It seems like every year, in almost every big game, one single big chance or impossible play is what makes or breaks the game. Whether it’s a crazy catch, a surprise onside kick, or a trick play on offense, one play can singlehandedly change the outcome of a game, and at the same time, change whether or not a fan simply liked the game or loved it.
It’s a shame that some great games will be forgotten if they don’t have this huge, unrepeatable play, and some mediocre games will go down in history just because of it. You look at the Steelers-Bengals game last weekend (which was still a decent game otherwise) and out of all the actual football played, all you can really remember is the crazy, between-his-legs touchdown catch Martavis Bryant had for the Steelers. The game itself was notable for its physicality and animosity between the two teams, but the actual game was lackluster at best. Then, you look at the Packers-Redskins game, which didn’t have any highlights, and nobody wants to talk about it at all.
Obviously this isn’t on purpose, and people will always watch football games regardless, but in my mind, games are really relying on these huge plays to draw more interest into the game itself, and lead into the rest of playoffs. You look at the Seahawks, and they’ve become the king of this. Between the crazy fake field goal in last year’s NFC Championship that completely changed the game, and last weekend’s “how did he do that?” play by Russell Wilson after a botched snap that went from laughable to incredible in two seconds, they’ve become notorious for being able to take over games because of this. People hate it, but they’ll watch the Seahawks even when they’re down because that one play will change everything. It even happened in last year’s Super Bowl, when, during what looked to be a hopeless comeback, Jermaine Kearse make a crazy circus catch on his back after a batted ball to give his team a chance. The team almost expects it to happen once a game, and that’s why fans hate to watch them succeed, but love to watch their games at the same time.
Even at the collegiate level, games have gone down in the books for this craziness. In Monday’s National Championship, Alabama pulled off a surprise onside kick (that was finished by a Willie Mays-style catch from an Alabama special teams player) that will go down in history as the play that gave them the game, or at least the chance to win. It was a great game otherwise with amazing highlight plays and great players, but that one play will be talked about when you look back at that game.
I wish fans weren’t so trapped in this idea that a game is amazing if it has this one play. Great games can be low-scoring, defensive battles, decided by football knowledge and overall great coaching and talent. It’s allowed to be a high-scoring, highlight-filled game between two offensive powerhouses. It shouldn’t be a mediocre game defined by a play that you’ll never see again, and hopefully fans can deviate from that mindset before it’s too late.