Setting Expectations: Are You A Big Red Kool-Aid Drinker Or Not?

There's a little over a week before Nebraska plays its first game of the 2011 season against the Chattanooga Mocs. This year, probably more than any other I can remember, we enter the season knowing so very little about our football team.

Think about that for a minute.

If there's been one incredibly well kept secret, it's the offense. We know who the starting quarterback is, the starting running back, and one of the starters at receiver, but other than that - pretty much zip. We know next to nothing about what our offense will look like or whether they'll favor the run a lot more than the pass. We can guess, of course, but that's all it is, a guess. 

The defense is a little easier, although there's this mystery about whether the Blackshirts will abandon the "peso" formation that was so much the rage last year in favor of the base 4-3 defense to bring more bulk against those Big Ten offenses.

Even the media guys who are supposed to have access don't know much more than you or I.

Keep in mind that Husker practices are closed to the media, so when you're reading articles talking about how great this player is doing or that player is doing, that information is coming from the coaches and players, not from any visible observation done by media members.

What we end up with for media coverage are "sunshine pumpers" and "glory story " articles talking about how great the new set of freshman running backs look, how this previously unknown player is making great strides despite no real experience (about half our offensive line), or how our second-year starting quarterback has matured over the offseason and become a leader.

This isn't meant to be a shot at the regular media guys - don't take it that way. They have a job to do, and they still have to write stories no matter what information they end up with.

The end result is that we, as Husker fans, end up with an incredibly skewed perception of our football team. I think most of us know that, but whether we like it or not, we drink the kool-aid - there is no choice - it's only oasis available. The alternative is being stuck striking up conversations about whether or not Nebraska would look good in black uniforms (hint, really not a good alternative, ever).

This skewed perception bothers me because I believe it does more harm than good. More on that in a minute.

It goes against my nature. I'm not in sales, but I sometimes do project management, and I believe firmly in the "promise low, deliver high" method of doing business. In other words, set expectations low (although not so low you get shot on the spot) and then vastly exceed those expectations when you deliver.

First, it makes people feel better about you when you do more or better than you said you would. Second, you look like a miracle worker. And third (and most important), if you set expectations high and fail to meet them, people have a habit of blaming you and not themselves for having believed you in the first place.

That last line is why I believe the preseason sugar is harmful. It sets expectations way too high.

If you're a kool-aid drinker and you enjoy drinking the kool-aid, that's fine. I'm not trying to dump on you either. I understand that you're trying to get pumped about another Husker football season, one that could be the most exciting of your life as you become a fan in an entirely new setting.

What I'd like to know, though, is how you approach the season. Do you find yourself being swept away with the idea that Taylor Martinez is going to be the Husker best quarterback ever, Jamal Turner the best freshman receiver in the nation, and the trio of Ameer Abdullah, Aaron Green, and Braylon Heard the next coming of the greatest running backs in Nebraska history?

Is it how you pump yourself up for the season?

Or are you more like me, in that you try like hell to temper your expectations in order than you not get too excited and therefore disappointed if the season doesn't turn out as well as you'd like? 

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