If it weren’t for fans, there would be no television or college football mania. Fan support is the first step in building a program which is attractive to the television networks whose influence is as dominant as Herschel Walker was on the toss sweep.
Fans are exposed to unlimited facts and figures, which lead to confidence that they really know football, which they don’t. They don’t watch hours of videotape during the spring and summer. They don’t understand the nuances of the game that are second nature to a coach with a devoted football mind.
Coaches put in countless hours and are not turned off by the tedium that comes with 80-hour work weeks. They are always working to gain an edge. Just one play might make a difference between victory and defeat.
Some fan bases are more critical than others, but one thing we know is that winning keeps the critics mollified for the most part. There are times, however, when they are relentless, finding a play or an assistant coach to target without retreat.
Years ago, when Florida’s vast recruiting potential was generally recognized by SEC analysts, there was an insightful comment from an administrator who had worked in Gainesville for years. He said the perfect season for Florida fans would be to go undefeated, win the national championship and fire the coach.
Coaches must have thick skin. Many of them do not read the newspapers, and those who listen to talk shows would fill up a small 4 by 4-foot closet.
For years, I noticed that the critics who wrote letters to the editor of a newspaper were often the same person (s). Anybody can call into the “Paul Finebaum Show.” I happen to like Paul and am aware of the high ratings his shows get, but when a guy begins a conversation by asking Paul, “Am I on?” you quickly realize how much intellect he is about to share with the listeners. He has nothing to say, he just wants to be on the radio.
I have not talked to any Clemson fans lately, but I know, without talking to anybody, what Tiger aficionados are saying. “Looks like Dabo has lost his touch.” Then they will repeat something negative that has surfaced, purportedly out of the locker room as the reason they lost to of all teams, Duke.
Forgiveness comes hard for fan bases. Those Tiger fans are seeing the opening game loss as something that might keep them out of the forthcoming playoffs.
Only a steamrolling finish and a championship trophy will mollify the offended alumni, never thanking Dabo for his past successes and never considering the history of the game. Since it all started back in the late 1800’s the record books confirm that the cyclical effect has always come into play. You can’t stay on top forever.
Oklahoma, under Bud Wilkinson, holds the all-time consecutive win streak—47 games in the mid-fifties. When Dick Lynch and Notre Dame shut down the Sooner dominance, there likely were some OU fans who criticized the coach—especially if they went into the hole with their bookie.
And that’s another story. In the days when Pete Rose was managing the Reds, the team with which he enjoyed ultimate glory, I often went to see him when the Reds were in Atlanta to play the Braves.
One day he asked, “What’s Vince Dooley like?” I responded with plenty of positives such as “very smart. His teams don’t beat themselves. He thinks the best way to win is to run the football and play tough defense.”
That didn’t interest Pete, who said, “Boy, he beats the spread a lot.”
Gamblers like coaches who do that sort of thing, and if players get into wagering, which all of us should be concerned about, there could be some dark days lying in wait. Pete has paid dearly for his bad habit. With gambling nobody is immune, and we should never forget, it can easily ruin a lot of lives.
With many with the gambling habit, there is no cure, just like there is no cure for negative carping when a back doesn’t make a first down or score with the game on the line, but when you win by 41 points, and keep the offense pure vanilla and go four quarters without blitzing and no front-line player gets hurt, what’s there to gripe about?
Plenty if you are a fan who likes to find fault. There are plenty of those out there and that will never change.