Yes, I know Husker Fan, you’ve seen this before. More often than you should have.
But we’re here again. Nebraska just got bullied, humiliated, and embarrassed on its home field – by Illinois. Not Ohio State. Not Wisconsin. Not even (shudder) Iowa. The Fighting fricking Illini just made Nebraska a laughingstock.
There’s not a ton of point in dissecting the minutiae of what just happened. There’s plenty of outlets for those. We are here to help you, Husker Fan, try to make some sense out of all of this.
I know you’re hurting right now, Husker Fan. I know you’re struggling with how to respond to this team. Here’s some guidance to help you maintain your sanity.
I. THOU SHALT CARE. This might be the hardest one, other than maybe the Tenth Commandment. The rational thing to do after seeing this debacle is to detach yourself emotionally and walk away.
Caring passionately about a football team is a blessing, a gift that lets you feel emotions and experience life in a way that those who aren’t fans won’t ever understand.
I know, I know, that means you just went through all of that agony – a feeling you’ve had at some level basically for the last two decades. That’s part of it – and it’s still worth the exchange.
Following a team, being a Nebraska fan, gives you a rhythm to life, and a connection to the past. It gives you things to think about, to focus on, to be excited for. Giving that up is just too high of a price to pay.
II. THOU SHALT FIND A HEALTHY SPACE FROM YOUR FANDOM. Having said all of that from the First Commandment, it is also really important to understand the need to take care of yourself. It’s perfectly fine to put your Nebraska fandom to the side for a little bit and let yourself heal.
Things will look better tomorrow, I promise. And better the day after that. By Friday, after a nice Thanksgiving meal (properly socially distanced, of course) you might even be ready to watch the Iowa game.
Your social media account will be just fine without you doomscrolling for the next few hours. Your bulletin board will muddle through without your ALL CAPS SCREED.
Rake your leaves, walk your dog, bake some bread, play a video game. Find something else that makes you happy and engages your brain.
Nebraska football will be there when you get back. And its going to need you, healthy, to stick together in all kinds of weather.
III. THOU SHALT TURN THE OTHER CHEEK. It’s gonna be ugly, Husker Fan. Nebraska’s going to be the butt of national jokes. Opposing fans are going to revel in Nebraska’s struggles. Your Hawkeye relatives and neighbors are going to luxuriate in this. You’re even gonna get things like this.
(Honestly, well played, Illinois social media team.)
Let them. It’s OK to acknowledge that – right now – the team you love is kinda garbage.
There’s zero point in getting into a fight with someone about this. Just acknowledge that Nebraska’s a mess, and that you still love the program. There’s a level of respect you’re going to earn for acknowledging the reality of your team being bad, and you sticking with them. And I promise, the Fourth Commandment will help you get through that.
IV. THOU SHALT SEPARATE YOUR FANDOM FROM YOUR SELF-IMAGE. This might be the most important thing to remember, just to help keep yourself sane. Yes, Nebraska’s kinda garbage right now.
But that doesn’t mean that you are kinda garbage.
You as a human being are awesome (of course you are, you’re a Double Extra Point reader)! Your friends and family don’t love you any less because your favorite team is bad. Please, please, please don’t let those streams get crossed.
Because if you’re able to remember that your team being bad doesn’t mean you are bad, that will help you keep things in perspective (see the Ninth Commandment) and stay healthy.
V. THOU SHALT NOT STRIKE YOUR COLORS. No hiding, Husker Fan. This is the time when you really earn your respect as a fan. It’s easy to be a fan when your team is good.
Now’s the time you earn your respect, Husker Fan. Wear your colors with pride, even at Thanksgiving with your Hawkeye relatives (over Zoom, of course) and let them take their shots.
I promise you, Husker Fan, not only will you earn respect, but you’ll feel better about yourself too.
VI. THOU SHALT ACCEPT REALITY. You guys, Nebraska’s bad. And there’s plenty of ways this could get worse. Both this year and looking forward.
That’s got to be your starting point. And it’s OK. What is now is no guarantee that it is what will be, whether that’s next week, next month, or next year. More on keeping faith alive in the Tenth Commandment, I promise.
But denying reality is the heart of quite a few problems we are laboring under in 2020. You will do yourself no favors cocooning yourself in a fantasy world. Accept where things are right now – good, bad, and ugly – and ride the wave out with the rest of us here in reality.
VII. THOU SHALT TAKE THE LONG VIEW. When we’ve been at these turning points before, it was pretty obvious that a coaching change was coming and that was a source of long-term hope. That’s – probably – not coming now. Frost almost assuredly isn’t going anywhere, even if Nebraska ends this strange, pandemic-influenced year 1-7.
So you gotta dig in for the long haul, Husker Fan. Yes, it looks bad now, but losing to Illinois doesn’t mean that Nebraska can’t be successful under Frost. Failure under Frost is far from a guarantee.
Of course, success under Frost is far from a guarantee too.
Nebraska football as a program is bigger than one coach – yes, even Frost. Maybe he’s not the right guy for the job. Maybe it’s the next guy that comes in that gets Nebraska back to the promised land.
Nebraska has played college football since 1890. Memorial Stadium was built in 1923. Nebraska fans have been, well, Nebraska fans, swarming to follow the scarlet and cream to its first Rose Bowl in 1941.
Nebraska football will be there after Frost is gone – whether he’s fired after abject failure or after winning national championships. That’s why being a Nebraska fan is so powerful – because it connects you to that history, that tradition, that rhythm of life that was there before you were here and will be there once you’re gone.
Don’t give up on that, Husker Fan, even though it’s not a ton of fun right now.
VIII. THOU SHALT TAKE IT ONE WEEK AT A TIME. I know, it’s hard to think that there’s a benefit of being a fan of a bad team. But one of the benefits is that you can take each game as a discrete, week-by-week experience without worrying about how it fits into the “bigger picture” of things.
College football is beautiful in large part for its weirdness. Nebraska gets Iowa next week, and the scoreboard will start at 0-0 regardless of how ugly this loss to Illinois was.
So take these gifts for what they are Husker Fan. Yeah, it doesn’t seem likely right now, but maybe things click right and Nebraska finally gets a win over Iowa on Black Friday. Or maybe they play a great game against Purdue. Or maybe they thump Minnesota.
Or, maybe none of that happens. But sports is the ultimate in reality television, and you’ll never know unless you watch. So do your best, Husker Fan, to silo off each week’s contest as a one-off rather than seeing it as a bigger picture. It’ll help you feel better, I promise.
IX. THOU SHALT MAINTAIN PERSPECTIVE. I know, I know, “it’s just a game” is loser talk.
But, really, it is just a game. And that’s the beauty of it. One of the reasons sports is such an important part of life is that it gives us a chance to feel passionately human emotions – happiness, excitement, fear, joy, anguish – about something that is ultimately meaningless.
Feeling those emotions – all those emotions, good and bad – is part of what it means to be alive, to be human. And having this big, loud, ridiculous spectacle to funnel those emotions through without (for the most part) anyone getting hurt is a tremendous blessing.
So yeah, Husker Fan, this sucks to feel like you’re back in the wilderness again, stuck there for the better part of two decades. Don’t dismiss or denigrate how bad or sad or mad you feel right now.
But if you remember that, ultimately, it is just a game, then you’re going to be well on your way to finding the strength to do all those other things that will keep you strong, healthy, and sane – well, as sane as a Nebraska fan can be, anyway.
X. THOU SHALT KEEP THE FAITH. Here’s the biggie, Husker Fan. Faith is tough, because it’s a belief in the unseen, the unproven. Faith is holding on to something even when there’s no reasonable explanation for doing so. Faith is looking into the teeth of a frightening, uncertain future and deciding to still believe in a better tomorrow.
Faith is hearing the whispers of doubt, of despair, of apathy, whispering in your ear to take the easy way out – and gently, firmly, saying no.
Faith isn’t something inherent, something you’re born with. It’s a choice. And (because it’s important to stay On Brand with this site) it’s best described by Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Lt. Commander Data : I once had what could be considered a crisis of the spirit.
Lieutenant Worf : You?
Lt. Commander Data : Yes. The Starfleet officers who first activated me on Omicron Theta told me I was an android – nothing more than a sophisticated machine with human form; however, I realized that if I was simply a machine, I could never be anything else. I could never grow beyond my programming. I found that difficult to accept, so I chose to believe… that I was a person, that I had the potential to be more than a collection of circuits and subprocessors. It is a belief which I still hold.
Lieutenant Worf : How did you come to your decision?
Lt. Commander Data : I made… a leap of faith.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Rightful Heir,” Season 6, Episode 23
You’ve done that as long as you’ve worn scarlet and cream, Husker Fan. Many of you made that leap after Nebraska was mauled by Colorado in 2001. Or Kansas in 2007. Or Wisconsin in 2012.
Make it again, Husker Fan. I promise you, it’ll be worth it. Stick with us. Just listen to this smart and particularly handsome analyst from 2007 – who admittedly might have been just a bit hyperbolic (and even, ew, used the word “haters”) in his younger days.
We must stand firm, and stand together. We must care for and respect each other, even when we disagree. We must remember that we all want the same thing. And we must believe – nay, we must know – that brighter days are ahead. Nebraska will rise again, because we the people will demand it, and will not rest until we are delivered. Let the haters crow and enjoy our time in darkness. We will rise above them, and we will once again be the insufferably polite fans who cheer as our team dominates all opponents.