We have to talk Husker football for a minute
I promise this won’t be just a Nebraska football newsletter, but good lord it has already been a long season for the Huskers. Before most other teams even played a game, Nebraska’s hopes for a bounce-back year were torpedoed by an ugly loss at Illinois on Saturday. Things are not going well in Lincoln.
It’s not just losing the game that made Husker fans mad - we’ve become skilled at processing defeat in recent years. It’s the completely familiar way that the loss happened that set us off. Any positive momentum was interrupted by goofy mistakes, undisciplined penalties and weird turnovers, just like last year and the year before that.
You know how when you worry a particular bad thing is going to happen and then it does happen, your annoyance level is doubled? Say it’s 2 a.m. and you have a lingering dread that somebody left the garage door open. You fidget and stall and finally go down to check it out and discover that yes, someone did leave the damn door open, and now a rat is chewing on that dusty couch cushion in the corner. And so you’re double-mad. It’s that feeling of “I KNEW IT” that makes everything worse, and so you yell at your family. Guys, we talked about this.
That’s what happened Saturday. In the dark recesses of every Husker fan’s brain was a fear that the new season would bring the same old sloppy, maddening football that we’ve been seeing, and then there it was on full display. The excitement of the opening game was quickly erased by all the dopey stuff that the Huskers promised they were going to work on.
The Scott Frost Brand was peaking in 2017 when Nebraska hired him to come home and lead his old team back to the promised land. Frost’s UCF teams were energetic, focused and fun to watch, just like the Oregon offenses he had coordinated before them. Frost ran a tight ship but his players loved him.
Frost was the perfect hire for Nebraska - a winner, a young coach from the old school, the champion Husker quarterback with strong ties to Tom Osborne’s glory days. Nebraska gave Frost a hero’s welcome, piles of money and full custody of the state’s hopes and dreams.
There really was no Plan B. Scott Frost was either going to succeed, or. . . well he was just going to have to succeed.
This is why the Huskers’ football freefall is not just frustrating, it’s demoralizing too. Nebraska fans are starting to see that maybe they didn’t love Scott Frost so much as they loved the idea of Scott Frost. And if Frost isn’t The Guy, who is?
To make matters worse, not only is Frost losing games, his program is under investigation for (careless and undisciplined) NCAA violations. (One of the infractions is “improper use of analysts” which I initially assumed was failing to get the ball in the hands of the best receivers).
These alleged violations aren’t major or uncommon — lots of teams do this stuff and we never hear about it. And that’s exactly Frost’s new problem, the one that may accelerate his exit: this investigation — as well as Frost’s reported efforts to cancel the highly anticipated Oklahoma game — somehow became public. There are evidently people close to the program who know things, and they want to embarrass Scott Frost. Frost’s tight ship has sprung some serious leaks.
There is a rat in Nebraska’s garage, and loyal Husker fans are predictably focusing on the rodent. But this whole thing could have been prevented if someone had just closed the garage door.
That Illinois loss really, really needed to not happen.
I 👎 N Y
We’ve all encountered folks who defend their actions by pointing to their right to do whatever they’re doing. These people are invariably stupid, but they do seem to have a keen grasp of their inventory of rights. (They also have the right to remain silent, as they are sometimes reminded, but unfortunately they rarely exercise that one.)
In a way I respect their approach. Why bother coming up with justifications for your actions? Making responsible adult decisions can be exhausting. “I’m doing this because I can” is sometimes as far as you need to go. It’s a free country.
Fans who are “boo birds” are like that. If you ask someone who boos his own team why he’s doing it, you’ll usually get something like “it’s my right” or “I paid for my ticket.” Those certainly are words — sentences, even — but they leave us with many questions. Are you trying to remind your players that they are underperforming? Because I think they already know. Are you trying to make them feel bad? Congratulations, you’re a shitty human. Does it feel good to express yourself with loud noises? Go to a Karaoke bar instead.
You can probably tell that I’m anti-booing, but I must reluctantly admit that the boo birds’ logic mostly works. Buying a ticket does give them the right to scream cow noises at other human beings, I guess.
But all of that misses the point. In kindergarten you learn that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Yes, you can boo your own team. But should you? I think it’s an important question, but the boo birds aren’t interested in that discussion. They have made their decision.
That’s why it was so fun to watch what happened to the New York Mets this week. The Mets had been playing miserably since MLB’s trade deadline, dropping from first to third in the standings during a 9-20 stretch. As you might expect, Mets fans have been letting their players have it, punishing their team’s underperformers with deafening boos at every opportunity.
One of their chosen victims is the luminescent, eternally happy Javy Baez, the Mets newly acquired second baseman who plays every game like a toddler on a snow day. Why anybody would boo this gift from the baseball gods is beyond me, but Mets fans bought their tickets and they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do.
Fast forward to Sunday, when during a lopsided 9-4 Mets victory in front of the home crowd, Baez unveiled a new type of celebration after a big hit:
Javy Baez booed the fans! He booed his own fans. At the risk of overexaggerating, this may be the single greatest thing that has ever happened on this planet.
“It’s just the boos that we get,” said Báez. “We’re not machines.”
“It just feels bad. When I strike out and I get booed, it doesn’t really get to me, but I want to let them know that when we (have) success, we’re going to do the same thing, to let them know how it feels. Because if we win together, we’ve got to lose together.”
Of course, baseball people fell all over themselves to shame Baez and his teammates for their appalling behavior. Mets President Sandy Alderson belched out an Official Statement condemning his players. Blah blah blah.
I get it, booing the home fans isn’t the ideal strategy for a professional athlete, especially a guy like Baez who will be trying to impress new teams as a free agent this winter. The better path would have been to smile through it all and then bitch about people behind their backs like a normal adult.
So maybe Baez shouldn’t have booed his own fans. But as the boo birds have taught us, he certainly can, and he doesn’t need anyone’s permission.