Don’t Mess with Texas? Nebraska Will Take its Chances
For just about a minute, it looked like the fussing and fuming about the 0:01 second put back on the clock at last year's Big 12 Title Game or Nebraska leaving the Big 12 (vilifying Texas in the meantime) might have simmered down some. Maybe Nebraska and Texas would just go to their seperate corners for a little while.
Then, this happened.
10/16/10. Wear Red. Be Loud. Beat Texas. Wow...that's subtle. It is fair to say that Nebraska is very willing to ignore the old saying and "mess with Texas." They just called out the Longhorns. The video is an excellent piece of marketing. But, it also may illustrate a philosophical shift for Nebraska. For fans, it acts as a permission to go ahead and take this game and opponent personally. Perhaps more than anything, it raises the stakes for the game.
Let's take a second and consider the idea (a global redout?) and video at face value and basic intent. This is a very nice piece of marketing. This ain't no power towel video, folks. The production values are great. The message speaks to the hearts of rabid Husker fans. The timing is exceptional because it grabs fan attention in July, when most die hards are starting to get frustrated by the lack of football. It went viral quickly. In a matter of minutes, I saw it on more than a dozen facebook profiles.
This is slick stuff. It's exactly the kind of thing that fans want to see. It is the kind of message that recruits will like to see. It also sets the stage for some very interesting conversations as the pre-season discussion ramps up in August.
Next, the video appears to be a bit "Un-Nebraska." Nebraska has now said that one game is more important than the others. Sure, that was the case for decades with Nebraska and Oklahoma. But, this is different because of last year's outcome and the fact that Nebraska is leaving the Big 12. There is no other shot at this.
The Huskers are used to being the hunted and not the hunter. This is the kind of thing that Colorado did and Nebraska didn't justify with a response. It just feels a bit out of character for NU.
Times have certainly changed. Nebraska isn't the big dog they once were (I can hear Missouri fans howling now) and yes, they are chasing Texas. Nebraska is 1-8 against Texas since 1996. That's a fact. Close losses are still losses. The good news for Husker fans is that Nebraska is a program that most everyone believes is on the rise back to national prominence. With videos like this, they had better be.
For this new Nebraska, this does feel in character. It may not resemble Osborne circa 1990, but is sure as heck resembles Pelini today. He's the kind of man - and by extension, Nebraska becomes the kind of team - that is not even a bit ashamed to call somebody out. The way he sees it, Nebraska has to beat UT to accomplish their goals anyway. Why not just be honest about it?
It's Personal...and That's Okay
For most every fan I talk to, the Texas game is personal. I mean, they want this one badly. I have one friend who refers to October 16 as "the day we are going to kick Texas' ass." Some of you might have felt guilty about taking the Texas game too personally. This video is the University telling you that it is okay. They want you to get emotionally invested.
Tom Osborne heard the idea, saw the logo, and approved that video before it went out, right? How could he not? Osborne represents Nebraska's football icon. Its symbolic leader. Its tough grandpa. If he endorsed this, then it is personal for him and it is okay for you to get lathered up too. Don't run to grandpa with bloody nose. He'll tell you not to be a baby and to just hit the guy back.
One personal aside for a sec - I suddenly have this image of Osborne as a Walt Kowalski in "Gran Torino" type of old-man bad ass who has just had enough. Get off my lawn, Texas.
They Had Better Win
Nebraska has thrown down the gauntlet. Okay. Doesn't matter. Everybody knows that Texas (and the rest of the Big 12) is going to take a big swing at the Huskers anyway.
But, here is the number one reason for fans to dislike the video. It is the emotional equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket. The Huskers had better win that game on October 16th. If they don't, it could be very tough to get the genie back in the bottle.
Unless Nebraska's ultimate goal is to win every game it plays (don't kid yourself, it is Pelini's goal), the Huskers can still reach other major milestones (division title, conference title, BCS game) even if they lose to Texas. But, do the Husker players have the emotional capacity to absorb that kind of loss and soldier on to other goals? If they don't, a loss could derail things badly (consider the 2007 loss to USC as an example). We've seen Pelini steer the ship though hard times in the past.
Win, and this video is brilliant. Lose, and it is worse than Broderick Thomas touting the keys to "our house" and other bad sports gimmicks.