Cue the black screen and haunting piano melody. As a bold-red ‘Nebraska’ gravitates front and center, watch as stark-white phrases pepper the screen: legendary coaches, national-leading academic All-Americans, major award winners, championship teams, more than 300 sellouts, and the greatest fans in college football.
There is no other place like it.
Cue Coach Bo: This is Nebraska football, a tradition filled with passion, loyalty, excellence, accountability, and most importantly, family. It’s gameday at Nebraska.
This snippet opens a Husker football video circulating on YouTube. It reminds me of football Saturdays with the fam, road trips to conference venues, and the close-knit group of friends – our Husker family –surrounding my parents’ seats.
Times were different then. Bob Devaney took a meager program and turned it into a contender. The Great TO continued to build tradition and camaraderie unequaled among most teams.
But the landscape of college football has changed, too. NCAA rules and regulations have leveled the playing field. Social media outlets make it possible for fans and fanatics to vocalize opinions with a simple keystroke. You no longer have to wait to read what the experts print in the Sunday paper. Instead, you can get thousands of opinions with the click of a mouse.
It makes me wonder, “What does it mean to be part of the greatest fans in college football?”
Let me illustrate what it doesn’t mean.
Before Saturday’s kickoff, fans – and I use that term lightly – around our section were screaming unpleasantries at Husker players in the midst of pre-game preparations. Heck, several of these attendees were even shouting at the coaching staff.
Um, excuse me, but is this the type of behavior shown by college football’s greatest fans?
Wait, it gets worse.
When Jamal Turner lost a potential touchdown pass in the glare of the stadium lights, the man seated behind us began calling T-Magic some rather upsetting, derogatory expletives. Same thing happened when Brett Maher broke out the rugby-style punts and when P.J. Smith failed to pick off a possible interception.
Seriously? You’re going to degrade and pick on some 19- or 20-year-old college student because he isn’t meeting your standards? (By the way, were you recruited to play D1 football? That’s what I thought.)
I am passionate about Husker football and all that it implies. I’m a loyal fan who does not give up until the last second ticks off the clock. I enjoy watching talented athletes excel. And when we’re sitting next to Bob, Dave, the group of young kids from GI, and high-give guy, we’re one big happy Nebraska family.
Yes, I get disappointed when someone drops a pass or misses a tackle. But I would rather offer encouragement instead of denigrating someone who juggles academic classes with the daily grind of football. It doesn’t mean I’m not a true-red fan; it means I’m a realist. Mistakes happen.
In “What It Means to be a Husker”, Tom Osborne writes, “You can say that Nebraskans are generally fair and friendly and have good values, and that leads to them being good fans.”
Luckily, those fair and friendly fans outnumber the unbearable wannabes.