Friday, January 27, 2006
As a college football fan in general and specifically a Michigan fan, there are several schools that I just have to hate. First and foremost is Ohio State. No reason is needed here; it’s tradition, although the troglodyte nature of many Buckeye fans sure makes it easier.
After that, the reasons to hate a school can be superficial—even stupid—and may have nothing to do with the football team. Oregon just rubs me the wrong way now. All that Nike gear, the bushels of Phil Knight’s cash, and those god awful uniforms that are a blight on college football just sicken me.
Miami is easy to detest as well. The swaggering gangsta vibe is made all the more irritating by the fact that these playas spend their winters in southern Florida surrounded by hot, gang-bang craving co-eds. I’ll admit it, I’m a hater.
Then there’s Nebraska, the team of pumped up misogynistic criminals and whiney transfer quarterbacks. (A quick aside here, I work with a gentleman who used to be a Lincoln police officer who responded to the call against Lawrence Phillips and he said Scott Frost was hiding in the closet at the time.) It’s appropriate that their color is red, I’ve always thought that if the old Soviet Union was ever going to field a college football team, it would have been the Cornhuskers. The way the bulky, ruthless Nebraska teams bullied their cupcake opponents and girlfriends was reminiscent of Red Army tanks rolling through the cities of eastern European countries. They even have that whole paying lip service to the benefits of an agrarian lifestyle thing going on. They just needed to replace the “N” on the helmets with “CCCP” for the transformation to be complete.
Then there’s the 1997 season. This season was shocking to me because the team I was rooting for was actually winning every game. There was no choking in the big game against a quality opponent and no mailing it in and losing a shocker to some unranked team of nobodies. This was prior to the era of the fourth quarter collapse. Michigan won every game. Michigan played ridiculous defense. A Michigan player won the Heisman Trophy and, since he wasn’t a quarterback or running back, he actually was the most outstanding player that year. This was a dream come true.
Then came the final Coaches Poll. Somehow, Nebraska snuck in there and was proclaimed the national champion. Of course, it had nothing to do with Tom Osborne retiring and getting a nice little send off from his fellow coaches. Of course, it had nothing to do with Phil Fulmer still being pissed because Peyton Manning didn’t win the Heisman (or maybe he was pissed because his pulled pork platter was a few pounds too small that day). But, it happened. There always seems to something bad around the corner for the team I root for—lately they just flat out lose—but back then, when they won everything, that Coaches Poll was it. The AP poll seemed like a consolation prize.
So, I definitely have a historic dislike of Nebraska that has only gotten worse lately. They’ve abandoned their traditional power run game for the West Coast Offense (which I hate) and have an idiot of a coach in Bill “Cutthroat” Callahan. Nope, I don’t like Nebraska one bit.
But, Nebraska fans are the gold standard of all fans, people. These are the fans that every team should want. They are numerous, they are loud, they are passionate, they are unified, and they are well behaved. There were a few in the hotel I stayed at. I barely noticed their red t-shirts as they politely made their way through the breakfast buffet that morning. Then, later in the day as I was searching for a parking spot, I saw more of them, a lot more. While I sat in traffic, squads and platoons of red-clad football fans were making their way to the Alamodome.
I expected that there would be a lot more Nebraska fans than Michigan fans but it looked like they outnumbered Michigan fans at least 5 to 1. Still, there was nothing the least bit menacing about them, they were just on their way to a regular old football game. I never heard any taunting or profanity from any of them and they certainly wouldn’t dishonor their team by throwing anything at anyone. I’ll admit it, I am envious.
Once in the Alamodome, they ceased to be a group of people and became a single, huge, red, living multi-cellular organism. They cheered, booed, chanted, and even moved in unison. It was impossible to not be impressed, I was spellbound. I can’t help but wonder if they practice together or something, since that kind of precision and synchronization can’t just happen spontaneously. Can it? I’m sure everyone watching the game on television could hear how loud they were. They were deafening.
And after the game, as I glumly walked to my car, they went right back to being nice, normal, boring individuals. The only celebration I heard was the occasional, drawn out cry of, “Goooooooo Big Red!” That was it and it was never directed at any of us poor, pathetic Michigan fans.
I’ve thought a little bit about this strange phenomenon of how can a crowd be so polite and sedate one moment and so ear-scorchingly loud and fiery the next and I’ve come up with the theory that it’s all in the demographics. I estimate that Nebraska fans were about two-thirds college age males and one-third families of mom, dad, and their two and a half kids. I’m figuring this to be the ideal demographic for a fanbase.
First, the college age males—always the most rambunctious and a dangerous segment of a population—provide the energy, the fire, the noise. These are the guys who do what fans are supposed to do, yell and yell loudly. They’re young, they’re stupid, they’re fueled by hormones and alcohol so they have no reservations about screaming their heads off for three hours straight. The problem with these fans is that if there’s too many of them, total mayhem ensues. You’ve got stadiums being torn apart, cars being overturned, couches being burned, urine and feces as substances to throw at people. Too many of these clowns around will make one seek shelter in the quieter places of the world like Baghdad or Kabul.
This is where the Nebraska families come in. They provide the balance. They’re the yang to the frat boys’ yin (I had to look up which one was light and which one was dark). The presence of all these mother and father figures keeps things under control. “Don’t piss in the bottle and throw it, mom’s watching!” “Don’t smash that windshield on that car, dad will kill you!” Nebraska gets the riot of noise and passion without the actual riot. And, I’m sure that all that youthful energy gets the Nebraska housewives and insurance salesmen screaming there heads off every now and then.
Anyway, that’s my theory. And, although I am really, really pissed off about losing and those damned Sun Belt Conference officials, at least a nice bunch of folks who really love their football team got to enjoy a win that evening.
Posted by BaggyPantsDevil at 2:00 AM