Those things are obvious choices for many. However, one thing that others might not include in the list of saddening events is the formation of the Big 12. And no, having four additional teams in the conference doesn't upset me. It was the byproduct though of the forming of northern and southern divisions and only being able to face Oklahoma two out of every four years.
Maybe I am not as excited about it this year as I have been before is years passed. However, this is just a date and a game that will have fans not just from these two teams tuned in, but the viewing audience will cross favorite teams and alma maters. When you see these two teams and take into consideration the program and the history you have no choice but feel nostalgic.
These two teams dominated the Big 8 and have had their share of success in the Big 12. They had some of the most memorable games, players, coaches and plays in collegiate football history. Conference championships. National Championships. Heisman trophy winners. The list goes on and on.
Today may not be the same as when Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne used to square off. One team is striving to make it to another national championship game while the other could still win their division, but in all fairness is still trying to become bowl eligible.
Beyond the teams, the old players and their coaches, I see a model for success in Oklahoma that Nebraska needs to study. Nebraska has seemed to take some pointers from Bob Stoops and his staff and is starting to turn things around on the recruiting field. They are also going with a more NFL style offense to lure that talent into Lincoln.
I have tremendous respect in what Stoops is doing at Oklahoma. Not only has he won a national championship in his short time there, but he has stayed grounded. There have been articles about the staff at OU that have blown my mind. Beyond being coach, a friend and sometimes father figures to their players, they are still big-time family guys.
It's a complete thing. A few years ago around the Red River Shootout time, there was an article about that week's preparations for Oklahoma. Bob came to the school to be with his children and have lunch with them.
Around them normally would have been a lot more kids and Stoops asked where everyone was. On Tuesday or even a Wednesday before the game that weekend, he was told that the other students had been pulled out of school early that week to attend the game that Saturday in Dallas. The same game that he was going to coach in and he was at the school, in Norman, eating lunch with his children.
I have had a unique opportunity to host some intense and unique parties while living here in Dallas. For example, Nebraska versus Notre Dame at South Bend I had basically an entire room of Domer fans and in the other room Husker fans. For Texas games, I have put a sign above a door to get them into one area as well. However, that door was the backdoor of my house just to get them out of my house. It was all in good fun.
Today though, I get that opportunity to have a pair of Sooner fans under my roof as we tune in tonight. I've never had to give out any type of warning before for my actions and possible emotions. I've never needed to. Ribbing has always been fair and one team always loses. However, my disclaimer to them for tonight was "I'm prepared for my medicine."
As a Husker fan I can acknowledge that we are probably not going to win this game tonight. I also know that somewhere else, another outstanding young man is thinking about wanting to re-build Nebraska with Bill Callahan and Company. That will take a bit out of the sting, but tonight may leave a bruise or two.
Tonight is not about John Blake returning to Norman though, although I am sure that there will be some emotion there. It's not about Bo Pelini and the fact that he is not on Nebraska's sidelines this year. It's about looking forward to this game being those great games like we've had before.
Can tonight be a great game? It might. I certainly hope to see one. If all of the players on that field play hard and give it their all, I will be satisfied as a spectator and as a former warrior. Beyond all that though, I am going to remain focused on what it is Bob Stoops has built in Norman and then think about Bill Callahan building that in Lincoln.
I've seen some bad losses through the last few years for some reason though I don't think that this one will sting that bad. Mostly because it is OU that we are playing and I see the greatness. I see the top high school player in the state of Texas last year, and in the nation, playing hard. I also know that they got the top two players in the Lone Star State north of the Red River. That's just incredible considering what those two teams have going in the Big 12 South.
I recognize those things and hope the same for Nebraska. It's being built. I can handle tonight. It used to be to me that the world might stop turning on game days that included a loss for the Huskers. Heck, some games I would find myself washing my car by halftime. I'll be watching the entire game tonight though. For you Husker fans not drinking what I am drinking or that don't agree with this, take some advice from me please. Despite the score, be proud of the effort and the game. The sun will be out tomorrow just like all of the other losses that I didn't think there was any way it could. It always did though and tomorrow will be no different.
Respect the rivalry. Respect the play. Think about those kids that won't get a chance to face the other team again in their careers in Norman. Remember the games and players that have happened before in the past. And last but not least, respect the action and love the game.