Here we are again. Here we are after a blowout loss to a just-pretty-good team. We’ve found ourselves getting onto our cliché treadmills to work up a good, standing-still lather.
Guys who get paid to talk are out of talking points. Guys who get paid to write are undoubtedly staring at blank pages, cursors blinking out the Morse Code SOS that accompanies writer’s block in the digital age. Even dweeby blogsters who do “it all” just for the love or sports and of writing – that thrill of self-expression that has fired the human combustion engine since cave painters first charcoaled their Ancient Aliens onto a wall – aren’t really coming up with anything new to say.
Our redundancy has become redundantly redundant. We’re out of Groundhog Days and “glitches in the Matrix.” We can’t even make any more Source Code references or try to clumsily name-drop that one Sandra Bullock movie where her family keeps dying and she keeps waking up and starting the whole damn thing over again.
I wrote a post last year after the Iowa game and it was digitally smashed by a few of the chest-thumping Redditors who disapproved. I don’t remember exactly what was said, and I’m fine with criticisms of my work (*Author’s note: as it often times deserves it), but it was something along the lines of “This piece doesn’t have a point. If it doesn’t move the conversation forward on the topic, then why bother to write it?”
What those Reddit commenters missed, and what I was striving to do in that piece, was to show that having “no point” was, indeed, the actual point. There was no way to move the conversation forward. No new angle to take or revolutionary column to bring a new perspective to this topic. We were mired in the thick, sticky muck of sameness and I was lamenting the circular pattern of ineptitude. What felt like a downward spiral was actually something worse: just a stationary spiral. And that was last year.
So what now? I just admitted there’s nothing to say. At this point we’ve been on hold for 7 years. We’ve been listening to the ear-homicide of Jack Johnson soft rocking for 91 games. And we can’t hang up because we’ve already been waiting for so long and we don’t want to start the process again. And we can’t quite seem to get anyone to pick up the goddamn phone. And we’re listening a little too intently and I’m starting to be convinced it’s driving us completely, blue-blazes fuck-all insane.
So what do we do? We spin out rhetorical questions and turn to caustic social media barbs. But it doesn’t have to be so full of despondency and despair, does it? We can try to cope, can’t we Husker fans? Here is my breakdown of the 7 stages in the coping process when we find ourselves back in that dreaded, vile, angst-ridden position that has become like our second home in Nebraska: square one.
Stage 1: The Cage Rage Phase
It’s a natural part of the healing process, Nebraska fans. Get angry. Hell, get Nicolas Cage angry. (*Author’s note: Follow the visual flow chart above to channel your emotions.) Scream into a pillow. Rip into your garage wall like it’s Daniel Davie and it just missed a single tackle in a game that you’re winning by a touchdown (*Author’s note: too soon?). The point is this: a little insane rage is healthy at this point. When you hear the term “back at square one” it’s okay to screw your eyeballs back into a Nic Cage Murder Face, unhinge your jaw like a python downing a wildebeest, and howl like a drunken wolf on a full moon. Let it out.
Stage 2: The Liar Liar Bathroom Phase
That’s right. Even though you’re not directly responsible for the loss to the Badgers you’re going to feel some level of guilt. Maybe you were that guy this season. Maybe you were that girl. Telling all your friends around the office that we had turned a corner; that Bo Pelini, merry off-season prankster, was a sign of the coach maturing into a new version of a leader that would be looser and more relaxed (*Author’s note: and thereby transferring this newfound zen approach to the team) and that his newfound outlook on the coaching profession would spell an end to the days of blow-outs past. Whatever the reason, you’re harboring a 59-point pile of anger towards yourself. Just remember to take it easy on the beatdown.
Stage 3: The Binge Eating Runza/Amigos Phase
There’s only 1 thing that’s more Nebraskan than caring way too much about your college football team: having a borderline inappropriate love of Runza. That’s right. There’s no better way to work your way through this chasm of mourning than to sobbingly collapse onto your couch and into the loving embrace of a large order of crinkle-cut fries. Let those tears mingle with the salty goodness of a Runza or a delicious burger as you crush your way through your second fast-food meal of the day.
Not as big into Runza? Still feeling the need to stress-eat your way through some deep-fried goodness? No need to hire a shrink. Psychiatrists are expensive. Amigos’ super inauthentic Mexican food only runs you about 6 bucks for a meal and it will offer up the same mental healing. The pit of self-loathing is approximately 4 Cheesies deep, so why not start digging? (*Author’s note: I’m an Amigos guy myself. If anyone needs me I’ll be seeing how many “Mexi-Fries” I can fit in my mouth to drown out my own wailing.
Step 4: The McLachlan Phase
This is a really dark phase in the coping process. It involves simultaneously YouTubing Ndamukong Suh highlights and listening to Sarah McLachlan’s Angel on repeat. Not that I would know anything about this stage, personally, of course. I mean, look, even if a grown man wanted to dim the lights, crack open a quart of Ben and Jerry’s and Kleenex his way through a few videos of Suh’s dominance, while juxtaposing that ferocious beauty of a defense with a heart-wrenchingly angsty McLachlan join, that doesn’t make him less of man, does it? Wait, does it?!?! (*Author’s note: totally asking for a friend.) I don’t need to go too much further into the details, but just know that you’re not alone in doing this.
Step 5: The Ex-On-Facebook-Creep Phase
It’s late. You’ve had a few drinks. There’s a tingling, restless, ache that starts to build somewhere deep in your fanhood. You know you shouldn’t. You know this isn’t going to be good for anyone. It’s not healthy. But still…
You slide your feet out from under the covers, sneak to a computer, glowing screen illuminating your guilt-ridden face as you delicately type in the words into the search engine. A board creaks, you feverishly check over your shoulder, body temperature immediately shooting through the roof as your heart rate skyrockets. Nothing. It must be he house settling, you say to yourself, trying to catch your breath. With a tremulous finger you click the “enter” key and there it is. Heart beat echoing against the darkness of the night, you see it unfold in front of you. You’re not proud of what you’ve just done, but it’s there nonetheless. And you can’t help yourself. You begin to scroll through the page.
We swore we’d never do it again, Husker fans. But now, all of a sudden, we’ve found ourselves doing things we haven’t done in years and feeling things we swore we’d never feel again. We feel dirty. We feel cheap. But we can’t help ourselves from checking out Bill Callahan’s stats like a Facebook ex creeping on the profile pictures of their old flame. It’s okay, Husker fans. Just get it out of your system and remember: he’s no good for you.
Step 6: The Osborne Identity Phase
We’re a digital society. So when we’re in need of answers, we Google shit. And, in Googling shit, we often times stumble onto mind-blowing facts. Like, for instance, Tom Osborne is only two years older than Bill Snyder. And, when we Google shit, it can then lead us down a rabbit hole of other Google-related stuff that inevitably ends up with our eyes feeling grainy, our caffeine at unhealthy amounts and the hour of night being altogether unholy. In short, we can quickly and easily start a chain of events that will bring about a personal, sometimes-apocalyptic, level of realization.
This phase is all about what can happen to a Husker fan when he realizes that Tom Osborne (*Author’s note: he with the 13 conference titles, 3 National Championships, and the ability to literally walk across and/or turn to the wine the waters of Lake McConaughy) isn’t really that much older than Bill Snyder. And we begin to think, you know, with all the technological advances in modern science and medicine: 77 is pretty much the new 60, right? I mean, if Bill Snyder can do it. . .
Try your hardest to avoid this stage, Husker fans. Or if you find that you cannot? Find the nearest bar, call up your homeys, and drink until you’re back at stage 1.
Step 7: The Thankgoditsbasketballseason Phase
Are you trying to avoid the bonecrushing depression of nothing ever changing? Tired of witnessing similar results so frustrating that you refuse to wear crewnecks no matter how “in” they are or ever will become? Have you gone through the previous 6 phases of being back in that psychological hell-hole known as “Square One”? Well let me tell you about something to help balance the scales.
Something new. Fresh. Intriguing. Something that is unpredictable, in a good way. Something easy to root for. And thankful to have you rooting. Something that appears that not only appears to have a trajectory, but an upward trajectory at that. This is fanhood Xanax. Or some of Carl Pelini’s really good, top-shelf stuff. It’s the mellow after the manic; the chaser after the shot of Barton’s at a college party.
It’s basketball. In a football state. And it’s the best thing you can cling to right now. Unplug the treadmill — if only for a little while — on the days that don’t start with “Satur”, climb down, and go outside for a run that takes you somewhere new. Take two of Tim Miles and call me in the morning, Husker fans.
Or you can always pull a Brian McKnight and “start back at one.”