It hurts, it hurts

January 17, 2007 at 7:46 pm (Sports thoughts)

I have put off writing about this topic for the past 4 days. I had to. It was and is a very painful topic. In fact during the past 4 days I have immediately hushed anyone who has even brought up the subject. I have not listened to sports talk radio, I have not watched any ESPN and I have read only 3 articles on the subject. But I must give you, my faithful readers what i know you want, so here it is, enjoy my misery.

The night after the game I literally woke up at 3:30 and didn’t fall back to sleep for over an hour. I couldn’t, I kept seeing Eric Parker dropping passes and Marlon McRee intercepting on 4th down. It was horrible. It was like a nightmare you can’t wake up from, but the nightmare was a reality. How could this have happened? UGH!

One Foxsports article did a fairly good job of summarizing all the things that had to go wrong for the Chargers to lose this game. I agree with their assessments of the errors, but disagree with the conclusion. I don’t believe the Chargers “blew it”. I invite you to read, “ten reason the chargers blew it” and then consider the difference between blowing it and just plain bad luck.

DROPPED PASSES

First of all let me just say, a dropped pass is a dropped pass. Dropping a pass or failing to catch a ball that is within reach isn’t exactly “blowing it”. Golfers everywhere agree that a 3 foot putt is never just a 3 foot putt. And yet the same sports fans who acknowledge THAT somehow seem to think that it is easier to catch a football then it is to sink a putt.

“I strenuously object!”

Anything involving the cohesive movement of 11 individuals trying to avoid the planned opposition of another 11 individuals, all highly trained and the best in the world at what they do, will always be more difficult to accomplish then something that takes into account a maximum of 5 or 6 variables. There is an infinite number of variables involved in a dropped pass and a completed pass. Nevertheless Eric Parker, Clinton Hart, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and Eric Parker again still will bear more of the blame for dropped balls then any of the other 21 guys on the field at that time, and reasonably so. However, to make them entirely at fault is neither fair nor accurate.

Sometimes balls are just dropped. maybe the defender hits him simultanesouly as the ball arrives. Maybe the ball was unusually slick (Tony Romo). Maybe the ball was slightly deflected or unusually off target or a defener is postioned in just the right place to shield the reciever from seeing the flight of the ball. Sometimes it’s Bad Luck as much as it is bad hands (except in Eric Parkers case).

COACHING MISTAKES

There are also bad coaching calls. These are really easy to tell after the fact. Yes i disagreed with Marty going for it on 4th and 11, even before it, but I didn’t have the knowledge he had that Nate Kaeding had told him before the game, “35 and 30”. Those were the maximum distances he said he could make with the wind and the cold as it were. I can see Marty’s thoughts now…

“4th and 11, my defense isn’t allowing their offense to do anything, AND my kicker tells me he can’t make it, why not take a chance, at least people will stop calling me conservative.”

Well he thought wrong. It didn’t cost him the game, there are dozens of decisions that you make wrong, it’s hardly fair to consider that one or the 11+ others to be the cause of a loss. How many poor choices does it take to lose a game? Did Belichek not make as many bad choices? I’m afraid that at some point you just have to call it, Bad Luck.

BONE HEAD PENALTIES

Drayton Florence’s penalty was devastating, but there were other penalties that cost the Chargers as well. The thing about penalties is that they are often subjective (like nearly every holding penalty). Even the D-Flo penalty couldv’e just as easily been called against Daniel Graham after he retaliated to the “head butt” by shoving Florence back. No one would have taken any offense to the referee calling that an offsetting penalty on both teams and replaying the down. Sometimes penalties go against you and rather then suppose there is any type of bias in the officiating of the game I prefer to think of it as, Bad Luck.

BONE HEAD PLAYS

Arguably the two biggest mistakes of the game were Eric Parker’s muffed punt and Marlon McRee’s interception/fumble. These two were both the fault of over excited guys who were, “trying to make a play”. Or if you prefer they were, “thinking with their ego’s instead of their brains.” I have a long standing rule that I don’t fault players for trying. These two plays push my self imposed rule to the breaking point. At both occasions everyone in the stadium knew the right play, except for the one individual involved in the play. How is that possible? Bad Luck.

OK fine, maybe I prefer to blame it all on “Bad Luck” because it’s easy to place blame on something that arguably doesn’t even exist. Honestly though, when a professional sports writer comes up 10 mistakes in cooperation together to be the determining factor as to why the Chargers “blew” the game. When the implication is that if any one of those things had gone differently then so would have the outcome. When you imagine that by some strange weather miracle a gust of wind could have blown Kaeding’s field goal attempt through the uprights before the clock expired. Can’t you then call everything working against you the way that it did, “Bad Luck”? I mean if there is any time and place to use the phrase, I think it is now, I think it is here.

Yes I am an apologist for all San Diego sports teams, but here is a little known fact. My second favorite football team happens to be the Baltimore Ravens. Weird huh? Well I will say this about the Ravens, there was no luck involved, they got their butts kicked. I look at Dallas loosing to Seattle and I say, Romo blew it. Those are two clear cut losses that are the fault of the team or the fault of a player, but that Chargers losing to the Patriots was neither. It was simply, Bad Luck.

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32 Comments

  1. Dean Zamora said,

    Even with the events you attribute to bad luck, if the best receiving tight end in the NFL holds onto the ball at the one, that’s a guaranteed 7 with a TD machine like LT. And if Jackson was a polished receiver, that’s another 7. That would more than overcome the dropped 3rd down passes.
    Like you said, bad luck doesn’t exist. Poor play caused the loss.
    Oh well, now 2 1/2 days removed from the game, we can all reflect and say, it is, afterall, just a game.

  2. Matt said,

    What exactly is bad luck? or good luck for that matter? How does someone become the recipient of good or bad luck? Since I doubt anyone has an answer to these questions, I do not think it is a legitmate answer to why the Chargers lost. I choose, instead, to offer tangible, practical reasons why they lost. These reasons would include the afore mentioned dropped passes (pass catching: a skill that is learned, perfected and expected to be executed correctly when needed), poor coaching decisions, and mental errors at the most inopportune times (i.e. head-butting opposing players in front of officials, catching 4th down passes while on defense, and attempting to pick up a stationary football with 11 screaming Patriots bearing down on you when just laying on it would do the trick). These things if done correctly would have insured us Charger fans of a home game this weekend, but instead all we have is next year.

  3. NJShawn said,

    Hi, Daniel.

    I gotta say, whether it’s bad luck or poor skill/coaching/decision making, it still hurts. Going into the playoffs, I had my #1 team (Dallas), #2 team (Seattle) and #3 team (Chargers) all looking interesting. Ok, maybe 1 and 2 didn’t have a chance, but #3 sure should have been at least in the Championship.

    I do wonder, though, how the Thompson household is holding up…Jessica has to be amazingly smug right about now…and Cody must be about ready to tear up his last remaining SD jersey.

    Had Albino at my house this weekend, and we were both pretty shocked. Although I think he’s now a bears fan…

  4. danielbalc said,

    This is the point boys, Bad Luck can only be defined as statistical aberrations.

    In texas hold em’ when you get beat by one card on the river you call that a “bad beat”. Why? because statistically it was nearly impossible for that card to come up. At best it was a 1 out of 40 chance right?

    So statistically speaking what are the odds that every third down pass that was dropped would be dropped. What are the odds that even after McRee or Parker fumbles a football that it will be recovered by the Patriots? Aren’t the odds 50/50 on a fumble recovery? There wasn’t just 11 patriots going after the ball, there were also 11 chargers. Statistically anomalies! And if any one of these things goes the Chargers way the outcome is different.

    I’m sticking with bad luck.

  5. Matt said,

    The problem with this analogy is as follows: In poker all you can do is get your money in the pot with the best hand, and after that your job is done and the outcome is entirely out of your hands. So you have no control over what 5 cards come out of the deck. In football the players are in complete control over their actions and the results that follow. That is the beautiful part about it, we can justifiably pass blame on certain indiviuals because their actions did not produce the desired result, but you can also work to correct your actions so that is does not happen again, a luxury that poker players do not have.

  6. danielbalc said,

    The problem is that there are simply too many individuals to “justifiably blame”. If you really believe (and I do) that if McRee knocks the ball down. OR Gates catches the ball at the 1 OR Parker doesn’t muff the punt. OR Keading kicks a field goal on 4th and 11 OR Parker catches a ball on third down OR Florence doesn’t head butt Graham OR Schottenheimer doesn’t blow a timeout on an obvious non-fumble OR a holding penalty doesn’t knock us out of field goal range OR Rivers throws the ball 3 inches higher and it falls into Tomlinsons hands and not intercepted OR Jackson gets his toe down in bounds OR Parker doesn’t slide in the new turf AHHHHHHHHHHHHH if any one of those things goes differently don’ t you think we win? But NO, they all go against us. At some point you have to say, “dang, that was statistically abnormal” errrrr “dang, that was bad luck”.

  7. Matt said,

    So why did we play our worst game of the season, in the most important game of the season? Was it nerves? Was it coaching? I do not remember a game this year where so many mistakes that are so easily identifiable were made. Or were there games this year that as many mistakes were made and because we won anyway we do not notice? I cannot explain it, I just hope it does not happen next year when we will be in the same position!

  8. danielbalc said,

    I really don’t think it was the worst game of the season. Seriously, that would have been our second game against Oakland. And in that game, the breaks went our way, (Hello Vincent Jackson illegal forward pass). That’s what I am saying, Nerves? Coaching? irrelevant, that ball simply did not bounce our way. The Patriots may have played their worst game of the season. 51 pass attempts? 3 INT’s for Brady? ran the ball for what? 50 yards? BUT the breaks went their way. All of the stats say we dominated the game, except the one that matters. Scoreboard. OH again I say…. It hurts

  9. Matt said,

    So if we go along with your line of reasoning do we have any hope for next year when we are presented with the same opportunity? Or will it be entirely up to the “breaks” that do or don’t go our way? I would like to believe that you make your own breaks by being prepared and excecuting and if we do that next year the outcome will be different.

  10. danielbalc said,

    Absolutely there is hope for next season. This was Weird. It shouldn’t have happened. It was so far from the realm of reality. It just shouldn’t have come down like this. That is why we should have more hope for next year. How many times are you going to get beat on the river? very very very rarely. Thats why the Patriots were so happy when they won. They knew they had no business being in that game. They knew it was freakishly weird. They knew that they were extremely fortunate (lucky). We are in great shape for next season, and will be even hungrier.

    BTW stay on the look out for my pre-season Padres predictions coming in Spring Training.

  11. Pablo Honey said,

    After a few days of meditation and deep personal reflection here is my 2 cents on the matter, and please bear in my mind that I live & breath Charger’s football.

    Daniel is on to something here, but it’s not bad luck.The Chargers are simply victims of a Biblical principle we all know but have somehow neglected to apply to the Chargers… Please look with me to the book of Galatians:

    Galatians 6:7 (Slightly Modified NIV) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A team reaps what they sow.

    Lets all take a stroll down memory lane and look at the Charger’s year in review.

    The trouble starts…
    April 14, 2006 – Linebacker Shaun Phillips is arrested.
    And exactly 1 week later:
    April 21, 2006 – Linebacker Steve Foley is arrested.
    Leading to…
    September 3, 2006 – Linebacker Steve Foley is shot.
    And the team learns their lesson! …Or not….
    September 26, 2006 – Safety Terrence Kiel is arrested.
    Even our practice squad got involved…
    October 9, 2006 – Cornerback Markus Curry is arrested.
    Our Superstars cheated:
    October 22, 2006 – Linebacker Shawne Merriman is suspended.
    And even an offensive player found trouble…
    January 6, 2007 – Tight End Ryan Krause is arrested.

    All season long we laughed about how the Bengals had so many players arrested it was amazing they could still field a team, and then we saw them miss the playoffs because of a bad snap on a game tying extra point attempt. How did we not see this tragedy headed for the Chargers?

    It is time for the Chargers to change their image. I think the leaders on this team need to step up and whip the young guys into shape! Otherwise all I see in our future is success followed by painful defeat, and as of right now… I can’t say we don’t deserve it.

  12. danielbalc said,

    So instead of “bad luck” you are going with “bad karma”?

    Or maybe it’s the punishment of God. I mean how much money is San Diego going to lose from this crop freezing disaster? Hundreds of millions of dollars? Geez what are the odds that this would happen the same week as this Chargers loss?

    If it is indeed bad karma then we had better get over to vegas and start putting the rent check down on New Orleans because if anyone is going to have good karma going into this thing it’s the saints.

  13. Albino Hayford said,

    The guys from the church were sending me dozens of happy text messages on my cell phone as the Cowboy game wound down. “It’s in the bag!” “Here we go, baby!” “How bout them Cowboys?” Then the unthinkable. I suffered an agonizing, cruel ending to the Cowboys’ season when Romo muffed the field goal hold, followed by a call from Pastor Doug rubbing lemon juice in my paper cut – “Enjoy preaching to those Cowboy fans in the morning!”. I stood on the porch for 14 minutes wanting to vomit, then languished on the couch watching the post-game chatter in disbelief.

    This last Sunday at Shawn’s house in Jersey, we were very excited as we fired up the high definition, big screen with pizzas on the tv trays and Krispy Kreme and coffee waiting in the kitchen. I donned my Charger’s cap and prepared to watch the Chargers crush those hapless Patriots and their coach that can’t seem to wear anything but a sweatshirt.

    Then…TRAGEDY!!! Why in the name of all that is holy do you not KNOCK DOWN a 4th down pass? Fine, catch it; but then FALL DOWN, DUDE! JUST FALL DOWN! Oh, the pain and the agony…

    I couldn’t even watch the last, pathetic death rattle of the Chargers as they attempted the field goal. Shawn shouted what happened to me from the living room: “It’s over, dude! I can’t believe it’s over!”

    I love the NFL, and I HATE the NFL. So much pain, so much hurt. The only thing that eased my suffering was changing planes in Chicago a couple days ago, and picking up a Bears cap. What can I say? I love a winner, babeeee. GO BEARS! And if they lose, I”ve got an old Saints cap in my closet good to go.

  14. danielbalc said,

    Albino, please, please, pleasssssssse put on a Patriots hat. Clearly God is against YOU!

  15. Nate Johnson said,

    Hey, I’m a cousin of Jim Ost’s.
    Are you seriously saying all that stuff that the Chargers did was bad luck, but Tony Romo just ‘blew the game’. He can be blamed, but not the Chargers. You can’t be serious. the iron is killing me. If anybody experienced bad luck, it was Tony Romo. He couldn’t blow a hold if he tried another hundred times. That was just a freak play. It’s an automatic pilot thing that didn’t work.
    Yeesh . . . if anybody suffered from bad luck, it was the Cowboys.
    Your team got beat fair and square. The Cowboys put themselves in a position to win and just had a freak incident go wrong. Again, Romo couldn’t have blown that one again if he tried a hundred times.
    Nate

  16. Ben said,

    Another cuz of Jim’s (and Nate)

    Nate’s right. I don’t believe nerves or pressure had anything to do with Romo’s mishap. It was just a freak incident. He did it 49 times for PATs and 20 times for field goals during the season. He had done it several times in the same game.

    The saddest parts for me were 1) the review of Witten’s first-down catch at the one. How can a spot be reviewable? The key replay was from the end-zone perspective, of course it’s going to look short. and 2) the fact that Romo thought he was going in for a TD on the botched field goal. He would have made it if he had dove. He would have made it had Grammatica not being a 98-lb weakling failing to block the cornerback. Oh, that hurts.

    That was the worst stomach punch for a Cowboys fan since the Miami Thanksgiving game, which didn’t matter that much since it wasn’t playoffs. It was out of nowhere. A bad snap happens more than a botched hold.

    The Chargers executed poorly. They dropped passes, they made mental mistakes. So either their preparation was bad (coach’s fault) or they are chokers (players’ faults). One fluke play can be passed off as a statistical anomaly. 10-15 bad plays? That’s bad execution.

  17. Matt said,

    Come on guys it is poor execution by both teams that cost them the game. BTW even if Romo gets the snap down and you make the kick, you are going to lose because you know your not going to stop the Seahawks from kicking a game winning field goal with over a minute on the clock.

  18. danielbalc said,

    Ben and Nate, welcome to the discussion.

    Look guys, i agree completely that you ought to be feeling a large amount of pain right now as well. I do think that what happened to the ‘boys was “bad luck”, but it was bad luck on the part of primarily one individual. thus you can place the blame almost entirely on him.

    The difference is that it would be very difficult to say that most people expected Dallas to win. Even if Romo gets that ball down Seattle still has a lot of time to try and drive down themselves and tie or win the game. Right? Dallas fans I commiserate with your sorrows, but I don’t know that they are comparable.

    Oh Yeah need i remind everyone that the Padres also lost in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year?

    AND 2 years ago the bolts lost on a missed kick in overtime, that one wasn’t too easy to swallow either.

    The one thing we have to fall back on is the beautiful weather, but even that has been slipping thanks to Al Gore’s movie.

    God have mercy on us!!!!

  19. Ben said,

    You are right, there are differences.

    1. San Diego has a history of good teams that don’t win in the post-season. I can’t relate to you very well there. Good Cowboys teams have historically won Super Bowls. My other teams (Spurs and Twins) have pretty good playoff resumes as well. So, I’m not feeling the depth of your pain there.

    2. You’re right. Seattle could have gone down and won the game. But, with no timeouts and one minute left, I’d say it was only a 30% chance. That doesn’t make the surprise punch in the gut any less painful (though I suppose if the Cowboys were perennial chokers, I could have used it for morbid consolation. On the other hand, I suppose one can make the argument that they were chokers for much of this season).

    3. There is also the old maxim – there were plenty of chances throughout the game. If Terry Glenn had not fumbled, yadda yadda. BUT, in a close game, all you can ask for is the ball in your hands with a chance to win the game in the last minute. That’s what you want as an athlete, and that’s what we got. Except for the last play, Romo came up big on that last drive. I guess history will be the judge for Romo. If he comes back and becomes the next Montana or Elway, then we’ll look back on this and pass this off as an aberration.

    4. I’m spending too much time on this, but no one around here is a football fan, much less a Cowboys fan. Thanks for giving me a spot to vent.

    5. Lastly, here’s some humor to assuage your pain. http://www.theonion.com/content/node/57422?utm_source=onion_rss_daily

  20. Jessica said,

    Danel here is your comment: I felt so stressed and sick to my stomach while watching the game but the worst part was coming home with a devasted, sullen, pouting husband. I think he is still hurt from the team that was so promising only to crush his super bowl predictions. Our new brother-in-law is a Bears fan so now we are pulling for them.

  21. danielbalc said,

    just watched a replay of the game (I must be a masochist). One thing that I missed and that has not been mentioned. on the 2-point conversion Marty was yelling at the ref trying to call a time out. At that point we had 2 remaining. He was screaming it and signaling it with his hands. Evidently he knew the play. But thats just another break that didn’t go our way.

    It was good also to see the D-Flo “headbutt”. That’s just a terrible officiating call. Since when are players not allowed to get in the face of the opponents?

    I’m going to take some Advil, this hurts.

  22. Matt said,

    No your not a masochist your a Charger apologist. You sound like some of those guys over on Reuben’s blog trying defend their errant theology.

    Headbutting IS worth a penalty and he did hit him, he was not just “in his face”. Stupid play, no defending that one.

  23. danielbalc said,

    I admit to being a charger apologist but my argument on that particular play still stands. And I haven’t heard it addressed. Would anyone have objected to that being offsetting penalties?

    I think if you look at the play in a vacuum, not seeing the before or the after then yeah you could call it on him, but watching the whole thing in real time I just don’t think it was a fair call.

    But that’s neither here nor there, there were 10 other “breaks” that went the patriots way. here is to hoping that vinatteri hits a game winner at the buzzer.!!

  24. Brad said,

    Hi

    I’m another cousin of Jim Ost and he told me I should come on over here and gloat a bit. To those that were unable, either because of a lack of ability or bad luck (coughchargerschokedcough), to make it to the big game you have my sympathies. But since I’m a sinner too I just have to say – nah nah na nah nah. GO COLTS. :-)))))))

    Brad

  25. danielbalc said,

    Brad, as a colts fan you would be able to empathize after the perpetual years of disappointing playoff experiences, so your sympathies are greatly appreciated. As for your gloating I need only to refer to the Bible and remind you that “one who puts on his armor should not boast like who takes it off.” I Kings 20:11

    save your “nah nahs” for when you actually beat the Chargers OK?

  26. Brad said,

    I believe our beating the Chargers was grandfathered in when we bet the Patriots. πŸ™‚

    But you’re right about gloating. It often does seem to come back and bite me. πŸ™‚

    Brad

  27. Pablo Honey said,

    Brad, congrats on the Colts victory and good luck in XLI but I must point out that your “grandfathered” logic is absolutely ludicrous! Would it be right to say then that the Houston Texans should be AFC champions because they beat the Colts 5 weeks ago? Just because 1 team beats another doesn’t mean it could beat all the other teams that team beat… does that make any sense?? Fact is the Chargers put a beat down on Indy on the road last year and we’re gonna do it again at home next season. Count on it.

  28. danielbalc said,

    Another problem with the grandfathered” logic is that the patriots didn’t beat the Chargers, the Chargers beat themselves. The Chargers are still the best team because they were the only team to beat the best team. AND they did it twice during the regular season. Amazing! It’s pretty hard to be beat the best team in football three times in one season, but they did it.

  29. danielbalc said,

    wow, this guy sounds so much like me.

  30. Brad said,

    Hmmm. I admire in both of you your loyalty to the Chargers. But in all my years of sports watching it’s always been my understanding that the best team is the one that wins the championship. In the AFC I believe the Colts stand alone in that column. I think that if San Diego was the best team you’d be the ones going to the Super Bowl and I’d be the one whinning about how the better team lost because of bad luck. πŸ™‚

    Brad

  31. danielbalc said,

    Maybe you’re right Brad, but I still think the Colts were the best team last year and not the Steelers. I would have thought a loyal colt fan would’ve agreed with me. Oh well.

  32. Brad said,

    To your credit San Diego is a beautiful place, it’s got a great Seminary nearby, Westminster, and yeah the Chargers are pretty good. Maybe next year.

    Brad

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