Monday, November 8, 2010

Phoning It In

Sunday I watched the Seattle Seahawks turn in their 2nd worst home game loss in team history. In a stadium that has proven itself to have a decided home field advantage over the years. Against a team (and a QB) that has, historically, been not especially effective when playing in Seattle. And the ONLY reason the score wasn’t worse was because the Giants took mercy on us. If they’d wanted, the score could have tacked on another 21 points…easy.

We couldn’t force a single punt all game.

It was ugly. It was worse than the 33-3 beating we took in Oakland over Halloween…and this was at home! And after carefully considering what I saw from the stands, I can only come to the following conclusion: the Seahawks phoned it in. They wrote this game off, subconsciously at least, that it didn’t matter, that they didn’t have to play, that they would take a loss and move on to the next week, a division game against a Cardinals team that is still a game back from us.

That’s pretty despicable.

I can understand resting certain players nursing “iffy” injuries in hopes they will be able to return to peak performance in time for a “must-win” situation in Arizona…that’s not a terrible strategy. But to not even TRY to win, to not even give 100% in preparation, to basically CONCEDE before the game even begins...THAT is a disservice to the team and its fans. Fans who paid good money and time to come out and watch a team not even compete.

I don’t care that the Giants are fantastic (they are). I don’t care that you’re going with 2nd and 3rd string players (we were). A home game should not see the visiting team go up 41 to 0 before the 4th quarter. And no head coach should give such a “no worries, we’re looking to next week’s game” press conference after such an embarrassing, unacceptable loss.

You don’t get paid to phone in games. You don’t make millions of dollars to give up before you take the field.

I’ll be writing about Thursday’s White Plume Mountain game later today (maybe tomorrow), and even though I don’t always anticipate a good game (especially if I’m exceptionally tired from the work week), I STILL put in the prep-work for the game…I still show up and I try to put in a solid game for my players. They are MY “audience” …and you don’t waste players’ time like that.

Why not? It’s just a game, right? Sure, sure…we’re not saving the world, this is just entertainment. But my players are CHOOSING to show up to my game. They have families…wives and kids and, yes, pets…that they could be spending time with, instead of sitting around a dive bar on a work night. They could be watching Must See TV…hell, they could be getting an extra hour or two of sleep!...they don’t have to show up. I’M the one that wanted to run a B/X D&D game…who’s to say they wouldn’t prefer to play Pathfinder or 4th Edition or Role Master or Call of Duty 4?

It’s all well and good to say, “hey…this is the game I’m going to run, period.” If no one shows up, there is no game. Just mental masturbation on my part.

Running a good game is on me. I don’t get to “phone it in.” If I’m not “up to snuff,” I need to let my players know the game is cancelled for the night…that they’ll need to find another means of entertaining themselves, ‘cause I don’t deserve to waste their time. If I don’t show up “ready to go,” I don’t deserve to play my game. I’m not ALLOWED to waste their time. These aren’t kids with nothing better to do…these are real people with real lives. Yes, I am providing them with a service by running the game…but it’s a service I want to provide. I get “paid” by the satisfaction of getting to live (for a couple short hours) in a fantasy game world of my own creation. And maybe there’s something in me that likes to bask in the focused attention of my players, too…but I better make it worth their while. I better give them a product WORTHY of their attention. So that they’re not driving out to Greenwood, and putting up with crappy over-priced beer, and saying, “man, what a waste of time and money.”

I’ll tell you this: that’s what I was thinking on the drive home from Sunday’s game. Fortunately, traffic was light (most folks left at half time when the score was 35-0) so I wasn’t in traffic all that long. But if my players, my “customers” (I won’t call ‘em “fans”) go home from one of MY games feeling like I just stole three hours of their life for zero value…well, I hope they’ll find a better game master that’s actually worthy of their time and attention. Because they’re pretty cool guys and pretty good players. They deserve a good game.

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