And so with heavy hearts and stung pride, the once boastful Miami Hurricane fan community gradually retreated into the shadows. No longer at the forefront and limelight of college football, no longer the lead story on Sportscenter, no longer in the discussion for accolades or championships of any kind, ‘Canes fans like myself had been relegated to finding solace in forums like ours, where we could bicker about the direction of our beloved football program. To be sure, not once have I thought twice about sporting my orange and green ‘Canes gear, attending games, or supporting the program 100%, but for many fans, it seemed like the only place the ‘Canes could get any kind of respect whatsoever was in communities like CanesTime.com where other fans would congregate to share their frustrations or concerns. Many fans even have ventured to posit that Miami's program was on its deathbed, and that fans were witnessing the apocalypse of the University of Miami's football dominance firsthand - inadequate coaching the fire, inadequate talent the brimstone.
To be frank, being a Hurricane fan the last several years has felt like being in a bomb shelter huddled with other ‘Canes fans, explosions constantly detonating over the roof, the lights flickering on and off. BAM! There's a 51-13 loss to Oklahoma. BOOM! There's a 48-0 loss to Virginia in the last Orange Bowl game ever. POW! It's a 41-23 loss to Georgia Tech with an ACC title berth on the line. So much disappointment in the last few years and we were left wondering when it would all end, when we would be able to come outside again…
The 2009 season, however, has been different. We're all still huddled in our little bomb shelter shielding ourselves from more disappointment, but…disappointment hasn't come. In fact, in two nationally televised games with the whole nation watching, a young gangly looking kid with what is quickly being recognized as a golden arm has led the ‘Canes to two impressive wins over ranked opponents, and people are talking about them again. They were the lead story on Sportscenter last night. They made the front page of ESPN.com. Fans of other teams are texting me with props. The nation is abuzz about the Miami Hurricanes' football team, and we are all witnesses.
They're not just talking about the team, of course. They're talking about Jacory. What needs to be said thus far about Mr. Harris? Here's a kid who personifies what Miami Hurricanes football used to be about, and what many already strongly suspect it is starting to be about. Years ago, in a letter to the general media, UM President Donna Shalala called a certain linebacker recruit a "son of Miami". The term always stuck with me (so much so that I used it on my law school application personal statement). Jacory Harris is a Son of Miami. Right now, he is THE son of Miami. The success of this football program literally rides on this kid's shoulders. I have seen things from him already that I haven't seen from a Miami quarterback...EVER. The way he handles himself as only a true sophomore, the confidence he has on the field, and the sheer fan attraction this kid draws, are all unbelievable. After the Florida State game, he had to be escorted to the team bus by three Florida State Troopers. Ken Dorsey never got that after even his biggest wins.
Why does he get this kind of attention? Because fans know. Because fans hope. We're dying to get out of this bomb shelter. We're dying to let the world know that we're ‘Canes, and the ‘Canes are back. We've been pleading with the football gods to give us but one taste of our past success, a success that many feel was cut short in the middle part of this decade. And so far, this kid, this team, has given us a taste of that. Close wins against our arch rival, demolishing ranked teams in nationally televised night games. After last night, Jacory mentioned that each game was a step in the right direction. With each step, however, fans get more and more excited. That bomb shelter door won't stay closed for long. The echoes of just a few years ago are starting to ring through our ears. We already have visions of conference championships, BCS bowl games, and Sears Trophies. We've already started making memories of this young season, and have changed our previous outlooks and predictions for the season, if not publically then at least privately (admit it, you have, whether you want to acknowledge it or not). All premature? Of course, but for a fan based that expects greatness and has been starved for such the past several years, what do you expect?
So I come to you, my fellow bomb-shelter dwellers, and I ask. Is it safe to come out yet? Are the Miami Hurricanes back? Are we ready to take the college football world by storm, YET AGAIN? Well, we can't answer that. None of us can. Only the guys who suit up on Saturdays can answer that with their play, and we'll see soon enough if this season will end with glory or disappointment. At 2-0 right now, most people would have been thrilled in the preseason if we ended this stretch 2-2. I'd be lying if I said I'd be disappointed with anything less than 4-0 at this point, but these kids and these coaches have already showed me more than they showed me last season, and for that I'm grateful. Whatever happens the next few games, I'll be damned if I'm not going to kick that bomb shelter door down and shout out at the top of my lungs:
IT'S GREAT TO BE A MIAMI HURRICANE!