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Reacting to Losing: A Matter of Perspective

Beyond being a really bad player on really bad football teams at dear old Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in the 1970’s, my sports experience has consisted of being a fan.  And in my teens, I was a passionate fan.  It hurt when the Redskins lost.  Sometimes it took days to get over a loss – and in the case of the Super Bowl VII loss to Miami – weeks.  I always thought, geez, if it’s this bad for me as a fan, it must be so much worse for the players who actually played the game.
 
And then I started covering sports for a living.
 
My first time inside an NFL locker room was 1978.  I was 20 years old – younger than all the players in there.  The team was the Houston Oilers, the “Luv Ya Blue” Oilers.  Bum Phillips was the coach and a rookie by the name of Earl Campbell was taking the league by storm as they became a winner for the first time in ages.  From my first radio job in Beaumont, Texas, 90 miles away, I went to all the home games with a press pass.  One of the first games I went to, they lost.  “Uh oh,” I thought.  There was no way these guys will be in the mood to talk to anybody.
 
To my surprise, nobody in there seemed to take the loss nearly as bad as I had just taken Redskin losses just a few years earlier.  As time went on, I came to understand that this was their job.  Most had felt they had done what they could on the field and there was nothing more that could be done about the game.  By the time the media was allowed to come in to the locker room, they were ready to move on with their lives.
 
Which brings us to the recent Redskins brushfire – the perceived lack of concern by the players over the mounting losses.  John Keim, who covers the team for ESPN.com and ESPN 980 had a note in his game story after the 27-17 loss to the Seahawks about players seeming to be lighthearted in the locker room after the game.  The Washington Post took it a step further by writing this on Wednesday:
 
“Veteran receiver Pierre Garcon acted out something while sharing laughs with offensive team captain Trent Williams.  Other players also clearly were amused while retelling stories.  But few if any seemed bothered by the Redskins’ third consecutive loss.”
 
That led to damage control on Wednesday, including safety Ryan Clark asking the media if they knew how to act after losing a game.  He wondered how anybody in the media would know how to behave after losing an NFL game saying, “You haven’t been in that situation.”
 
Would have been interesting to hear what Doc Walker, Brian Mitchell , Chris Cooley or any other former NFL player would have said had they been in the media gathering around Clark’s locker.  Either way, that’s an old players tactic, suggesting that a reporter can’t know anything because he or she never put on a jock.
 
More importantly, nearly halfway into a season after a 3-13 year with a 1-4 record, the Redskins are feeling the need to convince everybody that they actually care about winning.  Shouldn’t that be assumed?  You have to laugh when you read a headline in the Post that says:
 
“Redskins adamant they want to win”
 
Proof of that can only come on the field.  Since beating Dallas in the 2012 regular season finale, the Redskins are 4-18, including the playoff loss to Seattle.  As far as I’m concerned, what a player says or does after a game means little in the grand scheme of things.  It’s what he does DURING the game.   And from the record it doesn’t appear that there are enough players doing what they should be doing.
 
A little story to wrap it up.  During out first year of Redskins coverage in 1992, I did the pregame show with Jean Fugett.  He’d been a Pro Bowl tight end with the Cowboys and Redskins.  With Dallas, Jean played in Super Bowl X, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
 
I asked him once how he felt losing such a crucial game.  “I was devastated,” he said.
 
“I can imagine,” I said.
 
“Yeah,” he replied, “the Steelers got $25 thousand for winning that game. We only got ten.”
 
Perspective.
 

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