Hope Springs Eternal for NFL Teams and Fans Alike

Alexander Pope in 1732, wrote “An Essay on Man”. In that thoughtful and insightful work he coined the phrase, “Hope Springs Eternal”. Almost 400 years later those words still hold true for the fans of the 32 teams in the National Football League.

Thursday, September 10th, the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field against the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots led by quarterback Tom Brady of “Deflategate” fame. Pope’s poem highlighted that man must have a balance of good and evil to flourish, possibly this is why Brady’s suspension was vacated after months of battling it out in the court with the NFL, to let hope spring eternal.

Every fan of every team has high hopes when the season begins. They want their team to win, not by a single point but by 50 if they can, and not to win one game but every game including the Super Bowl. The reality is that is just not going to happen. Only once in what is called “The Super Bowl Era” has that ever happened, Hall of Fame coach Don Shula led the 1972 Miami Dolphins to a perfect record of 17-0 finishing the season by beating the Washington Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII.

Those hopes will be crushed when or if injury strikes a star quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers or Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts because without those players neither team can hope for anything but a decent season. The Dallas Cowboys without quarterback Tony Romo would be hopeless, as would the New Orleans Saints without Drew Brees leaving each of those teams to struggle just to reach a winning record.

Great running backs like Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson and Kansas City Chief Jamaal Charles give both teams and their fans hope, but injury to either and the season comes crashing down as recent history shows neither team can win without them on the field.

Some teams do however have a chance to win if tragedy strikes a star player, simply because they are built different. The Seattle Seahawks can still win if either quarterback Russell Wilson or running back Marshawn Lynch goes down, not both, but one or the other, because they have a defense that can carry the load if needed, a defense that can win games instead of lose them. The Philadelphia Eagles may also be a team that can overcome an injury to a star player due to roster depth and an offensive scheme that does not depend on any one player.

As with every year there will be hope that Cinderella will come to the dance, maybe this is the year the Miami Dolphins return to relevance. Possibly Jameis Winston will show a maturity in Tampa Bay that he so horribly failed to show at Florida State. If the stars align, either the Buccaneers or Dolphins will be the best football team in that state once again. Arizona Cardinal fans surly have hopes that a Carson Palmer led offense can give balance to a team that has so heavily relied on defense to win games in the recent past.

The Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers fans have hope for an end to the statewide drought of having a winning team they can be proud of, on and off the field. Chicago, Cincinnati, and Cleveland have great fans, all with high hopes that will no doubt be left out in the cold of winter as the season unfolds. New York fans with two teams to follow have twice as much hope as any other city, but they could have those hopes dashed early and often this year.

Yes, without doubt hope springs eternal for teams in the NFL and the fans that so passionately cheer for their teams, even if it is only for a few games until the reality of losing sets in.

J. Brackston

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