November 1, 1969, I watched my first real football game: Nebraska vs Colorado. Until then, the only exposure I had to the game was standing on the sidelines as my brother played with his friends in the empty lot on the corner. Once I saw how trained athletes executed precision plays on the offensive and defensive sides of the field, I was hooked.
Over the years, I discovered how watching, and following, football is more than just “a game.” It is a bonding experience with others who watch, and live vicariously through, the players on the field. When I moved to Nebraska, I became a Cornhusker fan by default.
It was easy, when living in Nebraska, to hang out with other fans to watch the game. In fact, in Nebraska, there is nothing else to do on Saturday afternoon in the Fall, other than drink beer and watch football. After moving to Colorado, Nebraska fans have become harder to find. That doesn’t stop me. I still wear red on game days.
Yesterday, Husband and I went to our favorite bar to watch the final Nebraska-Colorado game. I wore my Nebraska shirt, and everyone had a good laugh. Until it got ugly.
With each Nebraska touchdown, the room temperature dropped a few degrees. About halftime, the bar had broken into two factions: “kill Nebraska fans” and “kill ourselves because CU sucks so bad”. By the end of the third quarter, they joined forces and focused on me and that damn shirt, because they had nothing left to lose.
Our plan of buying them conciliatory beers backfired. Now they weren’t just angry; they were angry and drunk.
We stayed through the end of the game because there was no clear path out of there. Finally, with a handful of sporks, Husband fought our way to the door.
I held off on shouting “Woo hoo, Nebraska won, neener, neener, neener,” until we were safely outside and climbing in our car. Fortunately, by that time, the crowd had lost their will to fight and was sinking into a collective pit of despair.
The Huskers and Buffs will never play each other again. Sixty-two years of tradition had drawn to a close, and I made it out alive.
The Cornhuskers earned their spot in the Big-12 Championship game for the sixth time – more than any other North Division team; two more than Colorado. Sorry, can’t stop rubbing it in. I’ll be wearing my red shirt, and cheering them on to the final second as they charge their way across the field to another Bowl game.
Next year, I’ll no longer have to divide my loyalties, or bring along my body guard. I can root for both Nebraska and Colorado State. Sorry CU, I’m just not ready.