I’ve been thinking a lot about Husker football.
Not Bo. Not Ameer. Not the celebrations of the year or the controversies of the week.
I’ve been contemplating the very idea of the scarlet and cream football team. I’ve tried to ignore the specific players and coaches and have really concentrated on what our state’s pride and joy means to me – what it means to all ‘Non-Nebraskans’ who shudder at being called just that: a NON.
When I first moved to Colorado, I waited until the very last possible moment to change my license plates. The green-and-white mountains seemed so impersonal compared to the scene of the Nebraska sunset. The lack of two numerical digits at the beginning of the plate particularly bothered me: I already felt lost among a sea of city dwellers; now my car was virtually indistinguishable from all of the rest as well. I mean, the horror! How will they know where I’m from?
While I’ve gotten used to living in Colorado, I have yet to give up and call myself Coloradan. The reason is simple:
I’m proud to be from Nebraska, and I don’t want to lose that identity.
Which brings me back to Husker football.
People from other states just don’t get it. They are spoiled with the riches of multiple college and professional teams. Their populations are such that they can be divided in who they root for, in who their family supports.
But Nebraskans have never cared about being rich. And we certainly will never be divided. Our unicameral legislature is just one example of that.
In Nebraska, weddings are planned so they don’t coincide with game day. There is a genuine and valid fear that your wedding either won’t be attended, or that it will be attended with the pastor pausing the ceremony to ask someone in the crowd – armed with a phone and 4G – what the score of the game is. And if the wedding happens to take place hours after a loss? Well, talk about a mood killer.
In Nebraska, over 90% of Lincoln’s population wears Husker gear on game day. It’s not a scientific study, but one based on the power of observation: see if you can leave Lincoln on a Saturday night in the fall without literally seeing red.
In Nebraska, little boys pretend to be Husker football players every day on the playground at recess. It’s not surprising to find second graders capable of rattling off the vast majority of Husker starters and to even throw in some stats.
In Nebraska, everyone has a great understanding of the game and an opinion to go with it. It both annoys and impresses me during game time.
In Nebraska, we haven’t won a National Championship for almost two decades, but you wouldn’t know it.
Because in Nebraska, the farmer mentality is to remain loyal in the hard times, to sometimes shake your head in disbelief, but say, “There’s always next year.”
For me, that’s the reason why I have such a hard time being a ‘Non-Nebraskan’. It’s because Husker football and Nebraska culture are so intertwined that I feel like a traitor, switching teams by admitting I live in another state.
This past weekend, I got to go to my first writer’s conference here in Denver. I met with a literary agent who asked me where I was from.
“Denver,” I replied. “But I’m originally from Nebraska.”
There was no reason to say it, but there it was, pouring out of me like an excuse of some kind.
“No way!” she replied. “My parents are, too.” She nodded to her phone. “I just checked the score. We’re ahead.”
And thus began a conversation that lasted five minutes into my ten minute pitch session. Will I ever be represented by her? Probably not. I mean, c’mon, I barely had time to tell her about my book. But did it matter to me?
Not because Husker football is more important to me, but because what Husker football represents is.
It’s the comradery a person in California experiences when he pulls up next to a car who has a Husker bumper-sticker, and the disappointment he feels when he can’t get the person’s attention to show them his own.
It’s the way you can go to a “Husker Bar” in virtually any state to cheer alongside fans.
It’s the way you can spy a Nebraska shirt halfway across a store in another state, compliment the person for their choice in hoodie, and strike up a conversation based on where they or their family members are from.
It’s the way you can meet another person with ties to a state you love, to a team you’ve grown up watching, and immediately feel as though you’ve found a friend.
Today – and the rest of all Saturdays – I know there will be celebrations. There will be controversy. There will be incredible wins and agonizing loses. There will be opinions about coaches and players and comments and plays.
But today – and the rest of all Saturdays – there will remain something larger than a game.
It’s the dream we had as children, combined with the passion we have as adults. It’s the pride and the love and the friendliness and the perseverance that gives a platform to Husker Football.
And it’s the thing that all Nebraskans-at-heart (even the ‘nons’) can bank on to get them through another week.
It’s the true meaning of Husker football.
Source: Amanda Deich