Football is on my mind these days. It is hard to avoid that topic in this part of the world since the Valley of the Sun will host this year’s Super Bowl and all its ancillary activities. However, this year football’s “second season” on both the collegiate and professional level has provided insight that transcends football. As the eagerly anticipated college football playoff unfolded, I discovered that I may not be as immune from the “winning is the only thing” philosophy whose initial articulation has been attributed (apparently incorrectly) to legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. A similar sentiment was expressed more bluntly by the late Dale Earnhardt: “Second place is just the first loser.” If true, what does that make the loser of the fill-in-the-blank bowl- or even its winner? I am not the first to note that the laser-like focus on the college football playoff diminished the interest in and value of all the bowl games not connected to the playoff process. I readily admit that there are too many bowl games for fans to sustain engagement and frequent changes in corporate sponsorship of games also adds to the confusion and indifference. Nonetheless certain games with significant and longstanding traditions seemed to have barely penetrated fandom’s awareness this season. With the exception of a few games in which I had a rooting interest, I remember the results of very few other games except the playoff ones. So I must confess that I have been captured by the hype. I am embarrassed as a result because I proclaim healthy and collaborative participation as an ultimately far more important value than the outcome of the games at our school. Perhaps I have more in common with Vince and Dale than I would like to admit.
As both the college bowl games and NFL playoff games have unfolded, I discovered another unfortunate tendency in myself. In the games that I watched in which I did not already have a clearly established positive rooting interest, I found myself investing my interest in rooting against one of the teams for one or another reason: perceived ethical lapses, an arrogant or annoying coach, an overbearing fan base, regional biases, etc. I learned that such negative motivation does not sustain my interest over the long haul. More importantly the good life lesson reinforced for me is that negativity leads us down an unhappy path in more serious life endeavors. Rooting against a person or team does not emanate from our better nature. And, in life’s more serious pursuits and interaction, jealousy and resentment can poison our soul – a losing proposition of utmost significance.
Until next time…