I Want Wins, and I Want Them Now By: Joseph Chamberlain Posted: January 30, 2012
Americans love a quick fix. We want our presidents to solve massive crises overnight. We want our workouts made quicker and easier. We not only want to make a lot of money, we want that money tomorrow (but today would be better). We want to get ripped abs in under ten minutes. We want, and are ALWAYS willing to buy products that promise to perform this type of miracle, even though we know instinctively that there is no way the product can deliver as promised.
But… what if it did?!
In addition to causing the enormous number of absurd purchases made by Americans each year, this reasoning is behind the huge number of head coach firings each year. Athletic directors know instinctively that their next hire stands little chance of creating the massive turnaround their team’s fan base is demanding, but they can't help themselves. The siren song of the quick fix is almost always impossible to ignore.
The irony of the situation is that fans will whine about wanting a quick fix while at the same time preaching patience. You would be hard-pressed to find a fan base that operates differently.
Look no further than the University of Minnesota for an example. The Gophers, after winning six national championships, spent the bulk of the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s toiling in obscurity. Glen Mason came along and, with a patient approach, built them team into a perpetual winner, albeit one with a number of flaws. Though the team went to bowl games during each of the last five years of Mason’s tenure (and in seven of the ten years he coached in Minneapolis), the fan base grew impatient, thinking they were one quick fix away from the college football promised land.
Not surprisingly, AD Joel Maturi caved to the pressure, Mason was fired, a four year dumpster fire in the form of Tim Brewster ensued, Brewster was eventually fired, and now the Gopher fan base has started anew with head coach Jerry Kill.
Kill, preaching a gospel of patience and saying he wants to build the program on a foundation of “concrete, not sand” is, for the most part, getting the benefit of the doubt among the Gopher faithful. Still, there are already those who have made their displeasure with his recruiting known. Amazingly, people are voicing this displeasure in a year when Kill managed to reel in all but two of the highly regarded in-state players. Again, people want immediate success.
So, what should we take from this?
First, a large number of college football fans are idiots. Wishing for immediate recruiting success and then expecting that recruiting success (if it does, in fact, happen) to translate to immediate results on the field is no different than being pissed about your love handles the day after buying an Ab Rocket.
Second, the heartbreak, angst, and irrational behavior that go into being a fan of a bad team are what make being a college football fan so much fun.
I was talking to a friend of mine recently who grew up a Wisconsin Badger fan and has attended almost every home game in the last 25 years. We were marveling at how many of the current students take Wisconsin football success for granted. There are freshmen in Madison right now who have known nothing but Wisconsin football success their entire lives. They forget that there was a time before Barry Alvarez when the Badgers were a downright terrible team. They even forget that Alvarez, himself, went 11-22 in his first three years in Madison before the Badgers finally broke out in 1993.
It was the continued disappointment of his younger years that made the 1993 season so memorable for my friend. He looks at things now and, while he obviously does not wish any ill upon the team at all, wishes that the college-age fans were able to appreciate Badger success the way he is. He does not take for granted that the Badgers will always win because he has seen the other side.
Winning just means more when you have experienced prolonged losing. While the desire to experience that success often leads to rash personnel decisions and irrational griping on the part of the fans, it also makes the victories that much sweeter.
Like older Wisconsin fans, prolonged disappointment is what made us Red Sox fans love 2004 so much and why we are now disappointed by the "pink hats" that permeate Fenway Park. Many outsiders view Red Sox fans as overly self-important jerks, but only people like my father, who truly experienced the years of crushing Red Sox failures, can truly understand what the World Series victory meant.
So, we Gopher fans continue to sit and wait. We find things to gripe about and we look closely at every new development, both on the field and off, to see if it might be a sign of good things to come. We scrutinize every movement Jerry Kill makes, hoping to get a glimpse of the success we crave and hoping not to see the false bravado and promises that made Tim Brewster such a bad fit.
We long for the day when we, too, will be rewarded for our vigilance. Thankfully, I can get in a few more minutes on the Nordic Track while I wait.