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Nebraska vs. Oklahoma State: A Test of Boyhood?

I walked into a customer site this week and had an ran into a couple guys I haven't seen in a while. One of them is the happiest human being I've ever met, the kind of person that literally brightens the world around him by mere existence. The other is a really big guy who played Division II football. They asked how I was doing.

"Oh, fair", I answered, which made Mr. Happy ask me what the problem is.
"Nebraska isn't doing too well at football" was the response. Mr. Happy scowled slightly, something I don't see very often. "I know it's just football, but still."
The Big Guy spoke up "We both know that it's not just football" and he smiled. I turned back to Mr. Happy.
"He's right, you know. How did you feel when Ghana was in the World Cup? What did that do for the pride of Ghana?"

This is what the joy of winning looks like, in case you're wondering.

2006 marked the first appearance for Ghana in the World Cup. We both knew that their appearance wasn't just about the game of soccer. It was a time of magic for his native country. The fact that they beat the Czech Republic 2-0, the first World Cup victory for an African country, was a cause for national celebration. They then knocked out the U.S. but their run ended against superpower Brazil, 3-0, the same Brazil who hadn't lost a World Cup match since 1998.

He understood the reference. If he had dug a little deeper he'd have found the difference between a whole country getting it's first huge international win and a state that's had a spoiled amount of success learning to cope with loss. I was thankful he didn't, after all, I had a meeting to go to.

And so here we are playing Oklahoma State this weekend. Normally a source of state pride, most Husker fans are hoping that this team doesn't embarrass them further than it already has.

Tomorrow's game should be a test of manhood for both teams. Instead, it seems to be a test of boyhood. It's a test of which team will fall down without crying the hardest after they scuff their knees. Oklahoma State has the same problem as Nebraska - going on the road and curling up in a fetal position hoping that the game ends quickly. When it happens to the 'Pokes tomorrow, are the Huskers going to have the mental fortitude to kick the crap out of the Cowboys while they're laying there, or are they gonna fall down next to them out of sympathy pangs?

Mike Gundy's recent tirade said more about Bobby Reid's lack of manhood than anything Jenni Carlson could have written. The fact that he felt necessary to defend a 21-year old full-grown, able-bodied man says a lot about how we view 21 year olds these days. They're not men. They're not 40. They're hurting. They need our sympathy, our support, our pity.

As further evidence, today Huskerpedia published a 'Letter of Empowerment' from an Alumni Chapter that included the following two references:

we are proposing that we all get behind OUR KIDS and give them the encouragement to stand tall, feel compassion – not anger, concern - not coldness, empathy - not finger pointing, show them the "HUSKER SPIRIT" the same as when they’re winning.

And if that's not enough:

Did you ever get a letter while you were at camp, what a boost a piece of mail gave you, if you were having a tough time, it could turn your whole experience around (if you let it).

I'm confused. Did you want my card of encouragement to have duckies, bunnies, or flowers on it?

It's nice that the Alumni Chapters want to encourage the football team. It is. But let's not act like the current Huskers are little kids whose kitty we just ran over in the street. Encourage them all you want but please do not refer to them nor treat them as children. Nose tackle Ndamukong Suh is 6' 4", 310 lbs. Referring to him as a kid is an insult to his manhood. The same goes for the rest. Let's treat them like the young adults they are.

Nebraska fans are worried about being embarrassed by the team. Now the team has to be worried about being embarrassed by fans/alumni.  Wait until our opponents see an open letter from alumni that refers to making the team feel better by sending them a letter to brighten them up just like "when you were at camp" and getting behind "Our Kids".  

This is where we are as Husker fans. We're going nuts trying to tell each other what to do, how to act, what to wear, what to say, and who to support. I'll still be wearing Nebraska stuff next week, next month, next year. That's because it's who I am, where I'm from and I'm too cheap to buy anything else. That won't end and I won't hide it. But know this - I'm not going to be wearing it like it's some badge of honor, as if it's some display that I'm a true fan who's going to walk around telling other people they're not.

I've said it before, if you think booing is bad, wait until you're a laughingstock. If we lose to Oklahoma State, I can't imagine the sounds that will be coming from Memorial Stadium. I hope it ain't so, but if it happens let's end the debate about whether or not it's okay to boo a team as if we're debating whether or not it was The Treaty of Versailles or the rejection of the League of Nations that lead directly to World War II and the configuration of the world as we know it today? It is on that level?

With regards to losing - last weekend, Missouri beat the holy crap out of us. Good for them, they have an incredible offense, and they used it to squash us like we didn't belong on the field.  Yet this week comments were abound about Gary Pinkel's lack of sportsmanship with his running a fake field goal for a touchdown while up by more points than we've scored in our last three visits to Columbia. There were comments about how Missouri needed to "win with class" and "act like you've been there before" because they got too much enjoyment out of stomping us into the ground like, well, children.  

Nebraskans had better figure out how to lose with class because we may see much more of it in the future. It'd be nice if the losses weren't like Missouri, but what if they are? Will there be a civil war between those that would storm the Athletic Department and have public executions versus those who would send ducky-bunny cards? (Won't be much of a war, will it?) Will those of us in the middle be forced to choose a side in the next couple weeks?  Is it all over for us? I don't mean the team. I mean Husker fans.

Win or lose, I'd recommend that we learn to enjoy ourselves. It's Friday night, and I'm having a beer. I recommend you do the same. Tomorrow morning, I plan to have a bloody Mary to start the game. I recommend you do the same. I'll be giving the keys to Mrs. Corn Nation should I be tempted to drive to Lincoln tomorrow, light a torch and start forming a mob.

I'm hoping not. I'm betting the Oklahoma State Cowboys are closer to boyhood than we are.