It’s been 2010 since the Bears made their last playoff appearance, and yet the way many Chicago fans (myself included) have gone into each season since feeling that the end of the season will yield the results of at least 8 wins. 2013 offered the prospect of a new “offensive minded” coach in Marc Trestman. 2014 featured a Week 2 win over the vaunted 49ers that inspired familiar Jay Cutler optimisim, only for the team to finish at 5-11. This year has Bears fans with positive expectations once again: with Mitch Tribusky starting the season at the reigns with a better recieving core than last season’s assortment, the division crown looks wide open in the eyes of many Chicago faithful.
But Bears fanatics aren’t alone in their hopefulness. Although the Philidelphia Eagles are the defending Super Bowl Champions, that means nothing to the rest of the NFC East, who has alternated division winners every season for the past 13 years. The Colts looked like the crop of the AFC South once Luck got into the swing of things years ago, and yet it was the Jacksonville Jaguars who were minutes away from vanquishing the Patriots.
The NFL is not like the NBA in its predictability. The primes of players are shorter, meaning shorter contracts, more turnover, and faster declines of individual players. Don’t let the longevity of the Brady’s and the Roethlisberger’s fool you: while quarterbacks seem to hang for 10 years plus, the teams around them slowly are a revolving door due to the violence of the sport. So for many fanbases the thought is, “If we can a solid quarterback we are in.” The Minnesota Vikings rotated through three quarterbacks last season and yet through the grace of a great defense and a miracle catch by Stephon Diggs they found themselves in the NFC Championship game.
The NFL is completely unique in the way that gives the words “any given sunday” a validity that makes sense. Whoever is the favorite doesn’t mean much in the regular season once the kick returner fumbles the opening kick. And it’s not just a football thing. A team can lose it’s first 5 games of the season and still see themselves in the playoff hunt. You lose your first 5 games in college football? Kiss the BCS bowls goodbye.
So even though the NFL has taken a hit from a public relations standpoint with many people, whether it be their response to players accused of domestic violence or the divide that exists between owners and players who choose to protest social injustics, it’s marketing for the importance of football is second to none. The Browns didn’t win a game in 2017 and yet them being the center of Hard Knocks provides a fever for a fanbase that is if anything loyal. Getting a win on Sunday allows you to gloat for at least a week at the gig. It’s a rush that you can’t get from an 162 game MLB season, or an 82 game NBA one. On Opening Day, everyone is 0-0.
So when you see that fan with the unrealistic expectations, just smile and appreciate. Because when you’re team starts out 3-0, you’ll start looking at them as playoff contenders too.