Monday, October 18, 2010

Being a Winner at Losing

The Packers are on a losing streak – 3 of the last 4 games have been losses, all by fewer than 3 points, two in a row, both in overtime.  We are now a .500 team.  Two games behind the Bears in the NFC North with the Vikings about to overtake 2nd place in the division if we can’t beat them next weekend.  That’s the reality.

Being a good sport at losing is not a skill that comes naturally to most people.  It’s human nature to want to win.  My son’s soccer team lost Sunday too.  They lost badly, in fact – down 6-0, before getting two late goals to bring it to 7-2 final.  It’s taboo to admit it, but nobody wants to lose.  As affluent suburban parents, we are conditioned not to emphasize winning or losing too much.  Sports like soccer are supposed to be about “having fun.”  In my son’s soccer league last year, they didn’t even keep score.  There were no official winners and losers, even though every kid on the field knew the score.

There are several reasons, excuses, for the Packers’ loss Sunday.  Obviously, there are the injuries.  We’re at third-string defensive linemen, third-string linebackers, and third-string safeties.  Water boys are getting reps at practice.  There were also the penalties.  Late hits, shots to the head, and pass interference that weren’t called.  Illegal contact, holding, and lining up over the center that were.  Then there is the lack execution – the dropped balls, the missed receivers, the busted assignments.  There are many reasons one could cite for the loss.  But none of those reasons matter.  They don’t put an asterisk next to your record at the end of the season and put you into the playoffs because you had injuries or didn’t get a call.  Just like, apparently, they don't give your son's youth soccer team a goal if you shout at the referee for a missed foul and throw a lawn chair onto the field.  (It's worth noting that kind of outburst can also get you a warning call from Child Protective Services -- or, at least, that's what happened to a friend of mine.)

The Packers need to learn how to lose.  They need to learn how to take what’s positive and correct what’s negative.  In other words, they need to use their losses as something constructive to build upon and get back to winning.  I don't see that attitude right now on the Packers.  All I saw on the field Sunday was bad losers.  Everyone, starting with McCarthy and Rodgers, seems to have a sense of entitlement.  It was an hour of shrugged shoulders waiting for a call,  indignant glances at teammates, exasperated glances up at the replay on the jumbotron.  A pervasive sense that the adversity they faced was inflicted by some external, unjust force.  Not their fault.  Bad luck.  A raw deal.  “We should have won that game” was probably the most likely declaration by Packers players and fans alike afterwards.

Memo to the Packers: nobody gives a shit that you were consensus favorites to win the Super Bowl.  The other 31 teams aren’t going to just roll over and hand you the Lombardi trophy.  Stop expecting to win and start deserving to win with your performance on the field.  Don’t show us your frustration and exasperation, show us your determination.

If the Packers had started this season without Ryan Grant, without Jermichael Finley or Donald Lee, if they had no Mark Tauscher, Ryan Pickett or Mike Neal, if Morgan Burnett was never drafted, Clay Matthews was on the bench and Nick Barnett never existed, the Packers probably wouldn’t have been such a favored team coming into this season.  The pundits would have placed them right where they are: a .500 team struggling to make the playoffs.

But none of that matters now.  Our expectations have been reset.  And there are two ways they can go: they can either fold the tent and wait until next year, or they can suck it up and take this loss, revel in it, learn from it, and come out next week all the more determined after it.  Last year, it was the Dallas game that turned our season around.  That was when they realized that the adversity they'd faced was in their own control.  That was when the team matured and played with confidence.  I’m praying Sunday night against the Vikings can be this season’s Dallas game.

No comments:

Post a Comment