Friday Five: The most tortured fan bases in college football
Because sometimes caring leads to nothing but pain
Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week, we rank the five most tortured fan bases in the country.
We love sports. You aren’t reading these words right now if you don’t, and I wouldn’t be writing them if I didn’t feel the exact same way. The tricky thing about loving sports, though, is that the feeling isn’t always mutual.
Just think about how often sports make you feel awful. There’s so much heartbreak involved, and yet you keep coming back for more. Maybe you’re an idiot, or maybe the joy you know you can experience is strong enough that you know it’s worth it to deal with the pain. Also, as the great Dalton once said in the classic 1989 film Road House, “pain don’t hurt.”
Of course, it’s much easier to say that when you’re just reading words from a script somebody else wrote. It’s another thing entirely when you’re the one feeling the pain. So with all of this in mind, for this week’s Friday Five I’ve decided to rank the five most tortured fan bases in college football.
What defines tortured?
Well, it means different things to different people in the context of sports. To come up with this list, I had a few parameters I tried to follow. The biggest thing for me was that you’re a fan of a team that has some success, but only so much to make you crave more, and it never quite comes. Like, if you’re a fan of a team that’s awful year in and year out, you become a bit numb to it over time. But if you’re a fan of a team that just can’t get over the hump, the wound stays real.
Also, I leaned toward schools who don’t have much success in the other revenue sport: college basketball. Like, if you’re a North Carolina football fan, you may be a bit tortured by the fact your program never seems to take that next step, but you also have a bunch of basketball titles to help ease the pain. So you may be tortured, but you’re not tortured enough.
Finally, it has to be a fan base that cares. It has to be passionate about football and it has to keep coming back for more.
So with those parameters in mind, this is the list I came up with.
|I understand Oregon played in a BCS title game in 2010 and it was in the College Football Playoff in 2014, but both of those bids ended in disappointment. I also know that it’s basketball program has had recent success. That’s why it only climbs as high as No. 5 on the list. I also know that before these recent events, there isn’t much of anything to be too proud of. In recent years, Oregon has poured money into its football program, and while it was enough to eventually get it to the CFP, it wasn’t enough to win a national title, and now the program seems to be sliding back down the mountain to that place where it’s still good, but not good enough.|
|It can’t be easy to be an Oklahoma State football fan. You spend your entire existence living in the shadow of your state’s other major program, Oklahoma. Making matters worse, even though you’ve been one of the better programs in the country over the last decade, you still don’t get much respect nationally because everyone is focused on Oklahoma. This is a team that has won at least 10 games in five of the last seven seasons, yet the most attention it received in that period was when it blew a title shot by losing to Iowa State in 2011, and when Central Michigan beat it on a Hail Mary that never should have happened last season.|
|I can already hear arguments that Miami shouldn’t qualify for this list because I said the fan base needs to care, and every season we see the Canes playing in a stadium that’s half-empty at best. These things are true, but if you think Miami fans don’t care, just go on social media and say something negative about the program. You’ll quickly learn how much they care. Also, while the Canes won a natty in 2001, that only helped raise expectations the school hasn’t been able to live up to since. Miami’s last conference title came in 2003 when it was still in the Big East. Since joining the ACC in 2004, Miami hasn’t just failed to win the conference, it hasn’t even been able to win its own division. Every year is the year it will happen until it isn’t, and the fans keep coming back for more.|
|I love Texas A&M fans. They’re passionate, they’re crazy, and they’re just the right amount of weird. They’re also tortured on an annual basis by a team that’s never quite as good as it should be. The Aggies haven’t won a national title since 1939 and last won a conference title in 1998 as a member of the Big 12. It was A&M’s only Big 12 title. Life in the SEC started out with a magical run and a Heisman Trophy, and it’s been nothing but disappointment and close calls since.|
|Being a Georgia fan encompasses everything I was looking for in a tortured fan base. There was a national title, but it came 37 years ago in 1980. There’s been success on the football field since then, but not too much. There were two SEC titles in 2002 and 2005, and seven SEC East crowns, but that’s as far as it goes. Georgia is the perfect example of a team that’s never bad, but just never as good as it probably should be, and too good for fans to turn their backs. The only choice is torture, and this fanbase keeps coming back for more.|
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