As I scrolled through Twitter to gauge the reaction of fellow fans to yet another playoff heartache, an image from Lambeau Field caught my eye and seemed to capture the moment perfectly. Snow was falling and the parking lot had a beautiful white blanket covering it, yet the tire tracks of the 4x4s and big American rigs from the tailgate parties could still be seen. I thought to myself, if was almost a perfect metaphor for the game. The Green Bay winter and famous Frozen Tundra had just hosted the San Francisco 49ers very own tailgate party on the turf of Lambeau Field and they certainty left their mark.
A few hours later as I sat red-eyed, driving my daughter to Dublin, I tried to console myself by explaining the nature of the NFL to my wife. How each game matters, how seeding works, the importance of home field advantage, especially to the Packers, how the game unfolded, how I was OK with a rebuild and what makes it harder is that by the time the next season starts, we’ll be in a new school year looking towards Christmas.
Having shared the same living room and endured me for the previous 18 Sundays watching the Packers’ and more, she knew this defeat stung. During the drive, she made a comment that stuck with me. “Just think of all the good things that happened this year “she said. Whilst I dismissed it at the time, it definitely struck a chord.
Given the nature of the NFL season, where only one team can have the ultimate glory, maybe the journey should be savored more. There is no FA Cup or back door qualifier to the Super Bowl. Its the ultimate winner takes it all sport, that only guarantees you 17 games in a four month season and acts as a light during the dark winter months. So maybe the 13 wins and the crazy moments within those should be enjoyed more in the moment and not just looked at as steps on what you hope is the journey to the promised land.
Aside from the butt whooping on Week 1, the Packers’ regular season had some incredible moments. Mason Crosby’s week 3 walk-off field goal after a 3 play, 34 second drive, the craziness of the Bengals game, the Douglas interception against the Cardinals, the shutout of an albeit poor Seahawks team, stopping the Ravens scoring two at the death or the Christmas Day interception by Douglas again, plus numerous huge plays, coaching masterclasses and even the frustrations, all began to scream to me that this had in fact been great, despite not hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of it. The last three years, in fact, have been great and each season had its moments. Davante’s TD in the divisional against Seattle two years ago, Lazard against the Rams last season. All these things matter, especially when trying to deal with the ultimate disappointment.
So, I ask, in a winner takes it all environment, does not making your destination make the journey a failure? Maybe, maybe not. But, along that journey we don’t know how it will end so we need to enjoy all the victories, all the big moments and hope that they are stops along the way to the ultimate destination.
I am already excited thinking about next season. I’ve enjoyed this one more than most others and irrespective of what happens in the off season, I’ll be sitting on my couch in September for week 1 of the 2022 journey and I cannot wait.