I’ve been a BYU football fan for, well, since I can remember being a football fan. My memory doesn’t serve me as well as it used to, but I do remember watching Steve Young, Robby Bosco, Vai Sikahema and others during, what many refer to as, “The Glory Years.”
Truth be told, I’m a wide receiver fan. From Mark Belini, to one of my favorites, Micah Matsuzaki, the thrill of the catch and run brought me to the edge of my seat. Even as a 49ers fan, nobody did it better than Jerry Rice.
My dad often teased me – “you wanna play football? You want to end up at the bottom of the pile like that, or knocked senseless by a defensive back like that?” I would respond with a resounding, “YES!” Did I ever play football? No, I went on to other things. However, I still lived for the rush of the long ball. High scoring, high octane offenses, kept me entertained.
My fondest memory to date (aside from the Miami game) came November 16, 1991. The Cougars traveled to San Diego for a late night game with the Aztecs. I didn’t watch it, but listened, intently, to Paul James call and was wide awake through the entire game and post-game interviews. It stands as one of the single most amazing offensive outputs, I’ve ever witnessed. Ty Detmer, Jamal Willis, and “Peter T”(Tuipulotu) spectacular offense, while on the other side of the ball the legendary Marshall Faulk taking bombs from David Lowery, or running the length of the field, untouched, for a touchdown. It was a thing of beauty. The end result – over 1400 yards of combined offense.
My favorite season (not named 1984), was the 1996 season that saw the Cougars finish 14-1 and go on to defeat the Kansas State Wildcats in the Cotton Bowl, on New Year’s Day. K. O. Kealaluhi and James Dye were the players I watched intently, week in and week out.
Why am I telling you all of this?
I’ve been somewhat disenchanted with the Cougars over the last five years, maybe longer. The “magic” of those days hasn’t been duplicated. It’s been difficult as a BYU fan to manufacture excitement. I’m passionate about BYU Football. I’m passionate about a great many things. But there has been some disconnect over the last decade for me, as a fan.
Part of the recent disconnect, might be the letdown from Independence. Look, it was the right decision to make. But the stakes are higher, much higher. I’m not going to bore you with the specifics. If you’re reading this, you already know them.
Let’s take this season, for example.
The opening four games are a daunting mountain to climb. But, beyond that, I find myself simply saying: “meh.” It’s been like that for a few years now. Success for the season rests squarely on the first four or five games. If the Cougars falter, there isn’t much to look forward to. In the past, the team could be 6-5, with one game left – Utah or Hawaii – and there would still be something to play for. Even if that final game ended in a loss, the bowl game would usually offer a consolation prize to look forward to. Now, I have found it even difficult to appreciate that game. Perhaps it’s my own raised expectations. Perhaps it is simply the entertainment value, at its core, is lost.
Look, a lot of it is the scheduling problem of being an independent. That can’t change overnight, and it will be very difficult, overall. What can be fixed is whether or not the Cougars can put an entertaining, winning product on the field.
With the 2015 season underway, we’ve seen a bit of spectacular. I’ve found myself yelling my elation as Tanner Mangum has led the Cougars to two miraculous victories, over two very tough opponents. The “magic” isn’t back yet, it’s a spark. However, the spark has all the potential for manufacturing excitement again.
My expectations from here – wait and see. It’s as simple as that. I can’t get bogged down with whether or not they make [bowl that shall not be named], any bowl game for that matter, or whether they remain ranked throughout the season. Those two things will take care of themselves if the team WINS. End of story.
I’ve learned to temper my own expectations. No need to hype for the letdown.
In the meantime, they have a date at the Rose Bowl with the UCLA Bruins, followed by a trip to the Big House and the Michigan Wolverines. The next two games offer a daunting task. Should the Cougars survive, I’ll be ready to talk expectations.
Until then, let’s just wait and see. Because mediocrity is just one or two losses away.
Meanwhile, entertain me Cougars. That’s all I ask. Entertain me.