Including this one, there are only three weeks left in the NFL regular season.
It’s part of what makes many rabid football fans melancholy this time of year, especially those who are fans of teams not in the playoff hunt.
True fans of teams in these situations are enjoying every last minute of watching them, even if they are just playing out the string.
It’s a time when we can say things like, “I can’t believe there are only three games left for (insert name of non-playoff team). The season has just flown by!”
The seasons do fly by, but for many fans of losing teams, at this point in the season there is the eternal hope that is next year—the optimism that their teams will be better and improve enough that they’ll make the playoffs next time.
I find it an interesting time of the season on other levels. This is a time when some players are fighting for a job on next year’s team. Some are under the microscope, on the clock and are being given a chance to prove they are worthy of both making the opening day roster and also deserving of significant minutes during games.
Playing out the string is unlike what happens in any other job on the planet. You never are playing out the string, say, if you’re an accountant (unless you want to endanger your job security). You give equal, read “high” effort every single day on the job.
Like the crack CPA, if you’re one of those elite guys on an NFL team who’s assured a job the following year, you still want to give maximum effort. Next July is a long way off and who knows what wunderkind the team might draft to give them some competition in training camp.
Sports bars are communal gathering spots for NFL fans this time of year. All of the games being played can be found on at least one of the TV screens in the good ones. There’s enjoyment in sharing some smiles, laughter and good times. It’s part of the great escape the NFL offers.
The NFL regular season schedule consists only of 16 games. It’s not a whole lot of time. I went to a game last week and sat in some great seats. Until you sit in really good seats you tend to feel that football games are best watched in front of the big screen.
While there may be creature comforts like big, comfy living room chairs and no lines to the bathroom, there is nothing that can replicate the feeling of being at the game. Plus, I really like that with the exception of a few funny ones I enjoy from time to time, there are no commercials to be viewed when attending games live.
So, playing out the string as players and fans alike are undertaking this weekend, is both bitter and sweet, sweetly bitter, bitter and sweet.
My homage to Big Head Todd and the Monsters notwithstanding, I’m committed to giving it my all to my teams that I enjoy rooting for (and who are only playing out the string).
I’d rather have the chance to fail one more time with them before the regular season is said and done, than win with anyone else.
Because at the end of the day, being a football fan is an expression of love—whether you’re playing out the string or still in the hunt.
Dilly dilly.