It’s been awhile since I wrote about the New York Football Giants on the blog – nearly two years, by my count.
And why should I write about the Giants? It was a terrible year. They started the 2013 season 0-6, had a brief stretch of wins, but ultimately finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. Eli Manning had one of the worst seasons for a quarterback in quite some time – 18 touchdowns, 27 interceptions and a 69.4 quarterback rating. Yes, some would say it was a lost season.
A lot of Giants fans began to root against the team once it was clear they were not going to make the playoffs. You see, kids, more losses means a higher draft pick. And a higher draft pick means a better shot at winning in 2014 and 2015 and for years to come. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. It’s not an irrational temptation, to root against your team when the season is lost. Colts fans did the same two years ago, and they ended up with Andrew Luck, who just led them to one of the greatest playoff comebacks of all time.
Well, I’ve never liked that mentality. I don’t like losing. Ever. Even if it means a better draft pick, which doesn’t really guarantee anything. Thankfully I haven’t had to face this problem too much. I’ve been lucky to watch some incredibly successful and talented teams across all sports. The Yankees have won, the Giants have won, BC has won, the Knicks, well, no, they haven’t won. But I’m not much of a Knicks fan.
So, yeah, I haven’t had many opportunities to watch losing teams. In fact, this was the first year since 1994 that neither the Yankees nor the Giants were in the playoffs. It was the first time in 18 years the Yankees won fewer than 87 games, the first time in a decade that the Giants finished under .500. Like I said, I have been very lucky to grow up with these two teams.
So what do you do when a season is lost? Do you stop watching? Do you root for the team to lose? Do you even care? Well, maybe this is weird, but I liked it. I don’t think I’d like it if it became a trend, but, well, it was interesting. For the Giants, and the fans, there was no pressure, only football – not for the sake of the playoffs, but for the sake of the game. Guys were trying to prove themselves – for pride and for their livelihood. Fans tweeted ‘What’s the point anymore?’ but I sat and watched and continued to cheer on every third down conversion, every made field goal, every Manning pass down the field.* And, no, maybe this wasn’t the right thing to do, not when the team was so pathetic from the start, but it felt right.
*OK, well, no, I would be lying if I told you I watched and cheered for every play down the stretch. I’m hoping no one actually reads these asides.
I had a similar feeling at the end of the Yankees’ season. When it was clear that they were not going to make the playoffs, I still watched, still hoped for a win, because that’s what you do when you are a fan. You stick with your team, regardless of the state of the organization, regardless of the won-less record, because being a fan is about commitment and toughness and loyalty all of those Vince Lombardi-isms (in this case applied to the couch, not the gridiron). And, yeah, in some weird way the losses were refreshing. Without the playoffs to worry about, I could just watch the Yankees play baseball. The game mattered in a different way. Hey, at least there were games to watch.