In the current issue of ESPN The Magazine, columnist Bill Simmons—the loved and loathed “Boston SportsGuy”—asks the question of whether or not he’s peaked as a sports fan. In case you missed it, Boston has a won a lot of things of late and the city’s tortured sports past, nee identity, is gone. Seems like a good time to be asking just such a question if you’re a Boston sports fan. (And the answer is yes.)
But here at the dawning of the age of Boquarius—hey, it’s no worse than “Bofense”—it seems like a good time to ask ourselves the same question: Have you peaked as a Nebraska football fan?
It’s a question that’s starting to be asked quite a bit, in one form or another, as we build up towards the start of fall camp.
Every time a national sportswriter appears on a local radio show he is almost always asked a question like this: “Can Nebraska return to what they once were?”
The answer is generally, with a few qualifiers, no and that’s not because they don’t have the resources, talent or right man for the job. Rather, it’s a reflection of what many perceive to be the shifting landscape of college football.
Simply put, you can’t win now like the Huskers won then and that’s not a slight against the current regime, it’s a tribute to how dominant this program was for the latter-quarter of the 20th century. Everyone here knows these stats but, just to make the point, we'll trot them out again.
Between 1975 and 1999 Nebraska won almost 84 percent of their games. No other school topped 80 percent. Between 1993-1997, Osborne’s championship runs, the team went 60-3.
Look at any four-year period since then and no team has lost fewer than six games. It’s a different era and therefore, if you were alive and rooting through the mid-90s, it stands to reason that yes, we probably have peaked as Nebraska fans.
In the truest sense of the question: will the future be as good as or better than the past? It doesn’t seem very likely that any team will be able to compete with what Osborne was able to accomplish during that era. So technically, unless you came of age at the same time the Internet did, you have peaked as a Cornhuskers fan.
But personally, and this is inherently a personal question, I disagree. I don’t feel like I’ve peaked as a Nebraska fan and the reason might be that Nebraska was simply too good when I was growing up. I took it for granted.
Three out of the four years I was in high school Nebraska won a national title. I’ve written this before but it still amazes me so I’ll do it again: I was out of high school before I’d ever seen the Huskers lose to Kansas State, I had a BA degree before I’d witnessed a loss at the hands of Missouri, and a post-grad degree before watching a Nebraska team fall to Kansas.
I’m ashamed to admit it now but winning college football games seemed like my birthright, a preseason top five rating was a good starting point and, with typical teenage indifference, I treated it as such.
Oh to have those years back. (At least as a Nebraska fan, you can keep the rest of it.) Since then we've seen...well...what we've seen.
Nebraska's fall from the top, among others, is used as proof that college football is becoming a democracy. Fewer scholarships plus bigger conferences and more games equal a two-loss national champion and Appalachian State beating Michigan.
In reality it's not that simple but it does make everything easier to swallow and it's also the reason why I feel like there's more left to achieve as a Nebraska fan. Good needs evil to exist and highs are just the opposite of low. When Osborne won his first Sears trophy it felt like more of a relief than pure jubilation to me, finally fulfilling expectations rather than truly triumphing.
That won't be the case with Nebraska's next one. Now we've been down.
The past becomes less satisfying and further away every day but that's why I haven't peaked as a Cornhusker fan. I'd rather have something to prove than something to uphold and, now, after going so low in 2007, I think Nebraska football is in that mindset.
So, while I can admit that Nebraska will never be as good as they were for the first 25 years of my life, that doesn't bother me. In fact, it excites me but that's the type of guy I am.
What about you? Have you hit your peak?