I live in Nebraska. I’m not a native, but I respect the history and tradition of Nebraska football. I respect the program, the players and the coaches. Because I have settled in Nebraska, I’ve even tried to become an actual Nebraska Cornhusker football fan. I couldn’t do it. Why?
I’m not talking about all of the fans. There are some Nebraska fans that get it. They understand that with history comes the present. You can’t change history because it already happened. You can’t change the present because it’s happening right now. And as a sports fan, you can’t change the future – you’re just a fan.
There are some Nebraska fans that get that. They understand that the world does not start with, stop with or revolve around Nebraska Cornhusker football. Because I am not from Nebraska, I too understand that.
And that’s the reason I’m not a Nebraska fan. I don’t fit in with the majority.
The majority of Nebraska fans don’t want to listen to me. They don’t want to hear about how Fresno State is a solid program in 2014 – one that you can’t just write a “W” next to using a Sharpie when the schedule comes out. They don’t want to hear about how the college football landscape has changed over the past three or four decades and how the current state of the football program has more to do with that than the recruiting or coaching ability of their current head coach.
The fact is, in an era of Nebraska football where there is no natural rival who is universally accepted by the fans, the true rivals of the Nebraska Cornhuskers are the fans themselves.
You can’t go a day in Nebraska without reading an article or listening to a segment on talk radio about how Nebraska can’t break this 4-loss annual streak they have going. It’s a six year streak that started the day Bo Pelini arrived in Lincoln. During those six years, the Cornhuskers are 57-24. So while Nebraska has lost four games a year during Pelini’s tenure, they average 9.5 wins a season.
Don’t mention that number to the locals though. They’ll immediately discredit the bulk of those 9.5 wins and chalk them up to playing substandard teams in the non-conference and logging most of the in-conference wins against the perennial doormats of the two conferences they have been members of during the Pelini era.
That’s funny to me. Modern day Husker fans, many of whom hold Tom Osborne just below Jesus Christ in their lives, ignore the fact that he made a career out of operating in a conference (the Big 8) where the Huskers had to worry about Oklahoma and not much else.
Osborne got to pad his stats and warm the hearts of Husker Nation with annual wins over Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and Missouri – teams who were often at their worst during his tenure. And let’s not forget those rugged non-conference tussles with Akron, Utah State, Wyoming, New Mexico State and Pacific. Those teams must have been tougher back then than they are now, and thus, were more respectable victories than those of the same caliber of teams that Pelini has defeated.
Back to this four-loss streak. At least one Husker site has signed off on using the term “curse” in conjunction with Nebraska’s failure to lose less than four games recently.
Yes, you read that right — Curse.
Husker Corner’s Andrew Bienka took to his keyboard a couple of days ago to tell us all about the curse and how exactly it will be broken in 2014. I read what he had to say. It was well written. But it was also obviously leaning toward the cupcakes and rainbows side of things. Husker Corner is part of the Fansided Network — a collection of fans sites written by fans, for fans. Most of the team-oriented sites are geared toward feeding the reader the positive slant. In that respect, Bienka got the job done. He sympathized with Joe Husker, they guy who paces back and forth in his Big Red man cave – miniature museum of Husker lore – racking his brains as to why his beloved Huskers keep losing four games a year.
“WE MUST BE CURSED!”
Yes, that must be it, and now you have a recent Nebraska grad writing for a fan site right there to back up that logic for you.
But have no fear – Nebraska will break the “curse” and Bienka is about to tell you how.
Bienka goes on to break down the season game-by-game. He starts by assuring the reader that Nebraska will blow out their first two opponents, Florida Atlantic and McNeese State. He then says we can “chalk up” a Nebraska victory at Fresno State, pretty much on the back of Derek Carr no longer playing for them. They’ll follow up that game with a win at home over Miami. Boom, 4-0 in the non-con, baby!
Bienka then talks about how the Huskers will navigate their way through the Big Ten schedule using words and terms like “no problem”, “blow out” and “beat up Iowa” – the same Iowa who hung 38 on the Huskers in Lincoln last season. He has Nebraska losing to Wisconsin and Michigan State, making the trip to Indy for the Big Ten title game and getting edged out by Ohio State. They’ll then go on to beat another SEC foe in another bowl game.
10-3. Easy-peasy (I can hear Alf saying “No problem.”)
There is a problem.
What Bienka has just done is the same thing the rest of the Nebraska media does annually – give the fans expectations as to how this season should play out, always leaning toward the best-case scenario.
The snowball-effect of those expectations leads to disappointment when the Huskers turn in yet another 9-4 season – a record that would be the envy of 80 percent of all college football programs in any given year. That disappointment leads to the fans and some boosters calling for Pelini, a coach who falls out of bed and gives Nebraska nine wins a year, to be fired.
I’d love to one day see some sort of psychological study done on the Nebraska fanbase as a whole. It would be interesting to see what impact the results of teams who played 20 and 30 years ago have on the way the average Nebraskan watches football and their expectations of the team in 2014.
At the end of the day, I feel bad for Nebraska’s players and coaches. Year in, year out, Bo Pelini, his staff and his players put a quality, winning product on the field. Year in, year out, that’s not good enough for the fans. It’s not good enough because of things that happened in a different time under a different set of rules.
That’s not fair to the players or coaches.
Nebraska has a winning football team. They’ll likely field a winning football team in 2014. They likely won’t win a national or even a conference championship this season. They’ll likely lose four games once again.
A Curse? Please. Millions of college football fans would give a lot (perhaps too much) to see their team win nine games year after year.
It’s time for the self-proclaimed “Greatest Fans in College Football” to start acting like it. It’s time for them to stop expecting and start appreciating.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON JUNE 5, 2014