Pet Peeve #45: Blaming Last-Minute Mistakes for Sports Losses

Disclaimer: I’ve been a 49ers fan for the last 24 years, and I will continue to be a 49ers fan for the next 24 years. After that, all bets are off and my allegiance will be for sale to the highest bidder.

This is my greatest sports pet peeve. Let’s start with the example that all of your 49ers fans friends have been talking about.

With 2 minutes left in the Super Bowl, down by 5 points, the San Francisco 49ers had a first and goal at the 7 yard line. They attempted three plays and gained 2 yards. On the final play, quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw a fade pass to the corner of the end zone. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was slightly impeded by a Ravens cornerback, and the pass dropped incomplete. A few plays later, the Ravens won the game.

49er players, coaches, and fans are livid at the officials for not making that call. They seem markedly less livid that another 49er player (Culliver) prevented a touchdown earlier in the game by illegally impeding a Ravens wide receiver without getting a call. And they certainly haven’t said much about the following:

  • With 2 weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl, on their very first play of scrimmage, the 49ers lined up in an illegal formation, negating a beautiful 20-yard passing play.
  • Colin Kaepernick, who played extremely well, had one really bad pass that was intercepted. Running back LaMichael James also had an ugly fumble.
  • Michael Crabtree dropped two easy passes for a player of his caliber, one in the endzone, and one where he probably would have scored. Vernon Davis dropped two slightly more difficult passes that a player of his caliber should have caught.
  • The 49ers gave up big play after big play to the Ravens. The Ravens moved the ball easily against them and pretty much only didn’t move the ball when they hurt themselves with a bad pass or two. The vaunted 49ers pass rush barely got to Joe Flacco, and when they did, Flacco easily evaded them time after time.

So, yeah. Let’s instead focus on one bad call at the very end of the game. That makes much more sense than considering the previous 59 minutes of the game.

I get it. It’s human nature to focus on the ends of things. The last day of school. The breakup. The series finales. But to all the players and coaches and fans out there that whine after the game about a miscall or misplay at the tail end of the game: If you had played better earlier in the game, you wouldn’t be in this position. Don’t blame a last-second mistake for something you should have prevented by putting the game out of reach when you had the chance.

I’m talking about football because it’s topical, but this happens in all sports. You will see people do this when March Madness rolls around in a month. You will see it in the World Cup. You will see it in pro basketball, hockey, ice dancing, cat gymnastics, and Quidditch. When it happens, you can picture me in my condo (probably wearing a loincloth, so don’t picture me too vividly) rolling my eyes and shaking my head.

But every once in a while, you’ll see a coach say the line that I really respect: “We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position in the first place.” I applaud that coach.

For the rest of you, for heaven’s sake, please stop whining. Don’t be a sore loser.

2 thoughts on “Pet Peeve #45: Blaming Last-Minute Mistakes for Sports Losses”

  1. I completely agree! Sticking with the football theme, one of the football analysis companies out there (there are a handful at this point) has a way to calculate a team’s odds for winning the game after each play. I can’t remember what play it was, but another play (a dropped pass or a Raven’s completion or something) actually created the largest decrease in the 49ers chance of winning the game–not the “non-call” at the end of the game. I’m not saying this to pin the game on that single play; rather, each play sways the outcome of the game.

    • That’s really interesting about how the odds change after each play. And that makes perfect sense, especially in football. I’m curious which play that was.

      Also, I certainly think the referees can impact the course of a game. But I think teams should try as hard as possible to put themselves in the position that prevents a mistake or two by the refs from changing the outcome of the game. In fact, I think it’s safe to assume that in any game, the refs are going to make a few mistakes. So rather than blame them for being human, take control of your own fate and score as many points as possible. After all, the other team is affected by the refs too. Your team isn’t the only one on the field.


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