Carry On: The Cruelty of Fandom

Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

My wife and I hadn't gone to the grocery store in far too long. When you are married, have no kids, and are both quite busy, these things tend to happen. After three consecutive meals of convincing myself that Ramen Noodles doctored up with egg, soy sauce, Siracha, green onion, sesame oil, and garlic powder equated legitimate nutritional value, I was easily talked into a quick drive to find a steak. This is Nebraska. There are plenty of ways to make that happen.

The thing was, Nebrasketball was playing that evening and everyone who cared deeply about the Husker basketball team told me I should probably be in Lincoln watching that game. Realizing I just didn't have it in me to drive down to Lincoln, grab some tickets out front, and probably hate myself for a long drive home, I went on my merry way and enjoyed a ribeye with mashed potatoes and house salad. I did record the beginning of the game telling myself I would stay off social media and catch up to real time eventually.

The dinner was delicious, and I was quite happy with my decisions to that point. Dinner not consisting of fried, freeze-dried noodles? Check. No driving to Lincoln on a weeknight? Check. No looking at facebook or twitter? Check. And then I started watching the game. For those of you who watched Nebraska-Michigan, you understand that it was a really close game. Both teams kept giving opportunities to the other to pull away, but neither team seized the opportunity. In general, it was just kind of an even matchup. Then I made what would be the first of a few mistakes of the evening. I fired up twitter. Tweets were coming fast and furious from my faithful Nebrasketball loving friends, "That's a charge!" "How the hell are you going to make that call?!?" "#@$%&@#$&!!!*"

*approximation of actual tweet

The bottom line was that I was missing something in real time. I had waited too long to catch up to the game and now I would suffer the fate of watching the greater part of the second half in fast forward. Frantically, I get caught up, but I already knew Nebraska's fate. Even with the ball and a touch over nine seconds, Nebraska couldn't put the Wolverines away and the Cornhuskers showed once again how tough it is to be Big Red Basketball. Considering the meltdown against Ohio State, that's not such a bad deal, but this was a really awful thing to endure. Moral victories aside, that sucked.

After the Purdue game - another game in which Nebraska stopped scoring for around seven minutes or so late in the game in a losing effort - I was reminded once again how brutal being a fan can be. It is a transaction where you can expel boundless amounts of energy, emotion, currencies of both the literal and figurative type, as well as copious amounts of time, and still receive nothing back. In my lifetime of fandom - assuming I started being a fan around five, that would be 24 years - I have a few NCAA tournament berths and lots of angst in return from Nebrasketball. In looking forward, it is hard to believe that the payoff will be worth the hours that a person puts in to be fully invested in a team and sport. More simply put, being a fan sucks.

Sure, there are times that my Nebraska football has paid off, and certainly there are even highs associated with the worst of my associations, but being a fan can be absolutely the worst. I still remember looking around after Nebraska beat Northwestern in football this season. MNWildcat was the most gracious losing fan I have ever encountered, but I still couldn't help but think his entire world had been shook again. I knew that feeling. Heck, I KNOW that feeling. It was hard not to empathize with a section of fans who had paid for tickets, gotten to Nebraska, spent money in Lincoln, endured Runza's revenge, and then been punched right in the gut. There was no return on that investment, and if Wildcat fans were honest, it's probably hard to imagine that their overall lifetime return will be much better than a run to a Rose Bowl sometime hopefully. Again, being a fan sucks.

Even so - and trust me, as a Bills, Cubs, Pelicans, and other almost-there sports clubs fan - we will continue to go out there and cheer on the little things. We will argue about how we, "almost had you." We will buy new lucky shirts and even more lucky hats. We will go to games that will result in blowouts, and we'll keep hoping that the next day turns out to be better for our fandom than the day before. Not because it will, but because that's what being a fan is generally about. While being a fan can totally suck, just the thought of the day where your team raises a trophy is enough to keep you coming back for more.

I have no idea where Nebrasketball fandom will take me. The reality is that thinking beyond the here and now is just too hard to believe, but I will always hope. Hope is what gets me ready for games. Hope is what we fans of teams that aren't that good survive on. And so, we carry on. It's all you can do short of quitting on your team, and at least for me, I'm already too invested. Ohio State is on Monday. Time for things to turn around. In the meantime, let's all commiserate over fandom. Let's talk about all of our collective punches in the stomach with little hope. Perhaps this will be good for the soul... or awful. Either way, it's good lunchtime fodder.

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