Wildcard Weekend: What Kind of Loss Is Worse?

Matthew GalkaCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Linebacker Gerald Hayes #54 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field after defeating the Green Bay Packers 51-45 in the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.   (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Three out of four games during Wild Card weekend had to be clunkers, that is they were decided pretty early on. The fourth came down to overtime, and of course that game involved the team I support, the Green Bay Packers.

So now, I join the fans of the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Cincinnati Bengals in sharing the pain and anguish that comes with watching your team lose in the playoffs.

Watching all the games this week got me thinking, a usually dangerous thing, about what type of loss is worse: seeing your team get blown out in the playoffs, or seeing them lose at the end of the game?

Some might say this is an obvious choice, and it has to be the latter, because seeing your team lose in the final seconds has to be one of the most deflating feelings in the world, which it is, but I am not so sure I subscribe to the theory that it is hands down the worse feeling of the two.

Let’s all think about our personal journeys through the season. We watch the battle our team competes in every Sunday. Some fans live and die with every game (unless you are from Philadelphia where it extends to every play).

After 17 long weeks of watching, analyzing games, Monday morning quarterbacking, breaking down opponents, gambling, losing, and winning, some are lucky enough to see their team through to the playoffs.  It is then that another season starts, and we as fans respond by becoming even more rabid because we know what is at stake.

We become one-sided and myopic (New England fan), insightful and realistic (not New England fan), and all knowing and completely wrong at the same time. Above all, fans with a team in the playoffs are all, in one way or another, “ready.”

On that Saturday or Sunday, at the stadium or at home, with friends or alone, well-lubricated or sober, fans everywhere are geared up. Then, the unthinkable happens. An interception here, a fumble there, a 14-point deficit before seven minutes have passed in the first quarter.

“It’s ok, it’s ok, its early just let them settle in,” say some fans. There is no settling in. Halftime comes, down by 17, and not getting the ball back at to start the second.  Some fans pack it in, others hold out hope.

The second half starts and more of the same, and by the third quarter the fate of the game has been sealed. The fans of the losing team are watching their beloved group get their backsides handed to them up and down the field.

Those fans never had a chance. They had nothing to cheer for. Their long journey is anti-climactic, highlighted by a Cris Collinsworth one-liner or great video package of their performance during Week 10 that the network shows on television trying to inspire hope.

In those blowout wins, there would be no hope. That does not seem too fair, does it? I mean these fans deserve a competitive game, right? Their team fought throughout the season and glimmered hopes for the Super Bowl, how can they come out and lay an egg like this on the big stage?

Then of course come the excuses. “OUR QUARTERBACK BLEW IT!” says some. “I mean when you think about it, football is the easiest game to rig, if the refs want a team to win, they’ll make calls they normally wouldn’t so it happens,” say others.

No matter what is said, the result does not change.  One side’s fans are deflated, defeated, and depressed, and it all happened before the fourth quarter in the three blowout wins.

Then, there are Packer fans that watched their playoff game.  This one had all the makings of the others. A 17-point deficit, a 24-10 lead at half, thanks for nothing wildcard weekend.

And then something happened, something incredible. Green Bay decided not to mail it in, and instead showed incredible life on offense. One surprise onside kick later, followed by another score, and we as fans are rejoicing!

“YES YES, WE HAVE A GAME! WE CAN DO THIS!” fans cry excitedly. The one problem: Green Bay could not stop Arizona the same way the Cardinals could not stop the Packers.

So now the fans on both sides are watching a classic before their eyes. Every play, every move, every touchdown is a live and die moment. This is it; this is why we watch the games, for moments like this when our team wins a classic!

Alas, for myself and other fans of the Green Bay Packers, it was not meant to be this year.  Our hearts collectively pounded while watching Neil Rackers line up for and miss what could have been a game winning field goal, and we all felt the collective gut punch of watching Karlos Dansby rumble into the end zone for what actually ended the game.

Is it a bad feeling? Of course. I feel empty, angry, depressed, and confused all at the same moment. Many probably are taking it harder than I am.

My argument is simple; at least we got a game from start to finish. Packer fans were actually granted that glimmer of hope longer than the other losing fans, and were all made to believe that Green Bay would be going to New Orleans, it would have been called destiny had they won.

But they didn’t. So now we, the Green Bay Packer fans, can share a drink we call playoff loneliness with each other and the Patriots, Eagles and Bengals fans also. It’s better than drinking alone…until next season.