Undrafted – The Network

Who would be a fan?

Eternal Optimism

You have all week to build yourself up for it and then the 3 1/2 hours of nail biting anguish (unless you’re a Chiefs fan) whilst you sit and watch as your team decides “not this week, lets just half ass it because Adam in the UK is sat at home and needs this win so that he doesn’t start his week off in an awful mood”.

I know through every fibre of my body that players playing a game thousands of miles away don’t feel this and, if I am honest, probably couldn’t care less how I felt on my Monday morning, however I can never shift the feeling that the loss is personal. I also then feel bad for my client’s that morning as they invariably end up the recipient of short shrift whilst I reconcile last night’s result and ruminate on the the calls that I am certain I would have made correctly myself had I been the co-ordinator making them the night before.

Patrick Mahomes II in 2020

The pay off for this, of course, is when the result goes the way you want and you can bask in the glory of the result for the whole week until the nerves set in as the next weeks game starts again.

As a Ravens fan I must admit that I was spoilt last year. We possessed a cheat code which the league could not stop and being able to enjoy wins by double digits on a weekly basis became the norm. Sufficed to say the loss to the Titans ruined a good portion of the next month for me. Nevertheless, this season was one which offered much in the way of cause to be optimistic. We even had Colin Cowherd proclaiming an unbeaten season for 2020, what could go wrong?

*Spoiler alert, pretty much everything*

Reality sets in

The first 6 weeks were a mixture of relief that we got results we were expected to, albeit looking far more ordinary than the season before, and concern that it was clearly obvious that something was not right. The reasons for this are a matter for another article but what I noticed amongst the fan group surprised me.

Now I know Facebook (other social media outlets are available) is not a great yard stick to measure anything but in this day and age it is the best we have for getting an insight into how a large group of people feel about a certain issue, I mean look how many armchair scientists have been uncovered this year! Everyone loves an echo chamber to shout into and Ravens fans have been no different.

I should say at this point that I am sure many other teams fan bases experience much the same as what I am about to describe but I’ll frame it in the Ravens context as that is what I have experienced.

There have been some crazy reactions to parts of this season. Greg Roman making dubious play calls, that one I can agree with, and the heat he gets, I think, is justified (again for another time and place). However what has amazed me is how many people, who I am sure will tell everyone that they watch football because they love it, it is part of them much as it is for anyone who I assume has made it this far and is still reading, have reacted to losses and the perceived causes of them.

As the Raven QB of course Lamar has caught the majority of the heat, “he is just a glorified running back”, “he can’t throw”, “he isn’t accurate”. The vitriol towards him is mind boggling at times, this is a 23 year old guy in his second full season off the back of the second unanimous MVP season ever. However I digress, I promised myself this wouldn’t become a piece defending Lamar and it won’t (I do however, often).

Lamar Jackson – Quarterback or Running Back?… (there is only one right answer)

Every week, win or lose, it seems at the moment, hundreds, if not thousands, of fans flock to the group pages to express how awful the team is, how bad the play calling is and how bad the team is in general. I read through these messages and find myself asking one question, do these individuals even enjoy the NFL at all? They way that they are talking it doesn’t seem so, and I am not sure what drives them to come back week after week, it would seem, purely to frustrate themselves and then to go online and tell the world. If it was a precursor to a conversation about what could be done better I would get it but it very very rarely is. I find instead that I am visiting the groups less and less as I find that it is these interactions that make me feel worse than any result of a game could.

A recent incident that stands out the most was the anger and threats, which were plastered all over various groups that also made their way to Matt Skura (the Ravens starting Centre) and his wife following the loss to the Patriots in week 10. As a fan fine you can have an opinion, mine was that the snapping was horrible as pretty much every other Raven fan felt, heck, even Skura came out and said so. What disgusted me was the fact that by that evening he and his wife were receiving what has been described as “hateful and threatening messages” in their DM’s, where of course no one else can see them or comment.

I’m sorry, if you call yourself a fan but are willing to resort to that sort of behaviour, abusing an individual and his family whose entire job at the end of the day is to entertain people, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. As I said at the start of this piece, a loss bums us all out, imagine how the 49ers fans felt after last years Super Bowl!!

That feeling however, is not ever going to be an excuse to act as this small handful of individuals have done. At this point I am grouping in those Fantasy Football players who feel that it is ok to act in a similar manner when their guy doesn’t put up enough points for the player to win their match up that week.

…is it a conclusion?

As a first piece for this site if I am honest I was not sure exactly where this would go, I just hopped on and let the keys take me, however I am pretty certain that there is a conclusion reached (not that it was in any was an article asking for one, it has just happened).

Do something that you enjoy and gives you pleasure. There, that is it.

How most of us feel at least once during a season…

If you enjoy the build up, the ride of the match, the highs and lows afterwards and can handle it like an adult fine. You’re welcome to stick around. If however watching football on a Sunday is something that causes you nothing but pain and anger just ditch it, go for a walk, take a holiday and then, if and when your team hits a winning run, come back…simple as that. I don’t blame fair weather fans one bit, losing sucks, even as a fan and it isn’t for everyone. But trust me, if you stick it out the winning is far sweeter.

Now I am not saying that venting frustrations online is a bad thing, the important thing is a) to know when you’ve gone far enough and b) to work out whether you are getting what you want from the sport.

In the meantime just don’t be a dick, don’t be some keyboard warrior who feels that they have an inherent right to say what they feel and threaten others because they’re hidden behind a screen miles and miles from the recipient of any hate they have spewed. There is not and will never be a right time for that. A fan is a fan, of the team, the players and the sport. They need to act like it.

As Bill and Ted once sagely advised the world…”Be excellent to each other”, stick to this and you cant go far wrong.

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