t is perhaps the most universal human desire: to be happy.
But strangely, the simplest of goals so often elude us. Weâ€™re not terribly good – we humans – at knowing what exactly we want.
For a sports fan, however, it is a little more specific, as we are fueled by a different yearning: to win.
To be successful.
While â€œsuccessâ€ in terms of IUâ€™s football program appears to be scattered randomly and infrequently throughout history, success, generally speaking, is not as random as you think.
As a whole, we often fail to recognize that external factors play far greater roles in determining failure and success than most realize.
While the on-field action of sports garners so much of our attention, success can often be understood by taking a look at social and cultural factors off the field.
Lets examine one specific outside dynamic in relation to IU football: attendance.
Attendance has nothing to do with the talent playing on the field, which plays are called and how a team strategizes. But at the same time, it can tangibly affect the outcome of a game.
Itâ€™s no secret that the three best games IU played last season were against Michigan, Iowa and Purdue â€“ three games the Hoosiers were not expected to win. Despite losing two of those three games, it is inarguable that these three Hoosier performances were superlative compared to the rest of their season.
Is it a coincidence that those three games had the highest attendance and the most crowd support?
If not for a few unlucky breaks – a late successful hail mary from early season Heisman favorite Denard Robinson, and an uncontested dropped touchdown pass by IUâ€™s Damarlo Belcher â€“ the Hoosiers would not only have had two upset victories over ranked teams, but also wouldâ€™ve appeared in a bowl game.
I havenâ€™t had a math class in awhile, but Iâ€™m pretty sure that would equal success to those enrolled in IUFB101.
Lets take this theory one step further and examine another social and cultural factor: the tailgate field.
As stated in Part I, IUâ€™s tailgate field â€“ to most, the pride and joy of the IU football experience – has prevented ascension by students into the games at a rate climbing frighteningly higher each year.
The cultural attraction that has become the tailgate field can largely be attributed to the powerful social and technological revolution â€“ to be more specific, a network – our age demographic currently finds itself immersed in.
Our society, thanks to social media, is becoming more and more reliant on â€œweak tiesâ€ every day.
Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met, while Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances.
In other words, for keeping up with those you would not stay in touch with otherwise. That’s why you can have three thousand “friends” on Facebook, as â€“ and while Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re wonderful – you probably never could in real life.
The enthusiasts of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend, and likewise, that constantly checking the ESPN Scorecenter app on your iPhone is the same as attending the game.
Just as those who tailgate think that they are active IU football cohorts and are supporting the team as if they were attending the game.
This raises another cultural dilemma. With the advent of YouTubeâ€™s collection of amazing online videos, social media sites, home theaters, etc., is the mainstream still even slightly compelled to experience live performance?
Itâ€™s not surprising anybody that the Internet revolution is expanding, but have we fully grasped that itâ€™s taking sports with it?
Sports are becoming increasingly similar in the sense that we no longer have to go to the games when we can instantly find the score and highlights on our iWhatevers or, God forbid, just kick back in a Lazy-Boy and watch on a 64â€™ 3D TV.
Social Media free-for-all
uccess is a function of the quality of the organization, and in most successful organizations, there is a hierarchy. A chain of command with rules and procedures.
But there is no hierarchy within the operation of social media. It is merely a gigantic network, which unlike hierarchies, isnâ€™t controlled by a single dominant authority.
Decisions are not made by one, but by a consensus, and more often than not the ties that bind people to that group are loose.
This is the vehicle behind trending topics, hash tags, Facebook groups and Internet lingo.
Take a look at how many Facebook groups youâ€™re a part of, how many event invites and birthday notifications you have on the top right â€“ if itâ€™s still there – of your Facebook page.
Try to figure out how many of those youâ€™re going to actively participate in. Better yet, which ones you have been motivated to participate in.
Now think about how many of those you consider to be â€œstrong ties,â€ or â€œweak ties.â€
There are undoubtedly a lot. But they are perhaps mostly weak ties, as you probably have upwards of three thousand friends.
The point being, we have way more options and way less time today than ever before, and in a world with too many choices and too little time, the obvious choice is to ignore the ordinary.
Sadly IU football, with one bowl appearance in the last 19 years, has become just an ordinary and forsaken – but guaranteed – happening that has manifested itself on our weekend schedules.
Think about it this way. When driving through Indiana into Bloomington and you pass a farm, how often do you slow down to look at the cows?
The first time, when you were six years old, maybe. But now, never. Cows are boring.
But now what if the cow was blue?
You would most certainly slow down to see the blue cow.
There is no blue at IU but there is in Boise, Idaho. How do you think Boise State became a perennial National Title contender powerhouse?
They turned their field blue, and what was once ordinary became imaginative and symbolic.
Fans started attending the games, recruits started taking notice on TV, and the Boise State football program was completely transformed, and currently is the force behind revolutionizing college football entirely â€“ but thatâ€™s a topic for another column.
The moral of the story, fellow Hoosiers, is not that the tailgate field is a sinful affliction on our football program and the sole reason it continues to fail.
The moral of the story is a change must be made, and in todayâ€™s world, the way we make change is not by exploiting a mass amount of power or money, but by leading.
You may know of a popular tradition at a Jewish wedding when the groom steps on a light bulb and smashes it.
It sounds wacky, outrageous, and almost senseless, but it represents a moment in time indicating a change from one moment to the next. Right now, we are living through a crucial moment of change in the way ideas are spread and implemented, and the way our society communicates and operates.
64 years (and 13 coaches) have elapsed since IUâ€™s last career winning coach, Bo McMillan.
Is Kevin Wilson the right man for the job? After only five games â€“ a 1-4 start – thatâ€™s still to be determined.
In the meantime, we have to step on the light bulb.