Win, and it is easy to be nice. Win, and there is plenty you can say in order to appear magnanimous.
Good game, you can say, although it wasn't. Nice try, you can say, although the opponent didn't. Things will get better, you can suggest, although they won't.
Lately, there are a few more things you can say to console a losing team.
Congratulations, for one.
Hope you get Lucky, for another.
In the NFL, it has never been quite so good to be quite so bad. Disaster seems to be the game plan, and chaos seems to be the goal. The lower rungs of the league are suddenly playing The Biggest Loser, and the prize is Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, a player whose reviews are so wondrous you might suspect he can complete three passes for every two attempts.
So just lose, baby. After all, losing isn't everything, it's the only thing. Lose one for the Lucker. And so on.
Miami? Indianapolis? Arizona?
Come on down for the NFL's latest episode of "Suck for Luck," a catchy little cry for help that now totals more than 8.4 million hits on Google. And who is small enough for the challenge?
Seattle? Washington? Cleveland?
Who wants Luck in the worst way? Which team is willing to tank its way to the bank?
This is all highly amusing, of course, and considering the combined wretchedness of the teams we are discussing, marvelously entertaining. Why else would you watch these teams stumble about? This isn't failure. This is strategic withdrawal from success.
Yet it seems there are those who suspect NFL teams will play badly on purpose, even though they have spent half of a season proving they have no other options. Already, the outcry for a draft lottery has begun, although you may feel free to assume that it is not coming from the general direction of, say, Miami.
This is silly. We are talking about a talent, not a trend. The whole point is that Luck is such a rare talent that he takes the bitter out of defeat. Why, he's the best since Peyton Manning, some say. Why, he's the best since John Elway, say others.
Let me ask you this, however:
Did anyone ever "Slouch for Couch?"
Did anyone "Refuse to Hustle for JaMarcus Russell?"
Did anyone ever cry out, "Let's Win Nary and Get Ron Yary?"
Did the Bucs have a campaign called "Go Nerdy for Testaverde?" No, it just turned out that way.
In other words, this is no need for an overreaction. Just an underperformance.
So who deserves Luck? And who will end up with him?
The Dolphins, that's who.
I know, I know. The Dolphins, being who the Dolphins are these days, have scared the dickens out their fans the last couple of weeks by almost winning. At this point, who needs that? Beating the Broncos or the Giants wouldn't have saved Tony Sparano's job, let alone the season. It would have just meant hope wasn't on the horizon, darn the Luck.
In the grand scheme of the meek inheriting the quarterback, blowing two leads was worth it. For goodness sakes, have you paid attention to the quarterbacking in Miami lately? Miami once had a quarterback named Lemon, but if you're honest, all of them could have been. Since Dan Marino left, the Dolphins have had 16 quarterbacks, and none of them could throw the ball over your house.
If not the Dolphins, then how about the Cardinals? Larry Fitzgerald is far too nice a guy to have Kevin Kolb in charge of his huddle.
Indianapolis? No. If the Colts end up with the No. 1 pick, general manager Peyton Manning would then trade him for about a half-dozen No. 1 draft picks. Seriously, if Manning has any more quarterbacking left in him, it is bad karma even to suggest Indy has a shot.
(And speaking of Indy, doesn't this year put a little tarnish on the plaque that declares Bill Polian to be a genius? Just asking.)
Seattle? Sure, the Seahawks could use him. But does Pete Carroll, who skipped out on USC just before the NCAA posse arrived, deserve him?
Then there is Denver. Frankly, it mystifies me that Denver has won twice this year. Whenever I see it play, I have this urge to check the results to make sure.
If I didn't know better, I might think the Broncos are chasing Luck with as much fervor as anyone. Tim Tebow has struggled, and it looks as if Denver's coaches spent hours finding just the wrong offense for him, and they gave away his best receiver. To make it any more obvious, the Broncos would have to change the fight song to With a Little Bit o' Luck.
Jacksonville? Tennessee? Minnesota? All of them have promising young quarterbacks. And you get the feeling that all of them would be traded in by their teams for a shot at Luck.
Still, there is no franchise that seems like a better fit than the Dolphins. Everyone else can just wait. After all, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III may decide to bypass this year's draft.
If so, next year's teams can always Give in for Griffin.
That'll shake them up in the NFL offices.