defeat we showed we are still among the top teams in the AFC and, by extension, the NFL.
2. The Brady to Moss connection worked a couple of times and, once again, we were able to establish a running game.
3. The Bruins showed that they can play in a high-scoring game against a very good offense.
4. The Celtics are, well, the Celtics. They will be fine.
5. Even with all the losses, the Pats still lead the AFC east by 2 games and are only 1 game behind the Bengals for the #2 seed in the playoffs.
6. The Celtics still have a 2.5 game lead in their division and are .5 game behind Atlanta for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Finally, not to be cheesy, but I got to watch the games with some pretty awesome and fun people and had a really fun time watching the games. At the heart of it, isn’t that what sports are all about. Having fun watching with good people. Ok, you caught me. I’m just saying that because we lost, but it sounds good right? 🙂
This post is dedicated to my loving and patient wife, Lindsey. With the football season underway, she has truly become a “Football Widow” and I, for one, am very grateful to her for it. Click that link for an awesome post about football widows and some tips if you are still adjusting to life as one. I would like to add a few tips of my own however:
1. Sign up for emails from the team. Lindsey gets a daily email from the Red Sox with news/updates and, sometimes, even ticket offers. I assure you, there is nothing better than getting a phone call from your spouse because he/she wants to talk about what the Sox will do now that Kottaras is on the DL or because the team just released a block of seats for the game that night. Knowledge is sexy and nothing beats sports knowledge.
2. Understand that 2 minutes doesn’t actually mean 2 minutes.
3. If you are going to watch the game, make sure you have a couple of sports-related comments or reactions prepared and understand the proper time to use them. Last night, we were watching the Packers-Bears game and Lindsey, after a particularly jarring hit, made a ouch sound and commented that that looked like a painful way to fall. She waited until after the play, during the reply to make the comment and left it at that. Perfect! (NOTE: This is an advanced tip and must be practiced before being used in a game situation)
4. Understand and appreciate the pain your significant other feels when he/she has to miss a game. It could be for a happy reason (wedding, art show) or a sad reason (funeral). The pain is still there and anything you can do to ease that pain is appreciated. Along those lines, learn early on if getting the score is what is best, or if your partner prefers to wait until later to watch highlights or DVR or something. If the latter, then you must do everything in your power to protect your partner from score information. You are like the secret service and the score is an assassin’s bullet. It is that serious.
5. Even if the game has just ended…and your partner has watched the whole game…he/she will still want to watch the highlights. Highlights provide additional insight, extreme pleasure/pain, and are a relaxing way to wide down after the game. The “5th Quarter” isn’t as important as the first four, but it can be close. However, don’t force the highlights on them. If their team has suffered a terrible loss, they may choose to not watch the highlights. Respect that.
6. Let me give you a sense of the requirements of each day of the week during the football season:
Monday: Wind-down after an exciting Sunday. Trash talk (nicely) your colleagues who may be fans of other teams. Read MMQB on cnnsi or whatever your favorite recap articles are. Prepare for the MNF game (s) by making any last minute changes to your fantasy lineup and game watching plans.
Tuesday: Celebrate or cry over your success/losses in each fantasy league you are in (including pick ’em, or eliminator) and begin to game plan for the upcoming weekend. What worked/didn’t work and how can we make appropriate changes. Today is also a good day to spend some quality time with box scores looking at all appropriate information (how well did your players do? What defenses showed some holes? How involved were players in the game plan? etc…)
Wednesday: First injury reports are released today, so be prepared to act accordingly. Also, many fantasy leagues have a 3-day waiver period, so today is a really good day to pick up someone you want to have available for the coming Sunday. (Of course, if there is a Thursday game, this throws a wrench into these plans….)
Thursday: If there is a game, make sure you make all your picks and line-up changes in time. If there is a game on Thursday, it is nationally televised so the NFL thinks it is a game you will want to watch. Trust them.
Friday: This has been the day that I tend to make my picks and “finalize” my lineups. Obviously, I will make late adjustments as the games draw near, but I like to spend some time on Friday looking at injury reports and making decisions about which team will win
Saturday: 3 important jobs: 1. Finalize your game-watching plans. 2. If you are into CFB, watch some games. 3. Do any chores/errands so you are not feeling stress on Sunday.
Sunday: Football time starts early. Make sure you have a good pre-game plan (shows? cooking?). As game-time draws near, pop open that first beer (try to make it from the region your team is from but, at the very least, do not drink a beer brewed in your opponents city. That is asking for trouble!) and enjoy the games.
Anyway, I’m lucky that Lindsey has become a true Red Sox fan (hard not to in Boston), is really into the Bruins, is getting into the Celtics and tolerates the Patriots. Maybe she’ll have more insight into coping mechanisms or how to make the transition from casual fan to true fan. Because, when all is said and done, the best way to watch a game is with your interested and excited partner.