When winning is losing
The Steelers vs. Raiders game in week 14 came down to a 40 yd. field goal attempt by Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell to win or lose the game. He slipped in the loose turf, missed the kick and the Raiders won.
During that field goal attempt, as Boswell started his approach to the ball, I wondered what percentage of Raiders fans wanted him to miss and what percentage wanted him to make it?
The Raiders are clearly, self-admittedly, starting a re-building process. They are tied with their old Bay Area nemesis, the 49rs, for worst record this 2018 season at 3-10-0. The team with the worst record gets a coveted first round pick next year. Some first round picks have had enormous, immediate, impact on teams, especially teams in the rebuilding process. And so, the question begs, how many Raiders fans were hoping Boswell would make the field goal? I actually have some insight into that because I am a Raiders’ fan and my opinion has shifted one-hundred-eighty degrees on that subject, largely because of the coach and the players attitude.
I admit, after Kahlil left, I was angry. Did the Raiders make the decision to trade him or was the decision made for them? If the latter was true, that could be forgiven. After Cooper was traded, however, it became crystal clear that management was giving up on this year and looking to next year. So, that is what I did too. I started rooting for the Raiders to finish last, so that we would get yet another first round pick to assist in their rise from the ashes like a splendid black and silver phoenix next year. Watching the games was an exercise in emotional conflict.
I know other fans felt the same way because of the buzz in the fan forums. Nobody wanted the players to throw games or play at less than full speed because that would be dangerous and completely counter-intuitive for a pro athlete. But… How about putting in the second string? They likely won’t win but they can play at full speed and get very valuable experience against first string players in a real game. Win-win right?
As I stated earlier, what changed my mind was the coach and players attitude. I admit to being genuinely surprised by how badly Chucky wanted to win.
The players have only ever known one way to play the game and they want to win games right NOW, screw next year! Professional athletes don’t know how to play to lose, besides, isn’t that illegal? The truth is, instilling the winning attitude and keeping everybody playing at full tilt, just continues to build team synapse, for a stronger foundation for next year.
So, I have decided that now, rather than rooting against my team, which felt really wrong, I am instead going to root for the 49rs to win every game, the rest of the season, which feels equally wrong, but in a positive sort of way.