Nebraska identifies heart and soul with our football team for all the reasons we all know. Like it or not, it is the foremost example of our identity on a national stage. I am not saying football is the only thing to recommend our state, but when was the last time you ran into national coverage of how great our farming reports were this year? In pop culture Nebraska football is pretty much the only thing that moves the needle for Nebraska on the national stage. It is us. It is what the nation sees of us.
So fans get scared when they see a performance like Wisconsin and start harking back to Texas, the lost Big 12 championships and the licking from Washington post season. It is scary to try and reconcile that with the image in fans minds of the steamroller that Nebraska was.
And "was" is the key word.
As in "has been". As in, "irrelevant", "not top tier".
That scares the crap-ola out of a Nebraskan, to think the best days are behind us, that we are Notre Dame, or any other former powerhouse that largely has only their rapidly fading laurels as evidence of past relevance. Nebraska was not fly-over country when it came to football. We were not rural hicks when it came to the gridiron. You could make fun of Nebraska, but by God you had to respect our football. The fear is that glory is fading, just like the impact of home game fan support is aging into non-existence. We cannot refute criticisms that our team has no identity (it doesn't), when we used to be able to say "We will run you over. We will pound you down. We will take the ball away and we will own you with strength and grit and there is nothing you can do to stop it." No identity is a very scary thing.
And fear makes us nuts. It drives normally sane fans from the heights of nostalgic optimism to take it out unfairly on the failures of the latest wunderkind, be it our QB or a coach. Fans are afraid Martinez is the best we have, and he is not good enough to allow the team to win. With the poor defensive play we are seeing fans are fearful that maybe Bo and Carl are not the defensive geniuses we took pride in them being, that the defense is not the perpetual safe haven we believed it would be from now on with those two at the helm. in the Wisconsin game it was terrifying when Tim Beck startled channeling Sean Watson, showing the same mule-stubborn wrong-headedness and abandoning what was working on the field for what he would like to have work in his head. And then sticking with it like a deer frozen in the headlights when it is producing abysmal results. They are afraid Bo is so loyal to his assistants that he won't step in and make corrections. Is it right? No; and in no way is it acceptable to attack any of the kids playing their hearts out (or coaches working themselves raw) and getting creamed when our largely untutored expectations as fans are not met.
The fan base is waiting. 5 years? OK. We can do 5 years. Heck, Oklahoma was only down a few, right? 7, 8 years? Ooookay, but, um, let's get moving, hey guys? Herbstreit and that old guy Holtz are getting kind of annoying and we would like them to shut up. But now? Those championships and national relevance are indeed becoming from another era. A whole other generation.
And that's kinda scary.