As a reporter, it's critical that you never get too close to a subject you're covering. Lines simply can't be crossed that would jeopardize objectivity and the responsibility to provide a fair and balanced story.
Luckily for you, I am no more a reporter than you are an ottoman (the piece of furniture, not of the Turkish empire). I wear my fan emotions on my proverbial fan sleeves and have never even attempted to be credentialed for an Iowa State athletics event.
Perhaps that makes it easier for me to be critical? Maybe, but I'd argue that it also allows me to never lose sight of the pulse of the Cyclone fan base and deliberately attempt to polish a turd in spite of your better judgement.
And that brings me to Paul Rhoads.
Once revered as the possible savior of Iowa State football, Rhoads enters the 2015 campaign on the thinnest of ice, needing immediate production to likely save his job.
A 5-19 stretch over the last two years will do that to a head coach, and even by the lowly standards that Iowa State fans demand, the current trajectory of the program is downright pathetic. The fact of the matter is, it very well could be bowl game or bust for Rhoads as he prepares for his seventh season in Ames.
That would appear to be the current consensus at least, certainly around this site and beyond, and I would argue (and I'd hope you'd agree) that given the last two seasons, it should be bowl game or bust for Rhoads. The fact of the matter is, that's the nature of the beast that is college football. Win now or else...
This sentiment is certainly nothing new, and many of you would argue that this dead horse is so beaten, there's nary a carcass to even beat anymore. Be that as it may, on the eve of this 2015 season, my hope is that we as fans demand more from this football program.
Given that this will be year seven of the Rhoads regime, the time for patience has run out. The Big 12, once on life support, is financially stable and has funneled record revenues Iowa State's way and will continue to do so for years to come. The once lackluster facilities have seen massive overhauls and have gone from "eyesore" to a point of pride. Fan support is at an all-time high, and for reasons unbeknownst to the rest of the country, Cyclone fans not only show up to games, but actually sell out the stadium - record be damned.
There was a time when this program needed a guy like Paul Rhoads to inject enthusiasm into a fractured fan base and show the people of central Iowa that not all college football coaches are soulless and greedy. But now, more than anything else, this fan base and this program needs a winner.
The hope is that Rhoads can not only recapture the magic he harnessed in his first four years on the job, but exceed the standard of the fightin' underdogs and truly take this program to new heights. The hope is that Rhoads "figured it out" these last two years and 2015 is the year where the tide changes. The hope is that Rhoads is our guy.
Bowl game or bye.