First, both teams are 4-1 and 4-0, which is right about where most people thought they would be. Mizzou has scored a lot of points, Callahan still can’t call plays, the Tigers can’t hold a lead, the Huskers can’t tackle. There isn’t much surprise in any of all that.
But the whole vibe around town is just strange…kinda like the feeling you get during a tornado watch, when the sky starts to turn a blue-green off to the west. The air is still and damp, as you can barely make out the sounds of crickets way off in the distance. It’s eerie.
The theme of course this week is uncharted waters.
Since I stepped out of the car in Omaha in the mid 1980’s, I’ve lived with the fact that your football team is head and shoulders above mine. I was quick to notice that while my team was getting thrashed by Oklahoma 77-0, yours was beating teams by double digits, running up 500 yards rushing and losing some high-level bowl game on a yearly basis. This did not go on for a couple years, but for more than a decade.
Then, out of nowhere in 1997, Corby Jones and company gave Missouri fans reason to hope….shocking the number one team in the country in front of the whole world. Despite the fluke BS play that ended the game (pretty much), the game to that point remains the single most exciting sports moment I’ve ever witnessed. (Including the Royals winning the World Series in 1985, which highlighted my youth).
1998 brought a bit more of the same, as Mizzou made a bowl game for only the third time since 1981. A deflection in the Memorial Stadium end-zone that year sealed the Tiger’s fate, as the Huskers again walked out of the stadium with a victory. Nebraska continued to pile up yards and points at ridiculous rates. The next few years brought more Husker victories, and fewer Mizzou wins, including Larry Smith’s final game against Kansas State, a 66-0 bloodbath that continues to sting to this day.
But today, with dark green clouds swirling above the horizon, the world has been turned upside down.
Gone are the days where Missouri fans watched with passing interest as fellow Big 8/12 teams destroyed them. Gone are the days where Nebraska lined up and ran it down people’s throat. Tradition, power running, class, dignity….gone. All gone.
There here and now is much different.
This weekend, the polite claps and mild chants of “Go Big Red” as 25,000 inbred hicks fill Faurot Field will drown in a sea of hatred and rage unlike anything you have ever seen. Perhaps this is why some of you seem disappointed in hate week. For you see, I’ve played this role for many many many years. Do you know how fun it is arguing about football when your team lost 73-0 the week before? Do you have ANY idea what we as Missouri fans have been through?
No, this is far more than a profanity-laced week of hype and buildup. This is nearly 40 years of pent-up anger and frustration, taken out in one quick 3-hour span. Yes, I realize this has become old hat, this notion of Missouri beating Nebraska; they’ve done it twice in the past four seasons.
But this year is different.
That culture you created, that intimidation and style of play have disappeared in the rear-view mirror. The days where most Missouri fans left satisfied losing by less than 3 TD’s have been replaced by a label of “7 point favorite”. But as uncharted as this is for Missouri fans, it’s even more glaring for Nebraska. A loss on Saturday automatically puts Nebraska 2 games behind Missouri, with trips to Texas, Kansas and Colorado still to come. That may not sound like a huge deal on the first Saturday in October, but didn’t you fire a guy who spent his whole life trying to make you a winner because he was “only 9-3” ?
I’d love to throw out some rah-rah speech on here about my favorite team, but I’m having a hard time finding it in my gut. Why? Because I know you’ve already begun your descent into the mediocre. Perhaps I don’t feel the same hate and rage because I know that journey has long since begun. Perhaps I don’t have that same fire in my eyes because your flaws are so blinding.
But I will tell you this. I know I speak for legions of my own fans, as well as those from all the other teams you so arrogantly thumbed your nose at over those past 3 decades. Nobody forgets your feigned pity claps after a “good game”. Nobody is buying anymore of this “Aww sucks” crap you people have faked for so long. Nobody is feeling one bit sorry for you when you bash other schools for having discipline problems, and then you tell the world things like, “Lawrence needs football in his life.”
You are the quintessential poster child of all things wrong with college sports. You’re phony. You’re arrogant. You’re self-indulgent and hypocritical shell of your former self. Even if my own team loses, I have enjoyed your slow tumble from grace. Even if in this one game, you pull yourself together and yank victory from the jaws of defeat, like you have so many times before…I will continue to feel this way.
Hate Week isn’t the same because we are not the same; at least not as we were before. We as fan bases have drifted in two separate directions and only one of us knows it.
And the final 48 hours countdown……