First, a bit of context. I think every fan base has certain unique characteristics that distinguish it from other fan bases.
When I covered Georgia Tech, I thought the fan base had something of an inferiority complex when it came to Georgia, which is far more popular in the state. The more I thought about it, however, I came to believe that the Yellow Jackets faithful had an elitist attitude.
The fans felt that their school was far superior academically to Georgia, that the ACC was a much “cleaner” conference than the SEC and that its program was not a win-at-all-costs outfit like the Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia.
North Carolina fans, as I learned from growing up in the state and attending the school, developed a reputation as a “whine and cheese” crowd, thanks to an all-time quote from former Florida State guard Sam Cassell.
The Tar Heel fans, especially older ones, expected success and treated victories as a ho-hum experience. At times the Dean Smith Center, where basketball games are held, was extremely quiet. The school has done some things, notably moving students closer to the court, to change that perception.
Which brings me (finally) to Boise State. I think the Broncos fans have a right to be defensive.
1. The university began as a junior college in 1932 and fans, especially those at Idaho, will never let Boise State fans forget it.
2. The Broncos have worked their way up — athletically and academically — from those roots. Boise State has proven itself in football at the junior college level, at Division II, in the Football Championship Subdivision and, now, in the Football Bowl Subdivision. It is not the path of some of the traditional football powers.
3. Boise State is often criticized for its conference affiliation and its lack of aggressive non-conference scheduling. There is nothing the Broncos can do about their conference. And, to their credit, the Broncos have begun scheduling better in the non-conference.
4. The football team is often derided as gimmicky — for its blue turf, for its use of trick plays.
5. The school’s greatest victory — the 2007 Fiesta Bowl win against Oklahoma — is recognized for the Broncos’ use trickery in the final minute and overtime. Few, if any, opposing fans recognize that Boise State was in control of that game for three-plus quarters.
6. Boise State’s victory against Oregon — another milestone win for the program — has been dismissed for a year because the Ducks were down to their fifth-string quarterback, Boise State knocked out one of their top players and, in the latest excuse, Boise State had an easier schedule leading up to the game and thus didn’t have to reveal as much.
Those are six pretty good reasons for Boise State fans to be defensive when defending the program to outsiders.
But perceptions are changing — and Boise State fans might have to change with them. It’s hard to play that underdog, disrespected card when ESPN and Sports Illustrated analysts predict a 13-0 season and Fiesta Bowl appearance for the 2009 season.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen isn’t ready to change the Broncos’ underdog status, saying earlier this month that Oregon should be the favorite in this game despite the Broncos being at home.
What do you think? Is the Bronco fan base defensive? Does it have the right to be?
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