The Afternoon After: Dealing with defeat comes with age

Here are my weekly thoughts on football. As always, I’ll reiterate I’m hardly a scholar of the sport.

Not good

Having my beloved Dolphins on Monday Night Football last night really brought me back to when I was growing up, when that sort of thing was a very big deal.

I remember in high school, being buried in class in a Tim Bowens or Karim Abdul-Jabbar jersey, counting down the hours until I was free to watch Dan Marino take the field under the lights. I relished in the fact that every sports fan was essentially forced to pay as much attention to my favorite team as I did, at least for a short amount of time.

It was before the Internet, when there wasn’t as much opportunity to read about or watch an out-of-market team, especially for a Miami fan in New Jersey. So I’d watch the countdown shows and eat up the Dolphins highlights. I’d pick up some pizza or buffalo wings, back when I ate like a human being and had never heard of soy. It was truly an event for me.

Last night kind of recaptured that spirit a bit. With the Dolphins set to take on the Patriots on ESPN, my girlfriend and my longtime best friend came over, we all got some food from the Italian restaurant around the corner, and I shook up some martinis.

And then Miami proceeded to get devastated by the Patriots.

That, in itself, was a throwback. I remember getting all pumped up to watch the Dolphins play the 49ers on Monday night in 1995, the legendary Don Shula’s final year at the helm. Dan Marino hit Gary Clark for a long touchdown to tie it at 7, and I was ecstatic that it seemed my boys could hang with the powerful Niners. Of course, Jerry Rice had something to say about that, scoring two touchdowns as the Dolphins lost, 44-20.

Last night, late in the first half the Dolphins clung fast to a 7-3 advantage – we can hang with these guys! – and of course, they ended up losing, 41-14, based on a disastrous special teams performance that got their ST coach fired.

In the words of Jay-Z – and countless others – the more things change, the more they stay the same.

What I did find different, however, is the nature of accepting such a high-profile loss for my team. In my younger days, I would end up being so frustrated that I would actually have trouble falling sleep that night, anxious about the taunts I’d receive at school the next day, not realizing that I cared far more than everyone else did.  I think I took the losses harder than the coaches did.

Last night, I turned the game off, finished my martini and went to bed.

I guess what’s changed is that I’ve had a few more years – to say the least – under my belt. To me, it’s enough just having teams that I still swear by after all this time, regardless of the result. Your teams become a legitimate part of your identity, but it doesn’t mean that it necessarily enhances your life tenfold if they win a particular game. Even when Duke – my alma mater – won it all back in April, I enjoyed the night, celebrated the next day and then moved on to baseball.

It used to flat-out ruin my week if the Dolphins would lose, compounded by the fact that they wouldn’t again play for 7-8 days. But honestly, I really have so much more going on now. It’s my busiest month at work, for example, and I have a few projects of my own I’d like to sink my teeth into – not to mention my favorite holiday, Halloween, is around the corner.

We still love our teams and invest our time and attention into them. But as we get older, it’s difficult to devote quite as much of ourselves. We simply have more going on. Our teams still help define who we are, but more than that, who we have become defines itself.

With all that said… a day later, I’m still wondering, how in the hell do you get a punt and field goal blocked, AND give up a kickoff return touchdown in the same game?

*****

I wnt 2 let all my fantasy ppl & myfans kno not 2 worry ima have a gr8 oct its tkng a little time 2 adjust 2 the 8 n 9 inthe box #NOPRESSURETue Oct 05 18:02:02 via ÃœberTwitter

  • Based on the above tweet, Chris Johnson is apparently feeling the heat from his slow start, at least relative to what he’s used to from his first two seasons. Johnson famously predicted a 2,500-yard season – an average of 156.25 yards per game. He’s on pace for only 1,416 yards — “only” – but is averaging just 3.76 yards on a whopping 94 carries through four games. I’m not quite sure how Johnson plans to adjust to 9 men in the box, but having a quarterback defenses respect would probably be a big part of that, and Vince Young is not that guy – at least not so far. Last year, Johnson’s statistics skyrocketed after he took the starting job, rushing for 1,410 yards and scoring 13 of his 16 touchdowns after the Week 7 bye – not so coincidentally when Young took the job. Young’s QB rating is actually a solid 94.3, better than last year’s mark, but he hasn’t cracked 173 passing yards in any game this season, and teams would simply rather attempt to take CJ out of the equation and force Young and a suspect group of receivers to beat them. Meanwhile, Johnson is still wonderfully skilled, but without room to move, it looks like he might have to settle for being great rather than otherworldly, but still with an enormous workload.

  • The man I think Tom Brady is a man on a mission this year. I’m a rare Dolphins fan who is a huge fan of Brady’s, and he looked very fired up last night after the Patriots’ victory. It’s funny, for one of the most decorated quarterbacks in football history, Brady seems to be overlooked a lot, and with their defense not looking stellar early on, a lot of people wrote off his team. Brady can’t do anything about how his defense plays, but I’d expect quite a few games in which he takes the bull by the horns to put the pressure on. Granted, the New England special teams were responsible for their win more than anything else, but when the heat was put on Chad Henne and the Miami offense, mistakes were forthcoming. I’m not sure if this is a championship formula, but the Saints won it all with a decent defense and an overwhelming offense. Don’t count out the Pats – or a driven Brady.

  • A lot of people were probably wondering who Danny Woodhead was last night, but I knew exactly who he was. I was just surprised to see him on the Pats and not the Jets, after watching him score twice and run for 158 yards in the Vick Bowl last season. I had lost track of Woodhead after that, but the Patriots hadn’t, and it almost looked like they had a running back version of Wes Welker out there when he got away from Karlos Danby for a backbreaking score late in last night’s game. The Jets have hit it big with Ladainian Tomlinson and still have Shonn Greene, but with the Leon Washington passing down role noticeably vacant, it’s weird that they let Woodhead walk and more glaring that he’s now on their main rival for the division title.

    *****

    Here’s my personal Top 10 this week. Lots of 2-1 teams all bunched up:

    1. Jets (3-1) (LW: 7) – Big jump in my eyes. LT looks legit, Revis not even back yet.

    2. Steelers (3-1) (LW: 2) – Lost to the Ravens, but Big Ben back after the bye.

    3. Ravens (3-1) (LW: 6) – Big win in Pittsburgh. McGahee solid in relief of Rice.

    4. Falcons (3-1) (LW: 3) – Solid, well-balanced team escapes yet again.

    5. Saints (3-1) (LW: 4) – Underwhelming win. Not the same vibe as last year’s juggernauts.

    6. Packers (3-1) (LW: 5) – Tough win over Lions. Still no run game, and Lynch off to Seattle.

    7. Colts (2-2) (LW: 1) – Very intriguing game coming vs. undefeated Kansas City.

    8. Texans (3-1) (LW: 9) – Hopefully Andre back this week. Foster, despite benching, superb.

    9. Patriots (3-1) (LW: NR) – Remains to be seen how high defense lets them go.

    10. Redskins (2-2) (LW: NR) – Knock out Vick, take spot as NFC East team du jour.

    *****

    Here are 3 picks for Week 5. Last week: 1-2 (Hit on Jets, missed Bears, Saints) Season: 6-3.

    1. Lions -3 vs. Rams – Two surprisingly tough teams. I’ll go with home pick.

    2. Texans (-3) vs. Giants – G-Men lucked out with horrible Cutler. Schaub should be big.

    3. Falcons (-3) at Browns – Atlanta’s been winning close, but I like them here.

    • Esoteric

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