Perception is Reality
There is an old truism in the world of politics that holds that how something is perceived is how it is. Even if the perception is not a fair representation of reality, and it frequently isn’t in politics, it doesn’t matter. Perception becomes reality and the smart candidate or office holder learns to deal with the new “reality.”
Boise State University’s aspiring football team is finding that the old truism holds regarding its national standing, as well.
Boise State didn’t even play this week and lost ground. The much ballyhooed BSU season opener against Virginia Tech lived up to the hype with the Broncos winning in the final moments of an exciting game, but then Virginia Tech went and lost its second game against a much inferior opponent, lowly James Madison. (No good can come from a major football power losing to a school named for a president, even if he was the principal author of the Constitution.)
So, after a thrilling win against a team – Virginia Tech – that once also aspired to a national title, Boise State is left with the reality of having the team that was supposed to be its toughest opponent all year being 0-2 two weeks into the season.
The Boston Globe’s college football writer listed BSU as among the “big losers” after the Hokies’ stumble. While saying it was too early to make definitive judgments about national title contenders, the New York Times nonetheless suggested that Boise State might well be left on the outside looking in. It reminds me of the old Rodney Dangerfield line: “I don’t get no respect.”
Here’s the problem, and in this case, its not just perception, but also reality. The Boise State schedule don’t get no respect. Consider that the other top teams in the country – Alabama, Ohio State, TCU and Oregon – all have had a test so far in the young season and their schedules arguably get much tougher going forward. Week-in and week-out, these teams play better opponents in big stadiums for higher stakes.
Take the Crimson Tide of Alabama, for instance. Over the next three weeks, the current number one ranked college football team will play at Duke, at Arkansas and home against Florida. Those road games, not counting television, will be played in front of more than 100,000 fans. When Florida comes to Tuscaloosa, the ghost of Bear Bryant will walk the sidelines in a stadium named after him, while nearly 102,000 wild-eyed Tide fans look on, not quietly. That is the big time – really.
The reality in Bronco Nation is stark: the perception is that the Broncos really don’t play all season with the big boys and, as a result, they don’t belong in the same elite company. Writing in the Washington Post after the Virginia Tech game, Tracee Hamilton said it well regarding the BSU reality: “Your toughest game shouldn’t be your first. But if you are by far the best team in your league, all you can do is to put two ranked teams on your non-conference schedule and hope for some help in moving up the rankings.”
Take nothing away – really – from Chris Petersen’s sterling record, the big game wins over Oklahoma and TCU, but that perception about a weak schedule in an out of the way part of the football world is, well, reality. Bronco fans may be disappointed – again.