Hyperbole in the sports world isn’t a new thing. It has been around as long as scribes have put pen to paper to either build interest in an event or recap an event after the fact. The sports blogosphere has certainly run with that torch with flying colors, as every game is larger than life, every player with a statistically dominant week is the “better than buttered bread” flavor of the week, and coaches are either lauded as the best to ever put on a pair of khakis or the worst human beings on the face of the Earth oscillating between the crusty remnants of a good night’s sleep on the corner of your mouth or the always troublesome coldsore depending on how they did that week. Hyperbole is a part of life, and especially given the recent election coverage, disaster coverage, and Johnny Football coverage, hyperbole has been the order of the day in pretty much anything even remotely current.
This column is not that. Though some will think it. This column is not a blustery stroll through six-dollar words attempting to rally a fanbase for a game that in the grand scheme of things isn’t all that important. If you want fires lit under your ass for no reason other than there’s a plethora of matches that need to be used, I suggest you go find an Iowa blog. I’m sure they’ll fit that bill.
This column isn’t rah-rah Ball State, or at least any more so than normal. It’s not a piece of writing to rally an already rabid fanbase into fever pitch mode like was the order of the day in 2008. This column is more than that. It’s more than a call to action. It’s more than a request. It’s more than someone sitting behind a computer screen cranking out the next “OH MY GOD! MOST IMPORTANT GAME EVER!” sort of post. At its most basic level, this is a plea. A beg. A sincere hope that this fanbase is capable of the things that many have said it is not.
The game itself is big, as it could mean the difference between a 4th place and 8th place finish in the MAC. The contest on the field is important because it’s the next game. It’s senior night. It’s a home finale and the last time some of these players will ever play football in front of their fellow students, friends, and family. But what happens on the field is of far less importance than what will happen in the stands.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve made no secret about the fact that I have roundly endorsed Pete Lembo to those connected to a particular SEC job opening for which he would be perfect. The backlash from some fans has been swift and immediate; upset that I would ever consider voicing an opinion that someone shouldn’t finish their career at BSU if given a more prestigious opportunity. I’d say based on how the support and turnout are tomorrow, that makes the decision for a coach to stay or leave remarkably harder or easier, and in my case, the volume for which I would advocate said move either louder or quieter.
Fans have long said it’s capable to have a winner here. Fans have pointed to 2008 and the fallout after it as a direct evaluation of the inability of senior level administration to make the sacrifices or tough decisions needed to put a consistent winner on the field at Scheumann Stadium. I’d say Pete Lembo, the administration that has hired him, the sports marketing department that has worked remarkably hard to promote this game, the staff that has coached these players to a 7-3 record, the players that have played their way to a 7-3 record have all done their part to make BSU a winner. There’s only one group left. They’re the only group left unaccounted for in the list above… the fans.
For fans, it’s really put up or shut up time. Failing to come to this game, support this team, support this staff and make your interest and volume heard is basically saying, “We as fans don’t deserve this success, your work or your effort and therefore you as a program don’t deserve my time.” If that’s the statement made through poor attendance or low ratings, then when the other shoe inevitably drops this offseason or in the very near future and we are scrambling to fill a head coaching vacancy, there will be no blame for the administration. There will be no blame for the coaching staff. There will only be blame, and plenty of it, for the fans. The fans that had their opportunity on one November night to make a statement to Coach Lembo, this team, and future teams that says, “We support you. We believe in you. We are all in.”
Coach Lembo has said all season the mantra for BSU football is “Rise Up”. I’d say now perhaps even more than 2008, it’s time for the fanbase to rise up as well. If not now, when. If not us, whom?
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