Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Sense of Proportion = A Sense of Direction

Andre Johnson is an admirable NFL wide receiver. That's why I felt kind of bad that Johnson was my pregame tell that the Houston Texans were doomed last night. Maybe not doomed to lose by four touchdowns, but definitely doomed.

Johnson said last week that meeting the New England Patriots would be "the most important game in Texans' history." Even granting that the Texans don't have much history, those words were incorrect to the point of delusion. They indicated that the Texans had a cluelessness about existence in the upper echelon of pro football that would serve them ill against the Pats and all their other foes in the 2012 season.

Leave aside the fact the Texans were in two playoff games last season, which by definition are more important than any regular season game can be. Johnson's statement wasn't even true about THIS season. The Texans have yet to clinch the AFC South, and have two games remaining against divisional foe Indianapolis. THOSE games are really the most important of the year for Houston -- not last night's.

To reiterate an earlier post, all Houston really lost against the Pats, was prestige, an item of no use to the team in January. The Texans still have the best record in the AFC. If they win out, they'll have home field advantage, the only real stakes of last night's game for both teams.

 Not that Pats-Texans wasn't a big game. But in the NFL dictionary, "big" is an adjective with more meanings than "important" when modifying the noun "game." In this case, big carried the definition "an exciting and demanding professional challenge before a large audience that's way more fun than getting ready for the Jaguars." Important is an adjective that should always mean "If we lose, we're screwed."

Cut through the Belichickspeak of all the Pats prior to the Texans game, and you find it was all variations of the above definition of "big." Having lost a Super Bowl last season, the Pats aren't about to get giddy over a mere Monday nighter. They don't like Jon Gruden that much. New England has enough experience with reaching goals not to place too much emphasis on the journey rather than its desired destination.

Not the Texans. They actually conflated prestige with accomplishment. As is the way of the world in more realms than football, they wound up getting neither. They're not quite as suspect a contender as their 11-2 peers the Falcons, but they took major steps in that direction. And I do not believe one need be a psychoanalyst to suspect that the false significance the team gave to the Patriots game helped push them backwards. Emotion is a necessity in football. Too much emotion invariably results in paralysis eerily akin to the fading of a sugar rush.

Achieving the correct degree of emotion is difficult. Takes practice. Playoff games, Super Bowls, that kind of thing. Few of us have innate maturity, after all.

But we all know from realms other than football that placing undue significance on an event has a nasty way of making that event a disappointment.


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