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Husker Football: The Anatomy of a True Nebraska Fan

As Husker football fans congregate online, arguments have been flaring up over the past couple of years regarding Bo Pelini and the program’s direction as a whole. A common theme found among those who back the feline-supported Pelini regime is that those who are not approving of him, his staff or the program as it is are not “true fans”.

This has been fascinating to me. I decided to do something so dangerous that it causes message board users to leap behind their proverbial blast shields. I asked Husker football fans what a “true fan” actually is.

I offered this opportunity to the good people of the Facebook page Husker Army which boasts a membership of over 15,600. Not a bad sample size for such a sociological experiment. Here are some of the responses from their ranks:

“A true fan is someone who sticks by there team through thick and thin good times and the not so good times and someone who doesn’t  complain every week about something on your team” – Jd Cartwright

“A ‘true fan’ has a love for the sport not just the team. They know and understand its a game won and lost as a team. They support the team during ups and downs never wavering on loyalty for the team, coaches included as part of the team.” – Adam Townsend

“Someone who supports the team players and coaches no matter the sport and result.” – Douglas Burritt

A good chunk of the responses were something along these lines, so we can assume that being a “true fan” is pledging blind loyalty. That may seem like an insult at first, but considering “fan” is short for “fanatic”,  it is, by definition, correct. Someone with zeal towards a cause or unwavering support? I get that from the above quotes.

Let’s check out the opposite end of the spectrum, the one that the above individuals look down upon (and that’s putting it kindly). One member put it so succinctly, his reply was perfect.

“I think it should just be someone that wants what’s best for the program.” – Ryan Kuck

Mr. Kuck presents an interesting take. If we break it down into its basic form, a “true fan” ultimately wants their program to excel a.k.a. they want “what’s best for the program”.

You’ll find that folks like Mr. Kuck are frustrated with the coaching staff these days and understandably so. Going 9-4 every year gets somewhat maddening. Pelini’s rolling out the football equivalent of “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

What makes the arguments of Mr. Cartwright, Townsend and Burritt the most intriguing to me is that fans who’ve echoed their examples haven’t lived up to them in the past.

During his tenure, former Husker football coach Bill Callahan was ridiculed and under massive scrutiny.

Some even argue that Callahan did the unthinkable and tried to change the culture of the program, a big no-no.

To this day, nearly seven seasons after he departed, Callahan is the subject of disgust and the butt of jokes. He doesn’t get a “he gave it his all and things didn’t work out” or a tip of the cap for the recruits he provided for one of the Huskers’ best defenses ever.

Nope. The guy’s a buffoon, a chump, a laughingstock.

If a “true fan” as we’ve established the definition of above denounced Callahan during his tenure, they’re not meeting their own criteria. Using the words of actual human beings, a “true fan” is either a hypocrite or they…wait for it…want what’s best for the program.

For a person to care so much about the inner workings of a sports team that they would actually become upset over its operation shows a fanatical devotion in itself. How can one claim to be a true fan when they were massively critical of Callahan, but vehemently defend Pelini? They can’t.

Ultimately, it comes down to a love for Nebraska football. Something as much a part of the Cornhusker State’s culture as hard-working farmers who put food on America’s tables or its extremely well-mannered residents.

To those on both sides of the “true fan” debate, it’s time to put down your arms.

You’re on the same side.

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