These four words carry a lot of weight, especially for me this week. The burden of a question and an exclamation. And a little bit of both.
First, the NFC championship game on Sunday. The Bears have home-field advantage, but just what is home-field advantage? I’d like to think at Soldier Field, home-field advantage is just that. An advantage. There’s nothing like the comforts of home, even when those comforts include below zero wind chills and lake-effect snow. And most importantly, the 4th Phase, the “lifeblood of the Chicago Bears.”
But some would argue home-field advantage is just not what it used to be. Teams look forward to defying the much-touted home team advantage, and revel in silencing an unruly crowd. Also, in the age of money-making and obscenely spectacular stadiums which seem to only alienate their faithful, the home team can easily be upended, not sent home because well, their already there, but definitely sent to the familiar surroundings of their locker rooms where the palpable stillness of their loss looms heavily. Home-advantage? Not so much.
Case in point, my beloved Shockers who have suffered two consecutive home losses for the first time in two seasons. The Shox prided themselves on defending their home court, going 16 wins at home last year until an NIT loss against Nevada. And not just the team, the Shocker faithful, dressed to the nines in black and gold, wouldn’t allow it. Not in our house. Within the Missouri Valley Conference, no other team plays within such supportive and deliriously excited confines. But I’ve seen signs of doubt.
So what of the home-court adage? Again, opposition motivation. I’m sure UNI was excited over their win, but even prouder of the fact they were able to keep the majority of Shocker fans in their seats and nervous, an almost desperate and questioning ring to the time-out cheers. And we play at home on Saturday against Indiana State, a team coming off an upset victory over Missouri State and dropping WSU to third place in the conference. Indiana State will be confident, hungry, and aware that home-court advantage is on shaky ground at Koch arena.
Being ever faithful, I know in my heart the Packers will be sent packing back to Lambeau field, and as for the Shockers, I trust in my heart they are not happy with the losses at home. How can they be? Sure, it’s one thing to be known as a road worthy team, but not at the expense of leaving your home court exposed.
After all, home is truly where the heart is.