USA TODAY Sports
How many times can coaches and players go into the well of their emotions before a game with a heavily favored opponent, and find the spark needed to turn conventional wisdom? What can a coach say to his players at the end of a long hard road that makes them want to go further?
I often wonder about the mind set of professional athletes. When they have little to play for in terms of the win/loss divide between playoff teams and those destined to pack it in for the year, how do they motivate themselves for what to many is a meaningless game? Cries of "For the love of the game..." or pride may drive a few or all. Veteran players must look at the last game of the season with a "school's out" gleam in their eyes. Years of battering their bodies - from training camp through the regular season - has a toll to be paid. I think they get the season's bill the day after the last game they play for the year, and begin to both access and budget what they have left in physical ability and desire.
When I consider a game like the one the Rams face this Sunday in Seattle, there's the passing notion in my mind that the outcome means little in the broad scheme. The Seahawks will continue onward into the playoffs regardless of what happens, and the Rams will clean out their lockers and head to different points on the compass to places they call home... Normally...
Great teams find unique times. They have beginning; when work morphs into belief and pride. An NFL team like the St. Louis Rams are at a special point along their timeline, and every player on the roster will remember it for the rest of their lives. They play the game of football under the banner of the St. Louis Rams, and its been battered for so long none on the team's current roster know the feeling of post season play. This is a young team, and the whirl wind world of the NFL has shown them peaks and valleys in 2012. They've risen to challenge heavily favored teams, and done so with an energy to both shock and please their fans.
The plane ride home from Seattle is something the Rams must ponder right now, before the game is even played. If they dread the thought of the trip back to St. Louis in their minds, they won't have a chance to win. But if... IF, they hold no meaning for what happens after this game, and live in the moment they have before them, Rams fans are in for a very special second to last day of 2012. If I were Jeff Fisher, I'd be buying one-way tickets to Seattle for his players. I'd tell them 2013 will take care of itself, but for now there is no other place for his players' minds to be than Seattle. It will be a cold, humid day in the American Northwest this Sunday. It's perfect football weather. It's the kind of weather kids playing pick up football games love.
Jeff Fisher, tell your players to have fun, and they'll take care of the rest. The step ahead is one they have to take themselves. It's time to rip off the training wheels, and open that bag of trick, fun plays. Your offensive line is going to block better than it has all year, because they know something the Seahawks don't. Steven Jackson is going to push and shove his way over a historic yardage marker, and push on still till the final gun, because he knows something Pete Carroll doesn't.
The Rams have no pressure on them to win this game. What they can have with a win, can do more than all the first round draft picks this team has over the next couple years. They can learn, that a point in time like this Sunday in Seattle is where they find the spark within each of them. Gather those 53 sparks, and you have the fire they'll need for years to come...