Football is one of my favorite things about America. It has been a really big part of my life, and I’m super thankful for the memories and friendships that the sport of football gave me. In my opinion, it is the greatest game ever invented and for the past decade or so the American people go crazy for it. This entire football craze has led to a lot of things; one of the more prominent ones is Madden, the NFL video game. People go crazy for this game, it flies off the shelf the minute it goes on sale. I like Madden a lot, but I think it has given us a little bit of a twisted sense on what the game of football is all about. Madden has given rise to the phrase “football is like a chess match.” I HATE that phrase. If football was like chess, the coaches making the “moves” would be getting paid a hundred times what they make now and the “pawns” (players) would be totally dispensable. Obviously, that’s not the case and that is because football is a game of human confrontation. The team with the better players almost always wins. Whatever the play-call is, if your team physically beats the other guys it will probably be successful.
To illustrate this point, I will use Detroit Lions’ wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Typically in the NFL if a receiver is double or triple covered, you don’t call a play in which you expect to get him the ball. However, Calvin Johnson is a freak of nature, and routinely comes down with the ball when it’s thrown to him, no matter who’s covering him or how good they are. There are a number of plays where the opponents (unfortunately these opponents are sometimes the Green Bay Packers) (Go Pack Go!) have called an excellent play, and Calvin Johnson takes the great defensive play call 80 yards to the end zone for a touchdown; rendering a fantastic play-call useless. I know there are bad play calls, and scheme certainly does come into play in a game, but the most determinant factor in the outcome of a football game is the players.
There are few things that drive me crazier than when fans of an NFL team blame a loss on the coach. I hate listening to people tell me that the play-calling was awful and had it been better (or had they been in charge of it) their team would have won. There are a couple reasons that this kind of thinking drives me crazy, other than it being blatantly false. First, the men who coach professional football know more about it than you. Sometimes it’s hard for me to admit as well, but it’s the truth. These men know football better than anybody else on the planet. Secondly, they know their team better than you do. They know who excels in which situation, and they put players there hoping that they may capitalize on it. Beyond the reasons I don’t like this kind of thinking, there is another huge issue hiding in this statement; I think we have a huge problem admitting defeat. It is way easier to duck behind play-calling and being put in bad situations than to admit that another team is just better than ours. We hate saying that we lost because they were better, and therefore we blame the situations, i.e. the play-calling or coaches or a number of other factors.
This issue spreads far beyond the football field. Unfortunately, this is an attitude a lot of us carry around every day. Why is it that our first reaction to confrontation is usually to say, “It wasn’t my fault.”? This happens to me a lot with the high school kids I work with. We will have something going on and they will tell me they’ll be there. Then I’ll get a phone call saying they can’t make it because they have too much homework. The homework isn’t keeping them from attending, it’s the other things they chose to do instead of the homework that forced them to still have the homework on the day of the event. I would much prefer a call saying, “I screwed up and was lazy this weekend and now I have homework I have to do and won’t be able to make it.” This example may be subtle, but it spreads into way more important things.
This issue doesn’t stop in adolescence either. When you ask someone why they didn’t fulfill a commitment that they said they would, there is almost always an answer that does not include them taking responsibility. I understand that there are extenuating circumstances that are out of our control sometimes, and that we are not always at fault, but I don’t think it’s healthy when we automatically react by shifting blame. Especially when we indirectly shift blame. We know it sounds bad for us to directly blame somebody else, so we say something that insinuates another person is at fault without us ever having to say it. When we don’t admit to ourselves that we are wrong and at least slightly at fault, we let ourselves off the hook and don’t learn whatever lesson is there for us to learn.
Our nation is full of people who don’t want to take responsibility, and those people are all over the map, in both major political parties, from all races and religions. We blame each other for things because we don’t want to deal with the fact that maybe we’ve been wrong. When I played Quarterback in high school, I threw a lot of interceptions. Most of them were my fault, but a couple weren’t, sometimes the receiver ran the wrong way. If I had shown a receiver up in front of the fans, i.e. made a huge deal about him screwing up for people to see so they would know it wasn’t my fault, I would have been benched. It was a huge learning experience for me because it taught me that it was okay to take responsibility for things that may not even be your fault.
Most of the time, I’m not very good at this. It’s easier to blame other people and in the short run it feels better too. We can live differently though. Instead of blaming our shortcomings on others, we can take responsibility for them and eventually work toward improving as people. When we blame our stuff on other people, nobody wins. We don’t have to deal with our own issues, and we alienate others. When we admit that sometimes, we just didn’t have what it took, we learn and it brings other people in closer. Taking blame is inclusive; shifting it is exclusive. In my experience, whenever we can be inclusive, it usually works better for everyone.