The year is 1978. The place is East Lansing, Michigan, home of the Michigan State Spartans. That year the Spartans put a butt whoopin’ on the Wisconsin Badgers, winning the game 55-2. The loss was devastating to most fans. The Badgers were taken behind the woodshed and beaten like they stole something. Perhaps as a last ditch attempt at any kind of small victory, the story concludes with a small contingency of fans, led by the Wisconsin marching band, storming the home team’s field and tearing down the goalposts. The marching band then commenced to carry the goalposts around the field chanting, “WE SCORED FIRST . . . WE SCORED FIRST!!!”
What is the point of this story, you may ask? I share this tale on the heels of my beloved Cougar’s implosion at LaVell Edwards Stadium against the bitter rival of the red team up north for a specific reason.
Recently, I was questioned by a colleague of mine (let’s call him Bucky) why all of a sudden everyone in Utah County has completely given up on the Cougars after just one loss?
“I don’t get what the bid deal is?” Bucky wondered. “Sure it’s embarrassing . . . of course it’s a tough loss to get over, but that’s what rivalry games are all about! You don’t give up on a team after one loss.”
As we talked about all of the fallout from the rivalry game, Bucky went on to tell me how terrible the Wisconsin Badgers were for DECADES (not one loss, or a losing season; decades of futility) during their “slump” of the 1970s, 80s & 90s. You see, Bucky is what I would call a true, diehard, college football fan. And his team is the Wisconsin Badgers. Finally, in 1994, more than 30 years after the Badgers last appearance, Bucky’s Badgers got their first Rose Bowl championship win over UCLA. Bucky then shared the story above with me. He fondly retold how the band and the fans were still dedicated to the team, even though (literally) the ONLY thing they had to cheer for was scoring first.
I am the first to admit how much of a gut punch it is to lose to an inferior team, especially against that team and during this season (with all the conference hullabaloo). And that wasn’t just my opinion. All of the national and local media agreed with me prior to Jake Heaps best attempt at a Garo Yepremian impression (YouTube it, you deserve to smile). You have to give it up to the Yewts for capitalizing on some lucky bounces, and feeding off of the mojo that seemed to completely flow their way after kickoff of the second half. But, it was still sad to see the text messages, Facebook posts, and other pronouncements of “fans” putting away the Cougar gear for the rest of the year following the Utah loss.
I was just as disappointed as everyone else to take a loss to the Yewts for the second year in a row, particularly when you think about how we lost. But what I hope readers and Cougar fans take from all this is the Cougars still need us. The fan base needs to get behind Bronco and the boys, and grow with the team.
Yes, there are going to be road blocks and speed bumps along the road of Cougar fandom. Yes, there are going to be disappointing games, but that is football. If you are a true (blue) fan, you take the bitter losses because it makes victory all that more sweet.
The fact of the matter is BYU football is unlike any other NCAA football program. Because of the certain limitations that the team has in recruiting. Because of the church that it represents. And especially because we seem to be everyone’s rival and will face a tough and determined team every week. All of that is never going to change. If you are a fan disappointed by the Cougar’s lack of perfection, then you don’t know what it means to be a fan. I believe (perhaps naively) the Cougars are building a foundation for greatness.
Eventually, I would hope we attain perfection. But until then, I am extremely content to root for my Cougars. In good times and bad (and it does not get much worse than the Utah loss). If you can’t handle that as a fan, you need to find a new hobby on Saturdays in the fall. Just remember the pride of those intrepid Badger fans.
So after listening to this little pep talk, burnish your blue and white gear proudly. Get down to Edwards Stadium on a home game. Invite the neighbors over on game day. Try out some actual tailgating, at an actual college football game on a brisk fall afternoon. Root, yell, and cheer until you are hoarse. You will not regret it. So RISE ALL LOYAL COUGARS, and support your team this weekend game and for the rest of the season!