I stood in my backyard talking to a friend while the Nebraska/Purdue game was playing inside. As we talked, I heard my daughter yell, “Go Huskers!” from inside. Nebraska just scored their first touchdown of the game, and she was excited.
My daughter is 5. She loves the Huskers because I love the Huskers. The morning of the game she was telling people at our Cub Scout car wash that she was so excited about today because she was going to eat chili, make popcorn, and watch the Husker game.
She only has memories of the past two seasons of Husker Football. She’s never known the Huskers as a dynasty. Hell, she’s never known the Huskers as having a winning season.
But she loves them.
She spontaneously shouts out “Go Huskers!” and “Go Big Red!” during games and even just during the week. To her, the Huskers are a team that she just loves, win or lose.
Nebraska Fan Mindset
As a Nebraska fan since birth, my early years were spoiled when it came to Husker Football. I was 13 when they won it all in ’95. For me, Nebraska has always been a dynasty – the powerhouse of the plains that accepted nothing less than the best. It’s what I think a lot of Husker fans – at least those over 35, have expected. And in the back of our minds, we’ve known – we’ve just KNOWN – that we would get back to that level again.
Then Callahan happened. I remember being extremely excited that we were getting a coach with NFL experience. He was going to bring the West Coast offense to Nebraska and create an NFL caliber team that would play against puny NCAA programs. Then reality set in. We all know the rest. The program deteriorated to a losing season, which saw Callahan get booted out of Lincoln faster than I can eat a Runza.
Then Pelini resurrected some hope before suffering huge losses in big games. His record was solid overall, and most programs would kill to have consistent 9-win seasons. But not at Nebraska. We KNEW we deserved better. We KNEW we needed to step up. We KNEW that getting blown out in big games was not an option.
When Pelini was fired and Mike Riley was hired, my heart dropped, but I still held out hope that he could train some great QBs and bring something different to the program – that’s what Riley was known for. Like Callahan before, the fit was awful. We had taken a major step back. After a 4-8 season it was painfully obvious that the whole thing needed an overhaul.
Then we landed Scott Frost. The dark gray cloud that had settled in over Lincoln for the previous 15 years was pierced by a glimmer of hope. Hell, not even hope. It was a glimmer of greatness. We were bringing back a former National Champion quarterback, who had just won coach of the year and led a no-win team to an undefeated season in two years. If he could do that for lowly UCF, he could get us back on track in no time!
We KNEW this was the right move. We KNEW we were going to start winning big again. We KNEW this was going to be the turning point in the program – and that our road to greatness was now paved with an explosive offense and a return to our roots.
0-6. We started 0-6 for the first six games under Frost. The air started to come out of the balloon. But then we heard about the culture issues and that some of the guys got together and decided they were going to WIN. And they did. Four of the next six. We looked like a brand new team. We KNEW we were on the right track.
Coming into 2019, Nebraska was being fawned over. A top 25 ranking, an easy schedule, a returning stud of a quarterback who could rip a game wide open, new recruits who were amazing fits for the team. We could go 11-1, or at WORST 8-4. The question wasn’t whether we’d be going to the Big 10 title game, it was who we’d be playing against. We’re Husker fans, we KNOW that we’re going to win. This year was going to be the new beginning of the Nebraska dynasty.
And here we are. 4-5 coming off a home loss to Indiana and a road loss to a 2-win Purdue team with a third string quarterback. When we think we can’t get any lower, we find a new hole to dig ourselves in. Across the board we see a team that is simply getting worse game to game. We may not even be to rock bottom yet.
This is Nebraska
We expect – hell we DEMAND – greatness as a team. Our boosters demand it. our coaches demand it. Our fans demand it. We pay a hell of a lot of money to see those results. Yet, we will most-likely go three years in a row with a losing record and miss a bowl game.
You can blame coaches. You can blame culture. You can blame whatever you want, but you need to come to the reality of Nebraska football.
We are not good. Not just this year, but as a program. As a whole, our football program is not good.
And that makes us fans livid. I’ve heard a lot of fans say that if we can’t field a good team, then why should they show up to games. Why should we as fans invest time, emotions, and money into something that is simply bad year over year? Do we do it because we hold out hope that everything will turn around and we’ll be a dynasty again? I’d argue that this will lead to nothing but pain for fans. It already has.
I do not expect Nebraska to be a dynasty again. It’s not that I don’t WANT them to be a dynasty again. But as a fan, it’s something I have no control over, so why should I expect it?
If I could call the shots and had a plan to develop a team, sure, I could have those expectations. But I’m a fan. Most-likely, if you’re reading this, you’re a fan too. You have no control over the success of the team. You have no control over how they show up, how they practice, or how they play on Saturday.
But you do have control over one thing. How YOU show up for this team week-to-week. How YOU show up at Memorial Stadium. How YOU show up online in comments of articles or on forums like Reddit.
What Nebraska Football Really Is
“Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football.”
Being a great fan isn’t about being a fan of a winning team with a winning tradition. Being a graceful winner is something Nebraskan’s are known for. It comes naturally from the Heartland. And honestly, how hard is it to just be kind to visiting teams when you just beat them by 20+?
But how graceful are we when we lose? What do the greatest fans in college football do when their dreams of a dynasty are in vain? Do they flame the head coach or his assistants? Do they go after players? Do they stop buying tickets to the game because their team isn’t winning, so they don’t deserve to be supported?
Having our expectations gashed leads to us lashing out. We get pissed because we are mediocre at best. We get angry because the guy who is paid all of this money hasn’t shown us a team that lives up to our expectation.
We get mad at something we have literally no control over. Instead, we need to funnel that energy into something we DO have control over.
As fans, we have an incredibly important role in this program, and it’s something that makes Memorial Stadium the greatest place on Earth.
We Support Our Team
Nebraska football is more than just the team that shows up on the field. It’s a state-wide culture. Living outside of Nebraska, I have a hard time describing it to others. The team represents the heartbeat of the state. And Nebraska Football is just as much about the team as it is the fans.
We show up, we cheer our freakin’ lungs out, we get in opposing teams heads and make them call time outs on third downs. And we create an atmosphere that stands out to recruits as a huge reason why they should join our program. If Memorial Stadium was half-filled on game days, do you really think recruits would be excited to come here?
We are not a dynasty on the field; we may never be again. That is a real possibility. We need to realize this as fans and take a breath.
But as fans, we still have complete control over the dynasty of being the greatest fans in college football. It’s easy to be a fan of a winning program, but our true test as fans is the present day.
Being a Husker fan isn’t just about supporting a team when its successful.
It’s about sons and daughters cheering on the Huskers with their parents and grandparents. It’s about supporting the team that most of an entire state can get behind. It’s about doing the one thing we can do that actually helps this team get better. We show up. We cheer. We support our team. And whether we win or we lose, we do so as the greatest fans in college football.
Go Big Red.