Many sports fans know the great coach Vince Lombardi once said, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lombardi is also known for saying a similar, “winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” At no time was he heard saying a tie will suffice.
As a parent, the things I will remember most are the unexpected teaching moments I am able to be a part of for my children. My 13 year old daughter was a member of the league and end of season countywide tournament winning Purple Raptor U15 soccer team this summer. Their first game of the year was a loss, a reminder at all times when later success could have gotten to their heads that they too were vulnerable. Toward the middle of the season, with a record of 5-1, the team found themselves at halftime of their seventh game down 4-1. Making the necessary adjustments, the defense did not allow another goal throughout the first 25 minutes of the second half, but the offense hadn’t found their targets either. The tide turned at the 55-minute mark and the Purple Raptors started draining deep shots, the first from 30 feet out with 4:30 to play. The girls dug in and managed another 25-foot goal with only 1:00 minute left in the game. With screams of excitement, the offense charged in on the ensuing kickoff by the opposing team and managed to steal the ball cleanly, sending a perfect pass soaring to the forward’s head, who in turn knocked down the ball, slid to the left, and sent the ball to the back corner of the net, a 4-4 tie as time expired.
The Raptors were ecstatic. High fives flew as they came off the field. Daddy mode kicked in and I saw a teaching opportunity. After giving her a congratulatory hug, I leaned in and asked her how it felt. She, of course, coming off the adrenaline of the fast-paced finish, felt great. I had her turn around to look at the other team. She noticed immediately the slumped shoulders, the bags getting kicked, the water bottles being slammed to the ground. My daughter quickly surmised even though both teams tied at 4-4, the perceptions of the tie were polarizing. The records may not reflect it, but one team definitely won while the other lost. As a player, I wanted her to be humble in winning to show good sportsmanship, to understand: at some point, we are all on opposite sides of emotion.
As fans, we all go through the emotional roller coaster of a tie. Some fans feel incomplete, with a release not allowed to happen. Sure, fans of the team which comes back in the end can leave feeling good and eager for the next week, but was anything really accomplished? The team who was ahead and let the victory slip from their clutches leaves their fans confused and wondering what went wrong.
Week 2 of the NFL saw just such a match between the Green Bay Packers and the visiting Minnesota Vikings. A game which ended in a 29-29 tie, leaving both teams atop the NFC North tied for first place. Both teams had opportunities to win the game. All things considered, both teams look like they can be deep playoff contenders.
A week after quarterback Aaron Rodgers orchestrated the Packers come from behind theft of a win over the Chicago Bears, one in which he had his knee injured, I honestly was expecting the Vikings to steal a win in Lambeau Field. However, the Green Bay defense gave a strong showing for the first three quarters, allowing Rodgers and the offense to run up the score to 20-7. The fourth quarter and overtime was when Kirk Cousins showed us all why the Minnesota Vikings decided to pay him all the money to be their franchise quarterback. Through the first three quarters, Green Bay’s defense had only allowed 206 yards through the air to go along with the single touchdown. During the fourth quarter and overtime, Cousins was able to find his receivers for 219 yards and three additional touchdowns.
The non-quarterback battle came in the form of kickers. Here, Green Bay held the decided advantage on Sunday as Mason Crosby was able to hit on 5 of 6, the lone missed field goal coming on a 52-yard attempt as regulation time expired. Crosby actually made an attempt on this kick, but only after Minnesota called a timeout to ice the kicker. The Vikings’ Daniel Carlson, released on Monday, saw three missed field goals, all wide right. Two of those misses came in overtime, with the first being in the second quarter. The team has since signed kicker Dan Bailey.
A side note to the elephant in the game...
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a penalty called on Clay Matthews late in regulation. For the second week in a row, Matthews was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty on a tackle which would have effectively ended the game, this week due to an interception. While no one argued the validity of the penalty in Week 1, fans and players alike called foul on the penalty called in week two. In slow motion, the tackle is textbook perfect. Matthews leads with his shoulder, head off to the side, arms wrapping the quarterback, bringing Cousins to the ground. What the referee and the NFL say happened is Matthews picked Cousins up and then drove him to the ground. I understand the referee must make a judgment call, and I would never want to be in their shoes, but my hope would be the NFL can find a middle ground and allow these plays to be reviewed. If the criteria involves the defender lifting the quarterback off his feet, let’s take a look and see if the quarterback happens to be jumping when he releases the ball before the defender makes contact.
Regardless of the called penalty, both teams had chances to win this game. As a fan, it didn’t have the same sense of finish, though I’ll take the tie over a loss, especially when I was expecting one.
My daughter, recalling her valuable lesson learned from this summer, gave me a hug at the end of the Packers-Vikings tie, leaned in close, and said, “at least we beat the Bears.” It’s a nice feeling knowing you’re raising them right.