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I’m a Nebraska boy born and raised.
Well, I’m 29 years old now. A man. Or, a man-child. Whatever you want to call me you can, but I live in Bloomington, Illinois. I moved here from Windsor, Colorado. I’ve now lived in Bloomington for something like 14 years. Yet…
I hail from the great state of Nebraska. Why do I still consider myself to be from Nebraska? Why do I still consider a midwestern state mostly known for nothing and cornfields is great? It’s complicated.
So complicated that this video only plays in 480p.
You see, as I already stated I was born and raised in Nebraska, specifically, Lincoln, Nebraska. For most of the first 10 years of my life I didn’t even care about football. I played youth soccer, once I figured out about MJ I wanted to play basketball, but football I didn’t care about very much. Apparently when Nebraska won it’s first championship in 23 years I was excited as all get out, but that was because of the excitement of all the people I loved. I wasn’t worried about no football.
Then came 2001 and the first year I was paying any attention to football and Nebraska was good. So good in fact that we (there it is) went to the National Championship game. We were so excited at school, but there was that one kid who had to go against the grain telling the rest of us we were going to lose. He was so wrong! We were going to woop Miami’s ass. Or, since I was in grade school a-s-s. We, the team, were so much less good than Miami that we lost 37-14.
It wasn’t even that close. (Although you still don’t have the best team of all time Miami, apologies to Dan Le Batard, actually now that I think about it we may not have that title either, never mind…).
This deterred my spirit. Even worse is that later that year the other team I was rooting for in a football championship game, you might know it, the Super Bowl, lost to this scrappy little underdog of a team called the Patriots. Yet there was something about the game that appealed to me.
Well, it’s quite obvious in hindsight as someone who was bullied and would get in trouble for physically retaliating to the bullying because I was bigger, I had anger issues. I needed to vent them out. Football became a great tool for me at the time I started playing it in the fall of 2002.
I’ll never forget going 6-1 my first season, of which I was on the 6th graders team instead of the 5th graders team due to my size. (I was a chunky boy). I’ll never forget crying after our only loss of the season and getting angry at my parents for trying to cheer me up. The camaraderie I felt with my teammates as we ran around the practice field doing the Titans chant from Remember the Titans. And… most definitely I will not forget our quarterback running down the sideline towards the end-zone with seconds waning as we avenged our only loss in the championship game.
Football had become, to say the least, a major part of my life.
Which brings me to my first major Husker memory.
You can watch the whole game if you desire. You can think of me sitting in my cousins house in the basement moving from seat to seat. Putting my foot under my leg as I sat and then bringing it back out in front of me like some sort of penance for the win I thought might come. All you need to see is the play I’ll never forget though.
Jamal Lord, a very good running quarterback for Nebraska, dropped back to pass and threw the ball into double coverage on the right side of the field. An interception to seal the victory for Texas and to seal my heart forever into games I should know better than to think Nebraska can win.
You see it’s never been about the wins for me because, to be honest, I haven’t seen that major Nebraska Cornhusker victory yet (in a sense). Yes, I listened to the 2006 comeback against Texas A&M on the radio since I couldn’t watch the damn thing. I saw the 2009 game against Mizzou in the rain. The game against Oklahoma that same year. I saw the amazing games Taylor Martinez and the gang had against good opponents in 2010. Yet, I still haven’t seen a victory by “my” Cornhuskers that feels as completely bonkers in scale and opponent as anything in the 90’s or early early 00’s. (and I was at one of, seemingly, the two greatest moments in Nebraska Football history during the 2010’s in person).
What is it about? Why, after years of Nebraska being generally mediocre to bad, do I keep coming back each year with hope that this next year will be different?
Well, first off let’s just get it out of the way. I’m a fan. That is short for fanatic. Look up fanatic on google and this is what you’ll find as a definition, “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.” As synonyms there are words like zealot and extremist.
Now I like to think of myself as a somewhat realistic fan, but…
I am still a fan. A fanatic.
And boy do I love my team, but then, why do we love our teams the way that we do…
I mean psychologically it makes sense, correct? We want to be part of a group. We bask in the glory when there is a win with these other people. The sport draws us closer to loved ones. To all of those around us who support the same team. Even when we lose we try and pick each other back up. “Maybe next time” we say.
Which, along with the video about super fans, brings me to a story I love about Nebraska football and its fans. You see Tom Osborne, coach of Nebraska for 25 years, was friends with another head coach the late great Bobby Bowden who was coach at Florida St. (a 33 year tenure). I mention that because I cynically assume it had a tiny bit to do with Bobby Bowden’s actions, but none the less Bowden’s FSU Seminoles came in to Memorial Stadium in Nebraska and beat the Cornhuskers 18-14. When the game was over Nebraska fans stood up and applauded the Florida St. team as they walked to their locker room. Bowden then wrote a letter to Nebraska fans which was published in The Omaha World Herald thanking them for their hospitality.
On our good days as fans you can still catch us applauding the other team as they leave and head to the locker room.
See, this is part of why I love the Nebraska Cornhuskers. You see partly due to my bullying as a child where I would be bullied by the group and left alone by each and every member when alone with them I have a distrust of groups. Yet the stories of “my” fanbases hospitality towards others is legendary.
You’ll hear the story’s of other fanbases members coming to Lincoln for a game and being invited by many different members of the Nebraska fanbase to come tailgate with them (man am I looking forward to the days we can get together like that again). You’ll hear the story’s of the applause like I said earlier. See, what I mean is that Nebraska fans seemed like the group to me (and admittedly they were touted as such by members of the group) that actually showed what I needed to see in groups. Something good something right.
So it never mattered if we won or not. It sucks yes, but it feels that unlike some psychology studies of fans will say (where they disassociate from the team when they lose) that when “we” the Nebraska Cornhuskers lost, we the fanbase lost. Yet that never stopped us from doing the right and good thing.
Which brings me to my favorite husker moment of all time. The one I wasn’t even alive for…
You see it wasn’t just the fans it was the team itself that did the right thing. For those that don’t know there was no overtime back in the 1980’s so if Nebraska had simply kicked the extra point the game very likely ends in a tie. Many will tell you that if that happened Tom Osborne and that Nebraska Cornhusker football team in all likelihood get the national championship by vote that year. Yet, they went for two. Which I can understand you calling it stupid, but as Herm Edwards once said “you play to win the game!” So Nebraska went for the two point conversion and failed.
I never saw the moment live or in person, yet it is the husker moment I am proudest of as a fan. I have never personally remembered one of the great wins in Husker history (at least in my mind) so the loss, possibly a moral victory, you might say, means the most to me.
I hope one day I see a championship won by the Cornhuskers, but I don’t need to to keep rooting for them.
I will always root for them because of what they have meant to me in my life in the lessons I have learned in what I knew was right and what I came to understand was right.
“But, these aren’t those old Nebraska Cornhuskers” you say.
No they may not be. Not yet. (Although maybe we just haven’t seen this bunch enough yet). (Although maybe there were alway problems in the program we just didn’t notice or didn’t think about because of the winning). (Maybe there are problems in the fandom we need to address because all this losing has done as much on our psyche as it has on the men playing and coaching the game, maybe).
I hope though. Which may sound like it ain’t much, but…
Every year I’m back hoping we can come back to the glory in victory that I saw “us” having in defeat. Because I will never give up on the team I love playing the game as the team (along with the fandom and my understanding of it) that helped me to understand how to be.
I am a Nebraska Cornhusker football lover for life. Such is the life of a boy born and raised in the great state of Nebraska.
I hope you’ll join in as I root my ass (sorry a-s-s) off for them the rest of this season and for all the years to come.
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