This season's been an interesting case study in the mentality of fans. There's been plenty of frustration, the outpouring of anger, and the occasional infighting. There are several different stages of reaction, all of which we've seen in some degree this year. With just a couple of games left in the year, let's look back at some of how it broke down mentally as the football went with it.
Level I: "That wasn't too good, but it'll be fine."
When it happened: When BC beat Maine, 24-3, they did so in a very ugly fashion. In the first game's instant reaction, Grant Salzano wrote the following:
That's not to say anyone should panic (yet), but the offense certainly struggled despite pulling away in the second half.
What it means: "Well this didn't look good, but I don't think it's an issue. That said, it could be an issue if they don't fix it. I'm not worried, though."
Think of this as the first inkling that something could be wrong, but the team won with a singular dominant facet of their game. Even though they didn't look great, it's the first sample, so it's easily overlooked. Any type of negativity is belied by the power of positive thinking. If it's an indication that something could be this way later in the year, it's still too early to get that down on anyone.
Level II: "Welp...that was bad."
When it happened: Maine again. AJ talked about the offense in a couple of lights in his Cheers and Jeers column when he talked about the offensive line. Even though they struggled, the thought is that this can be fixed somewhere along the line.
What it means: "This isn't that good, and we have to fix it. At least we know what they have to work on."
Level III: "This is going to come back to haunt us at some point."
When it happened: Also during the Maine game. If you think back to that same instant recap post, it was pointed out that the offensive line struggled at times and really needed to show cohesion by the second game, really illustrating what we were all thinking: "This unit will need to show more cohesion in Game #2"
What it means: "This is a problem, and I really hope it doesn't cost us a game."
Level IV: "This is NOT GOOD."
When it happened: When the offense struggled during the Florida State game. Even though the team struggled against Maine, we saw what they had to work on. Then came the Howard game, which was a throwaway even though BC destroyed and annihilated the Bison, 76-0.
During the FSU game, it became obvious the same issues from Maine hadn't gone away. It also became evident that there were other issues going on, issues that weren't addressed. Further issues were exposed. Even though we knew BC would struggle against the Seminoles in some regards, it wasn't supposed to be THAT bad.
What it means: In the third game of the season, the hope was that BC would start to open up the offense and start showing flashes of what they did last season. By that point last season, we realized BC was a subpar passing team but would be able to run with ease. Against FSU, the offensive line, which struggled against Maine, continued to struggle - and more importantly hadn't figured anything out. Even marginal improvement would've been encouraging. Losing is easily blamed on a handful of issues - which weren't fixed from the beginning of the season.
Level V: "What are you guys doing?!"
When it happened: During the Duke game. BC rotated quarterbacks against Northern Illinois after the injury to Darius Wade, but neither Jeff Smith nor Troy Flutie were totally effective; that was easily attributed to them taking their first snaps. Getting through the NIU game felt like it bottoming out (at the time), and even though people started to hit the panic button, cooler heads had prevailed. After Duke, the train started really pulling out of the station.
What it means: This is where discontentment went from being with the situation to being full-blown panic. This is also where the divide began. Somewhere between Level IV and V, the feeling went from, "It's okay, we still got this" to "We could be in some deep trouble." After losing to Duke, the hope that BC could fix some of its issues faded.
If you think about this point in time, we had people who said losing to Duke was unacceptable, but we had people reminding them that Duke is a much improved program. There's a clear divide here between the people trusting the process and a not-so-silent dissention.
Level VI: "START PANICKING."
When it happened: After Wake Forest. By leaving points on the board and leaving a win on the table, any support for what BC was trying to do evaporated. The two-quarterback system, the questionable playcalling, everything. At this point, this was really the first time BC lost to a team they "should've beaten," even by my standards. That they lost in such a gut-wrenching fashion made it so much worse.
What it means: Any positive vibe or attempt to justify anything going on is met with a resounding, loud, angry response. Everything - anger, frustration, impatience - it all flows freely. At this point, any chance to defend the season is useless and futile.
This is right about the point in time where talking about youth and inexperience is also met with the same response. Since it's the same narrative week after week, the support now turns into white noise that people quite honestly wanted to shut up. Trying to support the Eagles at this point can turn someone into Kevin Bacon yelling, "ALL IS WELL"
The loss to Wake Forest had a resounding psychological impact on the entire season for many fans. Before that game, the thought was that BC would struggle but win thanks to their defense. After that game, the thought shifted that BC would lose no matter how well the defense played.
Level VII: "I HATE EVERYTHING"
When it happened: By the Louisville/Virginia Tech stretch. The problem with Level VI is that once that train is hurtling down the tracks, there's absolutely nothing to slow it down. We all knew BC would be a mess offensively after it, and even though there was a slight glimmer against Clemson, things continued to unravel into Louisville. There's nothing at this point that hasn't been said, but it's going to be continued to be said until other people get annoyed with it. At that point, people will just start arguing with each other.
What it means: After a couple of weeks of being angry, people start running out of things to say. Because there's still unbridled anger and frustration, things get displaced and taken out on everything and anything - other commenters, friends, Twitter followers, whatever's in the path of destruction.
It's the want and need to remain angry about the season, but because things are already said and mostly overstated, the anger is plateauing To a degree and maxing out. Eventually, it'll peter out because the fire just runs out of space to burn.
Level VIII: "Whatever."
When it happened: NC State. There's been a decided lack of reaction to the NC State loss. There's been anger, but it's more singular than it's been widespread. I feel like people are reaching the point where they want the season to just end. The Eagles are bowl ineligible. If ND blows out BC, nobody will be shocked or angry because it's expected. If BC plays well, it doesn't matter to the end of the season, no matter how good it will feel. I think people still care, but they've lost the ability to keep arguing over the same points.
What it means: The long season is drawing near to an end.