It was 1983, the year of the "scoring explosion". I would sit in front of the TV and watched the entire season go by as the Huskers did things that no team ever thought of doing. I would eagerly go to the daily newspaper and read about the trouncings of opponents and just enjoy what it was like to be a fan.
I didn't realize that it was that big of a deal though. In fact, I took it for granted. I took it for granted, because nowadays, I realize just being a fan is something pretty special.
Yesterday, I clicked on a message on one of our message boards. Within that "post", I learned just about anything I wanted to concerning the "prowler" package on defense. The ins and outs , the side to side and pretty much everything I never knew and honestly, would have never thought to ask.
Heck, there's a web site devoted to the Xs and Os of Nebraska football and if you are so inclined, you can learn just about every formation, set, motion and the way the play is supposed to be ran. That is, if you are so inclined.
In fact, if you have access to the computer, you can learn everything you wanted to know about Husker football but had the damn good sense not to ask in the first place.
Why is that good sense not to ask? Because if you do, you won't be a fan anymore.
Oh yeah, you'll cheer just as hard when they win, hurt just as much when they lose, but what happens during that game will have changed for possibly the rest of your life.
I'm in a chat room and I am watching a Nebraska game at the same time. Big Mistake. Yes, the people are great, but if you can imagine, try picturing yourself in your living room, watching the game and you have a coach to your left telling you where everyone should be lined up and if they were lined up correctly on a given play. You have a Doctor to your right explaining whatever injury that occurs on the field with glaring detail. And, you have some numbers geek behind you who has access to live stats telling you averages per carry, per catch and how they compared to the Husker teams of old.
SHUT UP ALREADY!!!!
I want to be a fan, darnit. I just want to sit and watch the game, but noooooooooooooooooo, now, I can't sit and be happy about a defensive play that went for a two yard loss, I have to actually be unhappy about it, because the middle linebacker was supposed to be slotted five yards ahead and one yard off to the left of the right guard for that particular formation.
I can't look at the 320 yards on the ground and 20 point victory as convincing, because thanks to some "insta-stat" database, someone's correcting me on my misplaced optimism, showing me the comparison in margins of victory and yards per game and how they correlate to the teams that won all those national titles, convincing me that this was actually disappointing.
This isn't your grandfather's fan though that lives and breathes in the age of the internet. It's not the basements filled with memorabilia and videos, now it's the basements filled with replica trophies, stat books and banners indicating the Sagarin ranking for that year.
It's also a computer in the middle of it all that is the haven to today's Husker Geek. It's their umbilical cord to an existence, for, by, about and because of the Huskers.
It's not like being this avid is a bad thing. I'm pretty fanatical myself, but when you know so much about the darn game that you literally can't watch the game because you are too busy analyzing every play, what have you really become?
"I know everything about Husker football." Great. That makes you a conversation piece and idol to people that want to be just like you. Those who actually judge themselves not on their character, but how much they know about the game.
It wasn't like this in ‘83 and do you know why? Because, we couldn't turn on this TV that linked us to the rest of the world, thereby discovering everyone that has the same passion as we do.
One click here, one click there and before you know it, you are engrossed and even entranced by every "know-it-all" that washes over you a deluge of Husker information. Stats, biographies, profiles of rosters and analysis of records, history and the definition of a "sweep option right".
So, the next time you watch a game and see an NU running back racing for the goal line, yes you cheer, but you wait for the replay, because you want to make sure that everyone was where they were supposed to be, doing what it was they were supposed to do.
You then go home and re-analyze it, because you want to understand the game. You want to see for yourself if everything was just so. And before you know it, you have turned a forty point victory by NU into 23 position mistakes on defense, 12 missed blocking assignments on offense, 7 bad reads by the QB and an obvious disaster in coaching performance all around. In fact, you have determined that it was pure luck that NU won the game at all.
Sometimes, it's just too much.
You know so much, you forgot what it was like to just watch a game. You see so much, you kept looking at all the wrong things. Instead of a touchdown, you see a definite chance at an increase in yards per carry average and instead of a victory, you see an increase in the S.O.S rating, but you have also seen that after tearing down the 81 snaps, Nebraska was only 49.5 percent in efficiency as it relates to points, yards and yards per., versus penalties, plays for losses and turnovers.
All this is pretty rich coming from me. I am analytical about things to a fault sometimes. But, not when it comes to watching football games. I don't think, I feel. I don't look, I just watch and I don't analyze, I simply enjoy the game.
As being one that has been in the press box for scrimmages, I couldn't take it. A whole room full of guys analyzing what they saw, writing stuff down, thinking about this or that. It's their job and yes, sometimes, it's mine, but that's why I tape the games. When I am at the game, forget about it. I'm a friggen lunatic. Forget about the why, where, because and analysis of it all. Just go crazy.
This kind of idea is almost foreign now, but it wasn't back in 1983. Then, most people were just like that. They were just there to have a good time and what they saw on the TV the next day and read in the papers, that was good enough for them.
They didn't need all this. They didn't need all that and who would have thought that a Gen X age guy like myself could think that he could remember when it was all so very different.
Information has spoiled us, but it's also rotted us as well. It's taken away some of the very reason for our true and unfettered fanaticism. It's that ignorance that lets you be just a fan and see a game for what it is and not what any analysis tells you. It's just too much damn information.
And it's like alcohol, I guess. It's good, you just need to take it in moderation.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619