Social media forces NFL teams to raise their standards

On the Internet, everyone’s a critic. Backlash is instantaneous. Everyone has a voice. And it’s forcing NFL teams to raise their standards and seek nothing but perfection.

The Colts just put up a new banner at Lucas Oil Stadium. It celebrates a 38-point blowout loss.

The banner proclaims proudly that the Colts were AFC Finalists in 2014—they lost that AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots, 45-7. The Patriots went on to win a thrilling Super Bowl, but they’re not the only ones with a banner.

Of course, this game itself has been huge over the last few months, as it was the start of DeflateGate. The Colts reportedly noticed that the balls were under-inflated, after being tipped off by the Baltimore Ravens, and that firestorm still hasn’t entirely played out.

But it’s not DeflateGate that’s dominating NFL headlines and comment boards in Indianapolis. Instead, people are asking just how proud the Colts should be of getting utterly slaughtered by New England, looking like they didn’t even deserve to be in the championship game at all.

Colts Banner

The Colts, of course, have responded by saying that they’re still proud of what they’ve done. In fact, they put up similar banners in 1995 and in 2003, both years in which they reached the conference title game. No one cared or complained then, so why now?

The Internet. It gives everyone a chance to speak, and it makes everything into a news story.

In 1995, it’s a good bet no one outside of Indianapolis even truly realized the Colts had raised a banner. It certainly didn’t become a viral story. Even those who did know didn’t have a way to weigh in so easily, so it didn’t generate the negative momentum this banner has gathered.

There’s something to be said for blowouts, too. The 1995 game was a thrilling contest, ending on a hail mary toss by Jim Harbaugh that was almost caught to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s become an iconic play in NFL history, and it definitely wasn’t a loss to be ashamed of.

In a lot of ways, it makes far more sense to be proud of scraping and clawing to the very end, missing the Super Bowl by one play, rather than being trounced and beaten down by 38 points.

This is the world we live in now, and the NFL has to be conscious of it. Fans want perfection. If they don’t get it, it’s very easy to rip on a team, even though the Colts were one of the four most successful teams last year.

It’s not all about wins and losses, either. Fans will complain even with a win. If a team is expected to win by 21 and it wins by three, fans are up in arms about the “ugly” win, talking about how the team is in trouble if players don’t step up. This is especially true when a team is so good that it’s expected to compete for a Super Bowl and it struggles to beat a middling opponent.

Again, the Internet breeds these feelings of concern. The old adage of “a win is a win” no longer rings true when everyone wants to comment about the issues and give their take.

It can be bad. At times, fandom feels very negative. Almost like people are unwilling to be happy with success. The Colts got all the way to the AFC title game, and here are fans complaining about a banner.

But it can also be good, because it pushes those teams. The Colts know, from the backlash, that fans aren’t happy with AFC title games, with divisional wins. It’s not enough. The team has to raise its standards and work to get to that next level to give fans the banner they really want.

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