Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. This is his first offering for Houston Sports and Stuff. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
Not that many years ago I was like most fans of any team playing any sport. I knew what players my team should put on the field, what plays they should run, and what moves they should make in the off season. I was invested. I watched every game I could and tried to learn everything I could about all my favorite players. I didn’t follow any other teams that closely and believed anything that was bad for my team was some sort of crime. I wasn’t alone and over the years I had gotten into many an argument with friends and family about why the Packers were the best team regardless of anything else. Then came that life-changing moment.
In 2011, after the Packers had just won Super Bowl XLV they hired longtime sportswriter Vic Ketchman to be the senior editor of their website. In his 40+ years of covering the Steelers and Jaguars, he came to the Packers with a wealth of knowledge and understanding about the NFL. Specifically, what makes teams successful. With him came a column he started in Jacksonville called “Ask Vic” that allows fans to write in and ask any questions they want answered by a career sportswriter. There are many great things about the column, like Vic’s no-nonsense banter and reading the insane questions posed by angry fans. But the best thing to come out of that column is wisdom; especially that of gaining perspective as a sports fan. What you’re reading now is intended to provide you with some of the same perspective I received in order to make us all better fans and the games more enjoyable to watch.
First things first. We fans are not a part of our favorite teams. If we were we would be getting paid to be as invested as we are. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have our opinions, but voicing them in anger and frustration like we do is the wrong approach. We yell and scream at the people who are paid to ignore those yells and screams and then we get frustrated when we are ignored. With that in mind, let’s all take a step back and enjoy the games while respecting the decisions of those who are paid to make them. If you don’t like a play call that doesn’t work, believe in the leadership to see the same thing and make the right choice to fix what went wrong. If a player on the field sucks, believe in the coaches who see them every day to decide if his bad play is worthy of benching. The sooner fans learn to watch the game without coaching from the couch the sooner they can enjoy the full value of their viewing experience.
Now that we have stepped back and quietened our screams we can go forth with watching. Now we can appreciate how difficult it is to play the game. That includes everything that happens on the other team as well. Don’t forget, they get paid to play the game too. It’s time we all stop hating the players we see on the opposite side of the ball and learn to appreciate the skill and strategy it takes to play professional sports. Personally, I love close hard fought games regardless of the outcome. That has only happened through perspective and understanding. It’s only a small percentage of people that make it to the professional level of sports and recognizing the talent they have provides you with the opportunity to enjoy all facets of the game. Even the ones that don’t go your way.
Soon enough the season will be over and it will be time for teams to add players or let them go one way or the other. If you don’t already know, your team has an army of people whose sole purpose is to find those players to fill the roster next season. I know we have all done our own scouting through TV personalities and various websites but maybe, just maybe, the people getting paid know some things we don’t. As a Packer fan I am keenly aware of this. I watched them draft Davante Adams after re-signing Jordy Nelson then doing the same thing the next year with regards to Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb. How did that work? What about being patient with Datone Jones and Nick Perry? They are both first round picks who have taken several years to become the players they were drafted to be. My point is this; let your team handle scouting, drafting and player development. It’s more relaxing to wait and see what the future holds for these players than to waste time trying to predict it.
That pretty much covers all the phases of a league year. Hopefully you have taken what I said to heart. It’s up to you to hear this message and gain some perspective of your own. Trust me, it makes watching the game a whole lot better. Since I’ve backed off my fanaticism I have learned to appreciate more teams than my own, more players than my own, and gained more knowledge about the game as a whole. It makes me a lot smarter as well. I can preach patience to my friends when their teams do things they don’t like. All good things for the sports fan in all of us. I know we’ve all heard it before but it’s true, there’s always next year. Only one team can win the championship and if it wasn’t your team then they are one of many. Get over it, get some perspective and wait to see what comes next for your favorite team. On the other hand, if you’re team is a perennial loser, go into a padded room and scream. Then get over it, get some perspective and wait to see what comes next for your favorite team.