Fair weather fandom is very real. Several of us live it. It is a hard thing to have once known dominance 20 years ago and to now know mediocrity. Take a college football team you grew up with. It was so long ago that when you were in single digits, the only way to know what was happening on game day was via radio. You listened to your football team and their dominant exploits while you performed Dad Projects on Saturday. It was all you knew. You heard a certain excited voice on the radio describing to you what he saw on the playing field while you performed manual labor. No cable TV coverage, no Game Day, no Chris, Lee, and Kirk, no Internet, no live streams, only the radio and your imagination.
Then, one magical season, you win the Big One Big Time.
Your team regularly beat opponents 63–14, 70–10, 56–7, wonderfully dominant, skillful, and proud. Losses were rare, but they happened. It is college football, after all. The only critique your team regularly faced was never winning the big one. Then, one magical season, you win the Big One Big Time. You face a formidable opponent and you wipe the floor with them on national television. You’ve never been prouder of your football team. A Magnificent Win for the Home State.
Opposing coaches wonder how you do it.
Then, the next season, lightning strikes in the bottle and your team captures it. Everything goes their way. They can do no wrong. Domination is the name of the game. No one comes close to you. Opposing coaches wonder how you do it. Chris, Lee, and Kirk pontificate about you as if you walk on water. Your defense earns its own name. It precedes Alabama’s dominance. In fact, they learned from yours 20 years ago. While they wouldn’t admit it, you’re one of the reasons why they’re dominant today. They were paying attention. You win the Big One again. That’s two in a row.
Fast forward a few years. One of the Kings of College Football — your legendary head coach — retires and rides off into the sunset. Uh-oh, Indy…he hands the reigns to a well-known assistant who, while capable, doesn’t exhibit the mojo of his predecessor. Worse, he isn’t given the time to prove himself the way his boss was given. Fair or unfair, he’s let go after only a few years.
People desire to run him out of town — and those are the home people.
New A.D., New head coach. New head coach brings in new offense, hailed to be the savior of your football team and your state. If only matters were so. New head coach goes 6–7 in his first season. People desire to run him out of town — and those are the home people. Patience is not a virtue of the proud, raving college football fan. New head coach is out.
New, new head coach comes in. He’s a defensive hero. He’s got street cred. He’s coached in places that matter, like, you know, the SEC. He comes in and gains some traction. He improves. He may scream a lot, but he improves. Only one problem: he cannot go one season without losing 4 games. Only one other problem: his defense sucks. Incredibly. Astonishingly. Embarrassingly. Turns out being a defensive Mastermind has a heck of a lot to do with the talent you recruit and then train. Bah! Four losses in a season does not a national championship make. He has a great run and then moves on to greener pastures. Out with the screamer, in with the Nice Guy.
When players play Nice, they get clobbered by The Ohio State University.
Enter The Nice Guy. The Nice Guy fits the mold. The Nice Guy never screams, yells, or gets emotional during college football games or press conferences. The Nice Guy’s tenure is early, but he seems to be doing OK. Then, The Nice Guy gets clobbered by The Ohio State University, particularly at Home in front of proud, rabid fans. The Nice Guy cannot beat Wisconsin. The Nice Guy’s players play like they’re, well, Nice. When players play Nice, they get clobbered by The Ohio State University. And Wisconsin. More to the point, when you play nice, you shouldn’t beat The Ohio State University. This is college football, after all, which is about tradition, emotion, and True Grit. Chris, Lee, and Kirk do not talk about nice guys on Saturday mornings in the fall. Nice doesn’t make for good television. Since Nice catalyzes no emotion, how can Nice catalyze his players on Saturdays?
Chris, Lee, and Kirk do not talk about nice guys on Saturday mornings in the fall.
If you’ve hung in there and are still a fan of the home team, you watch them play on Saturdays as if you’re watching a horror movie: with your hands over your eyes in a horizontal fashion, occasionally moving your fingers up and down to kind of, sort of, watch the action. You see plenty you wish you didn’t — interceptions, fumbles, penalties, safeties, stuff you find during Friday nights in the fall. Only this isn’t Friday night. This is Saturday, and you shouldn’t witness ineptitude at this level. This is not a part of your proud tradition. This is not who we are.
You find yourself pulling away from the screen — any screen, really — because it is too much to bare. Despite its televised ubiquity, you desire to unplug, for you remember who we once were, and you do not desire to have those grand memories tainted by today’s sloppy play.
Fair weather fandom is very real. Several of us live it. The emotionally honest among us admit it, for we embody its very definition. Especially when you play The Ohio State University. At Home. In the rain.