I grew up in a football household. To be clear, however, it was never a Sunday ritual. Real football in my family has always been watched on Saturday. Cheerleaders, traditions, marching bands, mascots, student *snicker* athletes. College football.
I was born and raised a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan. For years dad and I would make the pilgrimage to Lincoln, finding some tickets and cheering on the team, two tiny specs in the Great Sea of Red. I used to lament the fact that a lot of times they wouldn’t win the big one, or their bowl game. Somehow I didn’t know how good I had it, cheering for a team that won 9 or 10 or 11 games every year.
My team would eventually become something completely different. Sometimes hapless. Often mediocre. Occasionally decent. I had adopted the team of my alma mater, the Iowa State Cyclones. Being a fan of the Cyclones in great. Incredible tailgating. A great student section.
Our beloved mascot, Cy. A heated rivalry with the Iowa Hawkeyes that has picked up steam in recent years. But then you have to watch the football games.
It hasn’t been easy over the years. In the years that I attended the University, my team would compile a record of 10-34. Eventually they would clean up their act a little and go to a couple of lower tier bowl games. But watching games was like anticipating a heart attack. Sometimes I kid my wife that she should get on the phone and dial 91 and wait. Seemingly no lead is safe. A heck of a team to pick for someone who suffers from depression, no?
But then three years ago, Paul Rhoads was hired as heard coach. Now, there haven’t been any National Championships. But the culture is changing. The Cyclones beat the Cornhuskers in Lincoln for the first time in over thirty years. They beat the Texas Longhorns for the first time ever. And who wouldn’t want to play for this guy:
I mean, seriously. I am 35, out of shape, and not athletic to begin with, and I want to crash through a wall like the Kool-Aidguy.
This year was sort of a break through. Sure, their record currently stands at 6-6. But there was a lot of fun in between. There were come from behind wins, like the game against Iowa. Beatdowns like the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. But to cap it off was the incredible, come from behind, best win in program history against the then number 2 Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Cyclone fans are a little disappointed that OSU didn’t get a chance to play LSU for the National Championship. If the outside chance that the Cowboys won, we could have said that our team beat the National Champions. No matter. This seems to be a team that is turning a corner. Maybe I am, too.