I love football, and most of my friends don’t. Maybe they didn’t grow up with the game. Maybe they were picked on by jocks. Maybe it just doesn’t get them going like it gets me going. Rest assured, it has a lot to do with a lot of football fans being a lot of dumb.
Be smart, football fans. Be smart. I love you. I’m writing this out of love. It’s tough love, and you need to hear it. It’s going to hurt you more than it hurts me.
One of my jobs allows me to talk to all sorts of people from all sorts of places. I’m also a huge football fan, so whenever I see someone wearing a team hat or jersey, I’ll ask them about their team and how many games they think their team will win this season. Some of this is just making conversation, but some of it is done in the name of science. I like getting the opinion of a common man or woman. Almost without fail, when I ask people how many games their team is going to win this year, they say “all of them.”
All of them. 16-0. Undefeated. Perfect. All. Of. Them.
Today alone, a Dolphins fan, a Cardinals fan, a Raiders fan, a Falcons fan, and a 49ers fan said 16-0. Only two of these teams finished above .500 last season. That’s just plain dumb. Thoughtless. Pure emotion. Zero logic. It’s barbaric. It’s kamikaze. Hulk Smash. All Kirk, no Spock. “All of them” encapsulates everything I can’t stand about football fans.
I don’t know what bothers me about it, but it really bothers me. I’m usually a huge fan of optimism. I also enjoy fandom. Above all of that, I guess I like to apply logic and a little bit of research to nearly everything. Let’s look into it: The 1972 Dolphins went undefeated with a 14 game regular season. In 1978, the NFL expanded the regular season to 16 games. The 2007 Patriots won all of their regular season games. They’re the only ones to do it since the NFL regular season was expanded to 16 games. There have only been five 15-1 teams since 1978. 14-2 seems to be a little more plausible, with nineteen teams hitting that mark. But for my money, going 16-0 is damn near impossible.
2007 Patriot dominance aside, the last team to come close to an undefeated season were the 2009 Colts. They went 14-0 before losing their last two games, sitting their starters to prepare for their playoff run. They had a world class first ballot hall of fame quarterback at the peak of his powers, great receivers, a good running game, and a pretty stellar defense. Teams like that don’t just come out of nowhere. They were 12-4 in 2008, 13-3 in 2007, 12-4 in 2006, 14-2 in 2005… Hell, their only stinky season in the 2000s was in 2001, when they went 6-10. That’s ten years of very competitive football. They flirted with perfection for a decade. It doesn’t happen overnight.
The 2011 Green Bay Packers went 13-0 before giving up a loss. Again, a hell of a quarterback, great receivers, and a very good defense. 1985 Bears went 12-0 before losing. The 2004 Steelers lost early, and won 12 straight. The 1998 Minnesota Vikings lost in week nine, right in the middle of the season. Seasons like this are beyond rare.
That’s not to say bad teams can’t improve- from 2003-2012, the NFL had one team go worst to first in their division every single season. However, that improvement is often around, at most, six wins better than the previous season. It’s hard to finish last in your division with ten wins. The improvement rarely lands in the rarified air of perfection.
Teams like the 2013 Falcons can go from incredible to terrible in one season. In 2012, they looked unstoppable. The Falcons went 13-3 that season, and their losses were pretty close games. In 2013, they looked 100% stoppable, ending the season with a record of 4-12. So, that said, it’s not impossible to imagine a team going the other way, but it sure seems more likely that teams will decline or maintain rather than improve. Long-term positive change tends to be incremental in the NFL. It’s easier to fall off a cliff than it is to climb up one.
Yet still, football fans eschew these basics and just insist that their team is the greatest without hesitation. It’s the worst.
So, c’mon football fans. Don’t be a dummy. Take a look at last year. Yearn for improvement. Maybe you can win a few more than you did last year. But don’t say “all of them” ever, ever again.