I tell my friends and family all the time that it's impossible to insult Iowa State fans.
We pride ourselves on self-deprecation. It's a skill of ours at Wide Right & Natty Lite, damn near refined enough to put on a résumé. And chances are it's a skill of yours, too.
It's a skill that has to be self-taught but is facilitated by Iowa State athletics. It's borne out of drubbings at home to FCS schools, it's honed with the viral creation of things like the Chizik Coin or "Hooray Ames!" and it's sustained by NCAA Tournament losses to UAB and Hampton.
Our most often utilized photo is a blazing dumpster. Our mascot is a bird inside of a tornado.
We know who we are.
We're the football team that looks like USC with the reputation of UCF. We're the basketball team with as much talent as Kansas that can, well, never seem to dethrone Kansas.
Our old head football coach? You know him as the guy who fought and bled for his hometown university but may only be remembered for his sideline antics and locker room speeches. Our old head basketball coach? Why, he was the most revered Cyclone that ever was and ditched the most talented roster in program history to coach in the NBA.
We're the ones that rush the court when they tell us not to. We're the ones who got VEISHEA canceled.
And as the seasons drag on, we come to find that "nice things" everyone else seems to get are usually in high demand. Nut cups? We've got a surplus of those. We'll shut out Texas and then lose a three-touchdown lead to Kansas State. We'll win a conference tournament and then get fisted by a 14-seed on college basketball's biggest stage.
But sometimes—ah, yes—sometimes things go well.
Iowa State wins occasionally, you know. We shouldn't forget that. And when we do win, we'll let you hear about it. Whether it's on the gridiron, where even leading a contest comes at a premium, or on the court, where your heart may literally stop functioning before time expires... You'll know when it happens.
That's what I want Iowa State to be known for in 2016.
This new year needs to be a new beginning. Instead of managing expectations, I want to meet them—exceed them if we're lucky. And maybe we shouldn't have put all of our eggs in one basket. Because when was the last time a shiny new head coach led his team to the promised land, let alone two at the same university?
Being a proven winner in Ames, Iowa, is a tall order. Bucking a decade-long culture of using "Iowa Stating" as a verb is an even taller order.
So let's pull back on the reins a bit for 2016. Maybe all we really want is change. Not world dominance, not a trip to the White House or new banners in the rafters, not our own chapter in any sports history book. Just something different.
There was an era of Iowa State athletics when you knew exactly what you were getting before you even saw the product in front of you. I'm reminded of my freshman year in 2008 when Greg McDermott and Gene Chizik had about as good of an approval rating as al-Qaeda. There was so much certainty in defeat that it almost felt wrong to win.
But the uncertainty in what lies ahead this year is almost worse, isn't it?
If Matt Campbell can't recruit to Ames and win in a vaunted Big 12 conference that perennially separates the men from the boys... if Steve Prohm can't instill enough of a will to win in one of the only national title contenders Iowa State has ever had... In what do we place any shred of hope we have left?
It would be nice to box up our nut cups and shove them in the attic instead of displaying them on the coffee table. It would be nice to not visit the cardiologist so much during basketball season that he sends a Christmas card. It would be nice to play to win every once in a while, instead of playing to not lose.
We want to be the little brother who hits puberty at 11, outgrows his older sibling, hits the lottery and marries a supermodel.
So I guess this is a plea—a plea to the inanimate entity that is the Year 2016. Please let things be different.