Playing For the Other Team: The 7-Stages of Off-Season Grief
The New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions. Which leaves those of us who aren’t Patriots fans feeling as deflated as Tom Brady’s balls. For die-hard NFL addicts, now begins the 7 Stages of Off-Season Grief. For Seahawks fans, the misery began when the ‘Hawks pulled a “Packers” and made a ridiculous play call to lose the game. For me, it was when the Pack stopped playing football five minutes before the NFC Championship game ended. And for all you Vikings fans, well, I guess you’ve been suffering a bit longer.
The symptoms of grief are consistently the same every off-season. First, there’s denial. I felt it the second Russell Wilson completed his touchdown pass in overtime. For thirty precious seconds I let myself believe that we would get the ball back. That our season was not over. That we were still headed to the Super Bowl for a glorious Patriots/Packers rematch. But it was not to be. And not only would I be spending Super Bowl Sunday hiding my head in shame, but I also lost my Fantasy Football league to my wife. For the second year in a row. And she thinks Tom Brady’s name is Tony.
Then comes the guilt. Was it because I didn’t wear my lucky socks? They were nowhere to be found and I searched everywhere! Turns out my wife put them in the sock drawer, which is apparently “where they go.” Or maybe it was because the dogs weren’t in their Rufferee and Wide Retriever outfits? Sorry! I guess it wasn’t just me that put on a little extra of what I call “football padding” during the season, because they couldn’t squeeze their furry butts into them. Dear Lord, this was my fault. How could I have let everyone down so drastically?
But anger swiftly takes over. Wait a second — you know what? I wasn’t on the field! I wasn’t the backup tight end who tried to catch an onside kick and instead let it bounce off my helmet into the arms of the defender while our Pro Bowl wide receiver was just behind me waiting to catch it when I was supposed to be blocking. Looking at you, Brandon Bostick. I wasn’t the one trying to run out the clock with five football minutes left on the clock. Five football minutes is an eternity! I could binge-watch the entire series of Breaking Bad in five football minutes! Epic collapse.
Cue the depression. This is useless. Why do I even care? None of this even matters anymore, and neither does anything else, including laundry, house cleaning, or basic hygiene. Stacks of unread Sports Illustrateds I can’t stand to look at sit piled on the magazine rack. I turn to Facebook for support only to close my laptop in a panic upon reading friends’ good-natured evil ribbing. Though, to be honest, I might not be as depressed as those probably Julliard-trained dancers Katy Perry made perform in shark costumes. Dream come true, I’m sure. Left shark was like, “Forget this! No, really! I forget this!”
And then those GIFs and Vines start tugging at the corners of my mouth, and I find myself entering an upward turn. Drowning myself in repeat viewings of Marshawn Lynch press conferences helps, and I decide this week I’m going to start every work meeting with, “I’m here so I won’t get fined.” Every time a server asks for my order, I’m going to try, “You know why I’m here.”
Besides, I realize, the off-season is a period of reconstruction. Not only do I have seven months to work off the beer belly I’ve been diligently fostering, but the Pack can toss some of those broken links. This means you, Special Teams Coordinator! Out with the old, in with the new! When God closes a door, he holds the NFL Draft!
And thus, finally and thankfully, there is acceptance and hope. Aaron Rodgers is still the league’s MVP. Teddy Bridgewater was Rookie of the Year! There ya go, Vikes fans, you might have found a franchise QB! Even Michael Sam gets another shot this off-season. Off-season? There is no off-season for an NFL fan! There are football blogs to be read! College players and free agents to be analyzed! Mock drafts to be made up! This is only the beginning! And as any true fan knows – this year is our year!