Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Favorites or Underdogs, Players Always Jittery before Big Game

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Favorites or Underdogs, Players Always Jittery before Big Game

Article excerpt

Hands wet. Mouth dry. Stomach churning.

If you've been in a football locker room before a big game, even if you were only there to watch, you know the feeling.

The suspense is crushing. It doesn't matter if you're the favorite or the underdog. You can breathe the tension, when you can inhale at all.

It doesn't matter how hard or how long you've practiced and prepared. It doesn't matter how much you deserve to win, or think you do.

One minute, your mind is blank and your nerves are numb. The next minute, desperate thoughts pinch your brain.

What if something goes wrong?

What if there's something we forgot to cover?

What if the officials take it away from us?

What if we get a bad break?

What if the ending isn't fair?

In football, the physical pain of losing is one thing. The mental hurt is worse and lasts much longer.

A lot of your friends and neighbors don't care about any of this. They think you're a dope for putting so much effort into a sport that has so few games, so few rewards and so many chances to get hurt.

If you do all that work and lose, then you look like even more of a dope. And you feel like one, too.

And what about all the people who support you? All the adults in town, even the ones who don't like football, are building you a new stadium. If you lose the big game, they'll be able to use it for other things. But the whole town looks like a dope if you blow the big game and can't put an elite team on that new field.

You would feel better if the big game was at home and not in Chicago. You've played one big game there already this season and were favored to win. You weren't ready, though, and the game didn't go well. You stumbled away with a tie.

Today's game is the championship game. There are no ties. It's sudden death. One slip and you could be finished.

Hands wet. Mouth dry. You'd think it would be the other way around.

Where have you heard that before? A movie? Yes, "The Magnificent Seven," that great old action flick. The Mexican peasant said that before the seven gunslingers led his townfolk into battle against the evil bandits.

The most gripping part of that flick was not the action but the scenes leading up to it. …

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