The sun is about to set on yet another exciting preseason for the Green Bay Packers. The long, ridiculously hot summer of 2012 will soon be replaced by cool air, falling leaves, and smells which are synonymous with Packers football. It is the time we look forward to all summer long: The dawn of fall, and the return of football.
Yet there is more to this time than just the return of our favorite sport. It is the end of a dream for roughly 800 men tomorrow, and the beginning of the next phase of their lives.
While fans were celebrating the start of training camp a mere four weeks ago, approximately 3000 people began the task of auditioning for a job, as NFL players gathered in training camps across the country. Forced to prove they belong on a roster more than the player standing next to them, these athletes had to show day after day that they deserved to play a sport professionally. One bad snap, and it could be the end of the line. One missed block, and it might lead back to looking for work, with the entire process starting over.
This is something I could not imagine having to endure. Think about it for a minute: Teammates who you laugh and joke with are engaged in the same battle you are: trying to win a job. The constant scrutiny of coaches, analyzing every footstep taken on the field. The pacing General Manager on the sidelines, looking at every thing you do, determining if I was a correct fit for what their vision of the team is. And while all this is going on, fans are determining on a daily basis who is the next star, and whose star has flickered out.
For me, my glory days on the football field ended over 20 years ago, so I will never truly know what it is like to be tapped on the shoulder by a coach, only to be told their time has come to an end. It has to be devastating. After so much time and effort, dating back to when they were Pop Warner stars themselves, finding out that their time on the gridiron may have finally reached its end.
Fans are hard to please. We cheer like crazy when players do well, and are quick to criticize when they play like hot garbage. I freely admit to doing this on a regular basis. Yet for some reason, I find myself envisioning myself in a players’ shoes more this year, wondering what it would be like to be told my dream was over. That I was not good enough to be in the NFL. That it is time to find another job after practicing for it for years.
At 8pm CDT tomorrow, the dream will end for hundreds of men. And when the final cuts are announced, imagine how you would feel if your dreams came crashing to an end. That is what I will do. And after a few minutes of pondering how it must be to get that news, I will return to being an obnoxious fan.
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