Football, like life, isn’t always fair. The fastest, strongest, toughest don’t always win. Sure, it’s where the smart money lives, but ask Damon Runyan. There’s no such thing as a sure thing. That’s because talent –no matter how great– has a limit. But chance is boundless. Capable of anything. It never tires, and never relents. It’s always on the job. Ready, even if we’re not.
And we’re never ready. Not really. No matter how many times it bites us, every time it’s a surprise. A who’da thunk it. A punch in the gut. Chance is funny that way. You never know where it’s headed, only where it’s been. And it’s been everywhere.
We have different names for it too. Fate, destiny, luck. Call it what you like, you still can’t control it. Or forget about it. The biggies are obvious. But like evil, chance is often subtle. It doesn’t mind working small. Bad snap? Lose your footing? Hit an upright? Blame the center, the grounds crew or the wind if you like. But chances are it was chance at work.
Team of destiny? Sure. As long as their luck holds. But one pass can change that in a hurry. We call that catch off the cornerback’s pads a bit of great concentration. But maybe it’s just luck taking a hand. And that’s hard to get a handle on. It offends our sense of fairness. We prefer our winners to earn it. Luck spoils the illusion . There’s no merit to it. Worse, there’s no defending it. You can’t beat what you can’t predict. And nothing is more unpredictable than a football. It slides and skips, maddens and mystifies. Doing what it wants, what chance wants. Which usually isn’t what we want. True, sometimes that bounce comes our way, and when it does, it’s as welcome as a mother’s kiss.
Unfair? Maybe. But if luck is no lady, at least she doesn’t play favorites. In the NFL, teams are always rising and falling. That’s because luck is always on the wing. Landing where she’s least expected. Of course, you can try to change your luck; you may even make a fortune doing it, but eventually it’ll go wrong. Probably when you least expect it. You can keep fighting, but the odds are against you. And you know what fate herself would say: fat chance.