So. Miss fans experience highs, lows
Southern Mississippi’s historic season a year ago had a two-fold effect on the Golden Eagles’ fanbase.
On the one hand, going 12-2 and winning the Conference USA title gave fans a wonderful experience during the season and bragging rights for a year.
On the other hand, fan expectations were suddenly as high as ever before, even with the departure of head coach Larry Fedora to North Carolina in the offseason. Though few expected the Golden Eagles to repeat as league champions in a rebuilding year, a solid winning season was anticipated.
Instead, the light the Golden Eagles basked in last fall was replaced with the dark cloud of a losing season. Southern Miss is currently 0-8.
It’s not just that Southern Miss is losing, it’s also the way its losing. The Golden Eagles are giving up an average of 39.6 points per game while scoring just an average of 19.25 points per game.
Southern Miss isn’t alone in its misery. After being on top of the college football world just two short seasons ago, Auburn is now 1-7 on the year. The fanbase is so resigned to losing that someone recently created an Auburn button pin that simply says, “Beat Someone.”
Losing seasons are almost a rite to passage that fans of any team must endure at some point or points in their lives. For some, a losing season here or there for an otherwise successful team is all they’ll see over a period of time. For others, losing seasons are a constant, and have come to be expected. Just ask any Pittsburg Pirates fan how losing has become the norm — their team hasn’t had a winning season since 1992.
The effects of a losing season on both kinds of fanbases are curious to follow. For a fanbase used to winning, losing games can have an especially negative toll. Fans used to their team winning almost feel entitled to a winning season, so if — God forbid — they lose, it’s seen as a slap in the face.
Resignation to their fate is often the mark of a fanbase used to losing, though there are a few eternal optimists sprinkled in. And if a winning season happens, the season is often viewed as God showing his great mercy.
There’s also a deeper psychological effect on the team itself when the reality of a losing season sinks in. Once you start losing, it’s tough mentally to get over the hump when you’re expecting to get beaten every week. When a team has several losing seasons in a row, knocking that mental block out of the way becomes even harder.
I’ve always heard it said that winning and losing is cyclical, and there’s a lot of truth to that. No team is going to stay losers throughout a fan’s lifetime, nor will they always win in that same lifetime.
What can fans take away from that? Don’t get too cocky when you’re winning, and don’t get too down when you’re losing. Sooner or later, your team is going to experience both.
In Southern Miss’ case, fans are experiencing both extremes in just two seasons. If there’s any fanbase that can appreciate that advice, it Golden Eagle fans.
Michael Kerekes is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.