Misery loves company.
The fact the Minnesota Vikings lost last week hit the players a week ago today. For the fans, the worst of the pain was instantaneous. For the coaches and players, the reality didn’t truly set in until Saturday. They were supposed to be playing the Arizona Cardinals, not the Green Bay Packers. Watching it started the scabbing-over process that eventually heals (or at least masking the wound).
In the six days in between the wild card and divisional playoffs, Vikings fans have dissected everything that went wrong. Wide Left II is obvious. That won’t go away soon. Adrian Peterson’s fumble was critical. A missed play here. A made play there. The CSI crew has worked overtime since last Sunday night dissecting the reasons why.
If there is any solace for Vikings fans, outside neutral observers saw last Sunday’s game as great reality TV. Defensive players dominated much of the game and the biggest plays weren’t ones that necessarily made fantasy owners happy. It was a classic old-school playoff game that was an emotional roller coaster. Vikings players and coaches could rightly contend that the best team didn’t win that game.
But, as has often been the case, Green Bay found a way to one-up the Vikings Saturday night.
In what will go down as one of the craziest playoff games in recent memory, Packers players and coaches will have the offseason to question a ton of different plays here or there that made the difference between winning and losing. The emotional high of Aaron Rodgers throwing for more than 100 yards in the final minute-and-a-half of regulation to tie the game only to lose in overtime will have Packers fans in as much of a malaise as they were last year when the Pack botched a two-score lead in the final two minutes to miss out on their opportunity to make the Super Bowl.
The thing about the NFL that makes it the greatest reality show on earth is that only one fan base is truly satisfied when all is said and done. Supporters of the Vikings can point fingers at Blair Walsh and theorize what might have been had the Vikings played Arizona Saturday night instead of Green Bay. The same can be said for Cincinnati fans who saw their favorite team squander a lead late to lose to Pittsburgh.
But, for Packers fans, having the miracle comeback in the waning seconds of regulation only to have Arizona and Larry Fitzgerald stick an overtime dagger into their hearts may be too much for many of them to bear.
Just as Vikings fans dissected the plays that were made or weren’t made, Saturday’s 26-20 overtime win by the Cardinals is chock full of moments that could have turned the game on its head one way or another. What if Sam Shields catches one of the three interceptions he dropped? What if Randall Cobb played the entire game? What if Green Bay won one of the two coin flips in overtime? The questions will be endless.
The reality of the NFL reality TV is that most fans with a vested interest in one team don’t come away from a season happy or satisfied. Only one team wins it all. Every other playoff team ends the season on a low note with a loss. Only one team of 32 gets to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Everyone else is left in “wait ‘til next year” mode.
For the Vikings, the sting has worn off (for most) and the good things that took place in 2015 and the promise of the future has replaced the immediate sour taste in the mouth from the frozen flop at The Bank.
For the Packers, not finishing off an improbable comeback win makes Saturday’s loss a game that will be remembered for years in franchise lore. There will likely be a higher percentage of people than normal calling in sick to work Monday because they still haven’t gotten over Fitzgerald’s wide open catch in overtime that sealed the fate of the 2015 Packers, who had dreams of playing Seattle a week from today at Lambeau Field.
For those who didn’t have a dog in the fight Saturday night, the Packers-Cardinals game was an instant classic, much in the same way the Vikings-Saints NFC Championship Game was in 2009. It was an epic battle with violent swings of momentum that made for great viewing for everyone else, elation for the coaches, players and fans of the winners and the misery of those coaches, players and fans of the losing team.
The Packers have joined the Vikings on the rail of those on the outside looking in on the Super Bowl tournament and both don’t like the way their team got sent to the door.
That’s what makes NFL football the greatest sport on earth. The games will be discussed and dissected for months and years to come. It’s why the NFL is the greatest reality show on television and why the fan support of the 32 teams is often a bittersweet love affair.