Tennessee Perceptions

As the reach of Boise State football expands, it is fascinating to hear the take on Bronco football from each region of the country. Thanks to the diversity of BroncoCountry, we have heard from NYCBoise Fan and jojobro in Florida in past years. Now Nashville Bronco gives this vivid portrait of how Tennesseans view Boise State.

Nashville , Tennessee is usually perceived as the country music capital of the world, a.k.a Music City USA
In reality, it's a large and diverse melting pot made up of some pretty decent people (as long as they're not driving).  Should you ever have the need to drive in
Nashville , know this: "southern hospitality" ends when a Nashvillian gets behind the wheel.
The majority of Tennesseans, whether male or female, follow at least one major sport.  When the topic turns to college football and is eventually steered towards
Boise State by yours truly, just about everyone has an opinion. 
That wasn't the case when I moved to
Nashville  in 2002; although in my admittedly biased opinion,  Boise State had announced their arrival on the national scene on a certain November evening in California  the year prior.  
If you were looking to find
Boise State gear, forget it (now, it's everywhere).  There was no mention of Boise State in the paper other than an occasional score.  In fact, the first two years I was here, the three things mentioned most about Boise State were:
1. More often than not, they covered the spread,
2. The blue field, and
3. NCAA football 2003/2004 (PS2) - Men and boys alike loved playing as Boise State
As Boise State slowly gained national respect over the next few years, folks here were coming around.  Still, detractors pointed to schedule strength and playing in a week conference as valid reasons to doubt
Boise State 's legitimacy as a team that could compete amongst the nation's elite.  The epic 2004 Liberty Bowl tilt vs. Louisville helped gain additional respect, no thanks to Trev Alberts (then, still at ESPN) who was telling everyone  Boise State was going to lose by 60.  I'm getting off topic here, but it's amazing what a difference four years makes.  Any of you who heard Alberts call the Boise State vs. Southern Mississippi game last year know what I'm talking about. 
There were a few people that drove from
Nashville to Memphis (roughly 200 miles) just to watch the Liberty Bowl because in their words, they wanted to see, "good football."  I sat behind father/son that were Ohio State fans who said it was one of the best games they had ever seen.   
The respect gained in the eyes of Nashvillians was quickly done in one game later in
Athens .  As expected, here came the, "I told ya' so's."  I was told that South Eastern Conference football was ruler of all and how dare a team from the Western Athletic Conference think they could compete with the mighty Bulldogs of Georgia.  2005 was, by far, my worst year as a Bronco fan in Nashville Boise State got drilled by Fresno and the loss to Boston College  still stings today.  Everyone here was pretty brutal, but I brought it on myself.  I had mentioned we were on the cusp of something great (no, I didn't predict Boise State would beat Georgia , but I did predict a two loss season).  I was just a year too early.
By 2006, I had developed a rapport with several clients/acquaintances.  As the season started to unfold, rare was the day that Ian Johnson wasn't mentioned at least once.  They found it hard to believe that a running back that was pulling away from Pacific-10 Conference defensive backs could end up at
Boise State .  But even after destroying both Oregon State and Utah , plentiful were those that still had Georgia on their mind.
When the B(c)S pairings were announced, there were several "concerned" clients that told me to save my money and stay home.  "Why go to
Arizona to watch Boise State lose?  Bigger, faster, stronger..."  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.
When it came to the perception of
Boise State in Nashville Oklahoma .  Changed.  Everything.
There's not a week that goes by without someone bringing up the game (prompted by the fact that I'm wearing something
Boise State related about 90% of the time).  I've lost count of how many times I've been told, "That's the greatest game I've ever seen."  Many went on to say  Boise State was robbed by not having the opportunity to compete for the Mythical National Championship.  Few even remember the loss to East Carolina later that year (However, former ECU RB Chris Johnson, who now plays for the Tennessee Titans, actually has pictures in his hallway of his exploits during the Hawai'i bowl).  I believe that if you actually polled random football fans around Nashville and asked what Boise State 's bowl record is over the last 5 years, most would probably say 3-2. 
Even though the Fiesta Bowl legitimized Boise State as a team that could compete with the B(c)S elite and since 2002, the Boise State football program was pretty much a regular in the top 25 of most major polls, the Bronco program still wasn't viewed as equal. 
Boise State was the house guest that came over for the party and even though they'd had too much to drink, they weren't allowed to sleep it off on the couch.  Because this is and always will be SEC country, someone was nice enough to call us a cab and make sure we got home safe. 
It's not enough to win the WAC.  In
Nashville , in order to continue to gain respect,  Boise State needs at least one signature win during out-of-conference play.  The perception here is Boise State 's watered-down conference doesn't lend itself to truly being tested and therefore, the Broncos' OOC schedule should be beefed up.  When I point out to them that their OOC schedules contain more cupcakes than Hostess, they're quick to retaliate with the SEC argument.  
Prevalent is the belief that
Boise State would absolutely get drilled in the SEC, due in large part to blowouts in '02 and '05.  I, like most Bronco fans, would love to try and compete amongst college football's elite on a weekly basis given equal resources (that's a pretty hard sell here).  Most are unaware of how much Boise State accomplishes with comparatively little.  For those who are curious, a comparison of athletic budgets rarely fails to surprise (a big thank-you to whoever posted those comparisons on Bronco Country).

Thanks to
1/1/2007 , most people here will always like Boise State .  Whether or not that will ever turn to total respect remains to be seen.  The overwhelming majority cite the WAC as an anchor that's holding Boise State back and an invite to a more competitive conference is a move that needs to happen at some point in order to progress as a football power.
I'm still hearing, all too often, about the unfair advantage afforded
Boise State due to blue uni's on a blue field.  Thanks, media.  Thanks, sheep. 
Yesterday, someone noticed me dressed in
Boise State gear from head to toe, and yelled, " Michigan State !"  I pointed out to him that his school cheated and that I couldn't accept a team that wore a uniform the same color as the field they played on.
He doubled over with laughter; one of the few that gets it.
I'm fortunate to be in a business that lends itself to casual conversation during the course of the day and it's been fun to watch perceptions of
Boise State change over the years.

It doesn't look like I'm going anywhere anytime soon, so hopefully, that perception will continue to change for the better.  If not, I can always drown my sorrows with a nice, tall glass of sweet tea.

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