When ASU announced that it had agreed to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln, NE, my buddies and I knew we had to make the trip. We understood that the Devils probably would not win the game, maybe even get blown out, but we knew seeing a game in Lincoln was an experience every college football fan would want to have.
We left for Lincoln on Thursday. We wanted to be in town for a few days so we could see everything there is to see. Even the plane was a "sea of red." There were many Big Red fans returning to Lincoln to watch their beloved Huskers. Some NU fans chatted with us about our trip to see if we had ever been to Lincoln before and to suggest things to do on the trip. They wanted to make sure we enjoyed our visit.
We arrived in Omaha and immediately made the hour drive to Lincoln. The drive takes you through lots of green fields and farmland. Lincoln itself is nothing spectacular to look at. It is a typical Midwest town – lots of green with only a few buildings over 5 stories tall. We found our hotel at the corner of 27th St. and Cornhusker Highway. After checking in and dropping our stuff in the room, we were hungry for dinner and decided it was time to check out the town. We needed to check out O Street, Lincoln's version of Mill Avenue, so we hopped in a cab (no driving later) and headed off.
O Street is similar to Mill Ave., except that most of the bars and restaurants are locally owned and not chains. For the rest of the night we wandered around different establishments looking for fun. It was not uncommon for a Husker fan to come up to us in the bar or on the street, offer a handshake, and say, "Welcome to Lincoln. We are glad you made the trip." That first night we hit mostly college bars. We started at Main Street for $2-you-call-it ($ Makers Mark!!). Then we went over to more of a Maloney's type establishment (a little more upscale), a place called Iguana's. We ended the night at the Brass Rail, which has similar feel to the Dash Inn in Tempe.
Friday morning (late morning), we worked out at the downtown YMCA and were then ready for some lunch. We had heard about a pizza buffet that was supposed to be very good. Once at Valentino's, we saw why their reputation is a good one. The buffet had salad, pizza, lasagna, other pastas, chicken strips. Basically, everything a hungry man would want on a pizza buffet. We left very satisfied for only $6 each.
We were told that the place to be Friday night was Sidetracks and we needed to get there early – by 7pm – or we would be risking waiting in line. Since College Game Day came on at 6pm, we decided to go early and watch it at the bar. We rolled in a little after 6pm and every sit-down table was full of Nebraska fans. The place was not much to look at, just four walls, a couple bars, and a stage. We ended up at a tall table at which we had to stand. Everyone saw us come in wearing our ASU gear, but nobody booed or really said much to us. We just grabbed a few pitchers, watched TV, and chatted about the game currently on TV or the next day's ASU vs. Nebraska game.
The band came on at 9pm. By now, the place was packed with Nebraska fans. We had only seen four or five other Devil fans by that time, and most of them were not wearing ASU gear. They were dressed up like they were heading to a club in Scottsdale, not a sweaty dive bar in Lincoln to drink all night. Oh well, we were representing in our ASU gear. Once the band hit the stage, everyone went crazy. The band was a four person band, all older people, with a 50 to 60 something woman as the front person (she also owns the bar).
The tunes the band played were sing-along songs, most of which were their originals. We heard songs about Joel Mackovicka, Eric Crouch, Nebraska, and the funniest ones had an adult theme (hint: one had to do with canine-styles of love and another with what winds do and where you go Monday through Friday most weeks). The band was hilarious and the whole crowd knew every song.
We went up on stage and sang the ASU fight song to a chorus of boos. Of course, to add fuel to the fire, we threw in a 19-0 comment. Although they had booed us unmercifully while on the stage, we left the stage to a bunch of high-fives. It sounds stupid, but we had now reached quasi-celebrity status at Sidetracks. Tons of people came to talk to us and I don't think we bought another beer for ourselves all night. Even after we left sidetracks for Iguana's around 11pm, people on the street and at the bar recognized us. It was crazy.
Finally it was game day. Everyone told us that Barry's was the place to be on game days, so we hopped in a cab and headed on down. When we got there, the place was pretty empty (it was before noon). We were surprised to see a decent amount of Devil fans there. For a while, we comprised about 1/3 of the clientele, but that did not last long. Soon, the sea of red poured into the place. We had a good time chatting with other Devil fans and discussing the game with the NU faithful. We did NOT have a good time being pestered by the UofA fans that made the trip out to root against ASU. They were fully decked out in their Mildrat gear and talked basketball the whole time. I guess UofA fans have a lot going on in their lives, huh?
As game time approached, we went with a Nebraska fan back to the RV where they were tailgating. They offered us beer and some food. The parking lot was packed with RVs and people were tailgating like champions – generators, grills so big you hook them to your car to pull them around, kegs, etc. It was a great atmosphere. Once again, we took some ribbing from the local fans, but overall they were very nice. Everyone offered us drinks and/or food and wished us luck.
Just before kickoff, we headed over to the stadium to find our seats. The game itself has been well covered, so I will just mention the atmosphere. It was a great college football atmosphere. Everyone was in red and in their seats by the kickoff. They cheered their team with echoing chants of, "GO…BIG…RED!" The stadium was not as loud as Oregon, but the mystique and electricity would be hard to match. Additionally, the UofA fans had been run off by the end of the first half. That only enhanced the atmosphere.
Even after the game, fans came up to us and wished our team well for the rest of the season and us a safe trip home. Even most of the students were welcoming and did not act like what you might expect from UofA fans. It was refreshing.
Overall, the trip was a great experience. I would highly suggest that everyone makes the trip if ASU ever plays in Lincoln again. The fans and the aura make spending the money and the time worthwhile.
Reflections from Lincoln
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