It's officially Silly Season in Lincoln, as the college football season is finally here. This is our 7th fall of being fully intrenched in what has to be easily one of, if not THE most obsessed fanbases in the game. Their recent struggles have been pretty well-documented: the debacle of the last 4 years, the hiring, the firing, the end of the bowl streak, worst defense ever, the Return of the Messiah, back to tradition, restoring the order, yadda, yadda, yadda.....
But this off-season really has been unlike anything Nebraskans have ever experienced. Bo Pelini, the man that can seemingly walk on the waters of Lake McConaughey, was brought back as head coach. He's short-tempered, bullheaded, and has the entire state hanging (and agreeing) with his every single word. As soon as a new coach arrives in Lincoln (which has happened 5 times in the last 50 years) he is instantly the most recognizable man in the state. Every old lady and every old crusty farmer at every kitchen table, every coffee shop, grain elevator.....everyone in every place can gladly orate at great length their thoughts on Bo Pelini's defensive philosophy, his coaching resume, his staff, his recruiting class, his returning starters, his wife & kids, church affiliation, favorite restaurants, etc.... You get the idea.
And in case you trip over a plow and get a case of amnesia, most everyone here does something to their property to remind you of exactly where you are. It may be a simple flag or stone, but often times it's never that understated. Case in point: If this was a picture of an acreage on the outskirts of Ames, then I'd be impressed. Sadly, it's on the outskirts of Lincoln. I guess it loses the dramatic effect.
The in-state media has been relentless/comical in trying to get every angle on the new regime. Today in a press conference leading up to their first game, Pelini was asked repeatedly when he would be handing out the famous Blackshirts to his defensive starters. Would it be this week before the first game, or would he (gasp) wait until sometime AFTER the first game? Is that fair to his players? These are the questions he gets. Yes, a seemingly arbitrary, vague piece of practice apparel strangely happens to be one of the most significant and observed traditions, not only by the players, but fandom statewide. Who cares? In Nebraska, everyone does.
As many would assume, expectations for success over the next few years is as high as it was back in the glory days of the 90's. Crazy, you say? Maybe. Don't tell that to First National Bank, which takes up the most prime billboard real estate in town, just outside Memorial Stadium with this not-so-subtle statement. No pressure or anything, Bo.
As much as some Nebraska fans absolutely drive me nuts this time of year, I'd be lying if I don't get just as ridiculous and stupid with my anticpation for every game, every Saturday. As Johnny Mathis once sang, "it's the most wonderful time of the year".
Although I don't think Johnny Mathis was much of a football fan. Just a hunch.