Football fans love to sit in judgment. It’s part of the fun of watching the game. When a pass play doesn’t work, it’s fun to turn to the guy next to you and say, “I don’t understand why they’re not running the ball.” When a running play goes nowhere, it’s fun to say, “They should be passing in that situation.” No matter what happens, if it doesn’t result in a fabulous play and possibly a touchdown, you can easily say, “They should have done something else.”
Other sports work that way, too. As a baseball disappears over an outfield wall, somebody in the stands will be saying, “You can’t throw a fastball with a count of three and one to Aaron Judge in Yankee Stadium before ten o’clock at night on a Wednesday. That’s insane.” Second-guessing seems to be a sports fan’s right. Sometimes it seems to be a sports fan’s responsibility.
People who rehash football games in that way are called “Monday morning quarterbacks”. Maybe they can’t throw a football more than 40 feet, and maybe they get winded climbing a single flight of stairs, but they can tell you what should have happened in that game yesterday, and possibly what play that coach should have called, and what move that quarterback should have made, and in some cases, what I would have done in that situation.
It’s not as if they’re wrong. If a pinch-hitter strikes out with the bases loaded, the manager should have sent up somebody who wasn’t going to strike out. That’s true. It’s impossible to know for sure ahead of time, but it’s still true. Anytime something doesn’t turn out well in sports, you should have done something else. Real life works in a similar way. That guy who was just sentenced to prison because he was caught robbing a bank? He shouldn’t have robbed a bank. You know how I didn’t win the lottery last night? I should have chosen different numbers. That golfer who came in second in the tournament last weekend? He should have made more birdie putts. The basketball team that lost last night by one point? They should have made two more points.
Coaches are often criticized for being less than social or less than cordial. They seem angry all the time, or they’re unwilling to answer a question or give you the time of day. It’s easy to figure out why. No matter what coaches do, they’re criticized by people who couldn’t have done any better and don’t really know what they’re talking about. But those people are also correct. That game you lost? You should have won. In fact, another coach did win that game, and he was on the other side of the field. You finished fifth last season? You should have finished first, like that coach who did. There could be a million different reasons why my favorite team isn’t successful, but in my mind, all things are equal, and if somebody else can be successful, we should be able to do it, too.
Boise State’s spring football game was this past Saturday. Thousands of people showed up to watch, even though the game doesn’t count in anybody’s standings and Boise State players were going to win no matter what. The people were there to sit in judgment. How does the team look? How did recruiting go? Do we have anybody who can throw the football as well as the guy who just graduated?
I have to admire the fans who show up for the spring game. They’re not Monday morning quarterbacks. I don’t know what you’d call them. Maybe they’re profilers. They’re not going to wait until the games are being played to sit in judgment of the coaches and the team. They’re going to decide based on an afternoon’s performance in April what they expect to happen in September, October and November. If they were detectives, they wouldn’t be the ones who examine the crime scene and look for the culprit. They’d be the ones standing in your front yard telling you to get back inside the house with that shotgun and not be an idiot.