Pete Barrows

Headline: Football fans: No one wins the blame game

By Pete Barrows

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I WOKE UP with a lump in my throat.

As if Santa brought me my shovel of coal a week late and delivered it directly down my esophagus. He didn’t stop there, either, no! That wouldn’t have been festive enough.

He snowglobed the place as he departed back home (which can’t be far), and coated the roads with what I assume to be the reject residue slush extracted from the bottom of the slurpee machine at the local Speedway. What a jerk!

At least the one thing I really wanted for Christmas – a Lions Super Bowl win – was already in the bag. I have a tattoo on my calf to prove it! I even received a Division II football national championship in my stocking earlier in the season when Grand Valley State brought the hardware home. At least that’s what I keep telling myself every time I snap into a partially cold-induced daydream.

That Santa guy’s a hack. So is Pete Morelli, head official from Detroit’s crushing Wild Card loss to the Dallas Cowboys. And as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one way to deal with hacks.

A snowman firing line.

AS I PATROL BACK AND FORTH with hands held behind my back, I inquire if my captive snowmen dressed in effigy have any last words. Silence. At least Frosty Santa and Morelli are taking it like snowmen.

With no further ado, I remove the glove from my right hand and dip it into my bag of footballs. Lock and load. With a steady hand, I take aim and exhale a puff of air that momentarily clouds my gaze. In that moment, the ground shakes.

My head begins to spin as if it were riding a carousel Tim Allen got a hold of. Al Borland isn’t there to save me. I hit the deck, and when I peer back up, I’m surrounded. Not by two snowmen, but by dozens; half wearing charcoal stripes and black baseball caps, the other half caring burlap sacks and donning glasses and red hats trimmed with white.

It’s an army of zombie Santa snowmen commanding NFL referees minions and they’re out for blood. Turns out, so am I, seeing as it’s they who ruined my holiday.

I fire the football in my hand at the first charging snowman as I dive towards my bag of ammo. It’s a direct hit! I’m instantly transformed into the 24-year-old version of Spaceman Spiff, combating wave after wave of evil mutant snowmen, and I love it. It’s cathartic.

Every carrot nose I upturn or spherical torso I punch through is better than any apology the NFL could issue. Every disappointing loss suffered by GVSU this football season is avenged until I’m the last one standing.

Which is primarily because I was the only one standing there from the beginning. Turns out, that lump in my throat might not have been all Santa’s fault after all. It also turns out that when you’re sick and delirious with a fever, it’s ill advised to play in the snow.

Who knew?

AS I SIPPED HOT CHOCOLATE from the living room, casually glancing back outside to ensure an army of snowmen wasn’t congregating for a sneak attack, I made another realization. When a season, a game, even a play goes bad, it helps to have someone to blame. Anyone and anything in sight.

The sun was in my eyes!

I’m tired!

I’m still warming up!

That coach is an idiot!

That ref is blind!

Bad call!

It’s so easy that any schmuck can do it – even a delusional snowman fighting schmuck like me – and turns out most of us are pros. Instead of acknowledging our own faults or accepting errors by others, we have a tendency to instead excuse and blame. And that isn’t just a sports thing.

GVSU football underperformed this year. The Detroit Lions got hosed, but to attribute one person, one play, one call with all of the fault is coping at best, and self-destructive at worst. It’s a victim mentality, and it’s how teams and players and people get stuck in slumps.

Fight a snowman if you must – it’s terrific exercise. Scream into a pillow, chop onions, eat a carton of Cherry Garcia. But take your lumps, and then remind yourself that there’s always next year.