If you're not a dedicated professional football fan, you may encounter some very dejected friends or co-workers tomorrow without knowing why. Here's a quick guide to help you navigate the land mines.
Football, for better or worse, remains America's most popular sport. It's also America's most popular thing. According to Nielsen, in addition to its legions of loyal men, twice as many women tune in to watch the Super Bowl (50.4 million) each year than either the Academy Awards (24.5 million) or the Grammys (23.8 million). "Sunday Night Football," to boot, is now "ranked No. 4 among women 18 to 49 years old, behind only 'American Idol' (Wednesday), 'The Voice' and 'American Idol' (Thursday)."
With another weekend of playoff football over, the odds of you encountering someone whose football dreams have been recently crushed have multiplied again. If you care to offer any solace whatsoever (or perhaps want to rub salt in someone's wound), here's what you need to know.
The weekend losers were the New Orleans Saints, the Carolina Panthers, the Indianapolis Colts, and the San Diego Chargers. The Saints lost a heartbreaker on the road to the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers were upended at home by the San Francisco 49ers. The Colts kept it close against the New England Patriots before stumbling to a road loss. The San Diego Chargers made things interesting late against the Denver Broncos, but couldn't pull off a comeback.
What you can say to make fans of the losing team feel better (or, depending on your intonation, make them feel worse):
New Orleans: "Seattle's got to be the toughest place in the league to get a win, especially in the playoffs. If Drew Brees had just 10 more seconds, I'm sure the Saints would have forced overtime."
Carolina: "Cam Newton had an unbelievable year. Now that his first playoff game is behind him, the Panthers are going to tough to beat next year."
Indianapolis: "After last week's miracle against the Chiefs, I thought this was going to be a total letdown game for the Colts. But you guys kept up with the Patriots into the fourth quarter. Not a lot of teams can say that."
San Diego: "I totally thought you guys had 'em. It's hard to come back from 17 points down against anybody, the Chargers almost did it against Peyton Manning."
Then, quickly walk away.