My thanks to John M. from Crimson Quarry for this honest, introspective piece. Definitely rec worthy. - graham
Indiana Football: Why Bother? I'll Tell You
- John M.
I would like to thank the PTB here at OTE for giving me some space to write about Indiana football. I don't venture over here as often as I should, and when I or another Indiana football fan posts anything about IU football, we're often met with a combination of pity and curiosity. Here's how a typical thread goes:
Me: [some comment relevant to Indiana football]
Random OSU/Penn State/Michigan fan: "Wow, it's a real live Indiana fan. We never have Indiana fans here!"
Snarling Purdue fan: "Oh, look who forgot to turn around his reversible jacket."
Conciliatory Iowa fan: "Dude, knock it off. No Indiana fans are going to come around here if we keep acting like this every time one shows up!"
Me: "Seriously, I know we're not any good. Can we just talk about football?"
Sure, IU doesn't generate as much attention here at OTE as the schools with better football teams (and there are eleven of them). And sometimes there isn't all that much to say. "Gee, guys, I know we deserve to be #12 in your ‘Comparing Crappy Movies to Big Ten Teams' post, but couldn't you at least give us ‘Ishtar' instead of ‘Malibu's Most Wanted'?" (ed note: MMW is an underrated comedy IMO) (ed note deux: why haven't we done this comparison piece yet??)
Since IU fans are such a novelty around here, I thought I would provide you some insight about how I have toughed it out as an IU fan.
First and most importantly, I know it doesn't always have to be this way, because it hasn't always been this way. I enrolled at Indiana in 1992. At that time, IU was in good shape. IU had won a bowl game the previous season, had been to five bowl games in the six seasons prior to my enrollment, and while the team slid to 5-6 my freshman year while struggling to replace Division I-A rushing leader Vaughn Dunbar, IU rallied with an 8-4 season my sophomore year and then went 6-5 in 1994 before the current unpleasantness began with a 2-9 record. Actually, then unpleasantness began about halfway through the 1994 season, when IU, standing at 5-1, managed to lose a homecoming game to Northwestern the year that Dennis Lundy was throwing games. With my head, I realize that the mid 1980s through the mid 1990s were a bit of an anomaly for IU. With my heart, I still think of IU as a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten program that gone through a bit of a rough patch.
Second, while there have been times when it has been really rough to be an IU fan (I'm talking about the Dinardo era, mostly), there's usually been some reason to stick around. I could always convince myself that this was finally going to be the year that Cam Cameron was going to put at least some semblance of a defense on the field to complement Antwaan Randle El. It was easy to believe the program was headed in the right direction under Terry Hoeppner, and even Bill Lynch managed to make things interesting for most of the time. As I said, the tail end of the Dinardo era felt very hopeless: listless performances, 25,000 in the stands on a good day, a coach who seemed like he would rather be anywhere else. But for most of the last couple of decades, there has always been reason for hope in one form or another. Even in the wake of a 1-11 season, I don't feel that bad about IU football. The program and the department are financially sound and solvent. The stadium has never looked better. Attendance has been better than the product on the field would justify. I still feel good about Kevin Wilson's resume and background and potential to turn things around. I realize, of course, that for the most part, the things that gave me hope over the last two decades mostly didn't lead to improvement. But such is the life of a sports fan.
Third, it's still college football. After all of the buildup and attention, there are only 12 games a year, and I'm not going to miss out on college football season simply because IU has had a rough couple of decades. To steal the golf cliche, a bad day on a college campus on a glorious fall day is better than a good day nearly anywhere else. The last 18 years haven't been without good memories, and so I can always convince myself that there will come a time when they aren't so few and far between.
This week...Indiana Football
MONDAY | Cocktail Party Preview
THURSDAY I Indiana Football: Why Bother? I'll Tell You
FRIDAY | Keeping the Enemy Close