Thanks to a little Disney flick you may have heard of, the world has been inundated with three little words since late 2013: Let. It. Go.
The popularity of Idina Menzel's ode to moving on may have subsided a bit recently, but thanks to Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst's dismissal of that That Other Guy, Husker fans far and wide have pleaded for many of their brethren to follow through with Menzel's advice. Due to a recent article comparing new Husker head coach Mike Riley's demeanor to his predecessor's, the cries of "Let it go" have reached a fever pitch, especially among the most ardent supporters of That Other Guy.
I would have appreciated the local media going all ether on the previous regime while they were still employed, but I guess it's easier to grave-dance than paint the picture you see in real-time. That's neither here nor there. What's really interesting is the inconsistency of what exactly we're supposed to be letting go of and what exactly "it" is. Don't get me wrong, there are legit gripes with how the media and fans discuss the previous regime, but the fickleness and hypocrisy of most arguments I see makes me think there are fans that serenade themselves with this parody before they leave to work each day...
So what exactly do we mean when we say "Let it go"?
Do we expect the fans to refrain from making any mention or comparison to the previous regime? That seems fair if your rationale behind wanting that is to focus on the new staff's strengths, weaknesses, cards they've been dealt, etc. Let's not worry about what the group in Youngstown is doing and focus on what we're doing in North Stadium. If that's the case, it seems a little hypocritical to conjure up the Callahan name whenever possible to either curb enthusiasm or to set the table for future narratives, but then chide opinions that use similar tactics to prop up the current staff.
For example, one tactic I see used quite often by supporters of the previous staff is to use the "if That Other Guy did this, you'd be all over him for it" argument. I agree that standards should be consistent, but you also have to consider context and you definitely need to be accurate with your claims when trying to point out supposed faults with the current staff. You can find a specific example of this tactic being used if you browse a popular Huskers message board where one prominent poster stated that despite the transparency and apparent social media successes in recruiting, Riley and company are off to a slow start this recruiting cycle. Considering Riley has three commits by mid-April and the average number of commitments by mid-April from 2008-2015 was 2.5, I don't think we have any reason to panic at this point, but I digress.
Does letting go mean wishing nothing but the best for the previous staff in their current and future endeavors? Once a Husker, always a Husker, right? Personally, if I never hear the names from the previous regime again I'd be thrilled. This sentiment sounds good in theory, but that's not what exactly goes down in Husker Nation. Billy Callahan failed, there's no way around that fact, but as a fanbase we're pretty much alright with any jokes that are made at his expense. Any negative, perceived or real, attention about That Other Guy though? We're a little more sensitive about that (see: every day on Husker Army). Yeah, the fanbase was split on the previous head coach by the end of his tenure, but because he won enough games he's above the Callahan treatment. You know, More Than Winning.
Look, it's natural to compare the present to the past, especially the most recent past, since most of the variables are the same. It's also important to remember things don't happen in a vacuum and context is key. At the same time, when the AD says, "We have high standards and expectations, and that’s to play championship football...," it's fair to expect the new regime to exceed the previous staff's on-field success. Does the 9-wins thing really matter though if the team takes a step back in year one and then takes a giant leap in year two? Should we even bring up "9 wins" if we're supposed to let "it" go? Letting go isn't as cut-and-dried as some of us would like, so there is inevitably going to be comparisons between the current and most recent staffs.
To steal a line from a Youngstown native, at the end of the day all that matters is winning championships. If Riley wins a conference crown in the next few years, no one will care about all those jabs towards He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I'm resigned to the fact that there is going to be as many fans looking to rain on the Riley parade, overtly or through veiled commentary, as there are fans that'll kick the Youngstown Mafia when they're down. Instead of letting go, maybe the goal should be focusing the energy we use on infighting towards a common enemy* or propping up the program.
*May I recommend that sweater vest clad group in Omaha or those ghastly citizens of Iowa City? I had to sneak in a Creighton diss of some sort on my last piece for the site. That's right, I've exhausted my eligibility on Corn Nation and will be focusing my attention on my first kid (expected in June), my paying gigs, and my own little venture nocoastbias.com. One of my goals is to move past being solely a "Husker writer", but I'll still drop by to interact with this great community. As for the future of the Vine St. Hooligans podcast, that is totally up to my co-hosts Nick and Joe. Thanks for checking out my content over the last two years and be sure to check me out on Twitter if you still want to follow my post-CN career. GBR