Living in Omaha my entire life, I'd say I have a decent grip on the typical Nebraskan. I've been everywhere from the west to the east in the state and have met countless folks from farmers to accountants and big shot attorneys, writers and so forth. The thing is, I see a common bond throughout the people inhabiting the Cornhusker State.
I notice, more often than not, an unwavering courtesy in the face of many obstacles, a loyalty ingrained in them from birth, a passion for their surroundings and the desire to by gosh get things done. However, I've noticed something lacking from my fellow Nebraskans and, more to the point, my fellow Cornhusker fans: emotion. True emotion, anyway.
2004 was an experience for we who follow the Scarlet and Cream as we stepped out of the familiar and into something new. Of course, being one of, if not the, reddest state in the Union, change isn't always something that's welcome. Not knockin' it, just sayin'. It was tough to watch what we did last year. We saw everyone struggle from the quarterbacks on down to the D-backs and even in the coaching ranks. Mistakes were made. Were they corrected? We'll find out in a few short weeks.
A lot of people took some pretty decent heat, specifically Bill Callahan and Steve Pederson, but that horse has been picked clean so many times, the bones shine. The point I'm trying to make here, folks, is that 2005 is, indeed, the time for new beginnings. A new chapter has started in Cornhusker history and contrary to some opinion, it doesn't have to be a dark age. Coach Callahan went out and snagged a recruiting class that has become all but legendary before they even touched the FieldTurf and it appears (as it tends to every year) that chemistry has improved and everyone's buddies, etc. Again, we'll see.
Let's take a moment, though, to look past what's on the field and rather take a gander at what's in the stands. I'm talking about you, me, the little tykes with the foam cornheads and the ol' feller whose seen ‘em all from Jennings to Cally himself and maybe even more. I speak of the fans. Possibly one of, if not the, greatest recruiting tools Nebraska has to offer its coaching staffs.
Last year was difficult to stomach, as mentioned, but one thing that really hit me was how downtrodden Memorial felt at times. Now, don't get me wrong, there were times (Read: Missouri) when the crowd was a force to be reckoned with and it felt like the 90s all over again in the House that Devaney Built. Most of the time, however, it was a place of confusion, hostility and the most passive aggressive tendencies this side of Paris.
I believe I have an idea just why this was and no, I'm not talking about the performance of the team or the coaches or the punt return unit or any of that. I think over the past few years, Nebraska fans lost the will to believe and to hope. Now, I'm no psychologist and the most schooling I've had on the subject was a couple high school and collegiate courses coupled with the study of Carl Jung, but one thing I've found is that, in some cases, social sciences are no more than common sense mixed with proper vocabulary. Here's hopin' I have the correct words.
Naturally, we all know it's much easier to reign in our emotions and not expect anything to happen, good or bad and then react accordingly. The problem with this theory, in my estimation, is that it tends to lead to a more negative form of thought as the end result and, in some cases, may leave a fan feeling like they can't have fun at a ballgame and really, what's the point of even showing up if you can't have fun?
It's exponentially more difficult to take your emotions, your hopes and your dreams for anything, but in this case, we'll talk about Nebraska's season, and put them on your sleeve. The highs are high, but the lows are low. The thing is, folks, this is what makes college football. In my experiences, you need to experience the heartache to truly be able to savor the moments of victory like when ol' Doc Tom and his boys pummeled Miami into the turf back in '94. That's the thing though: it used to be common practice for Cornhusker fans. Now? Not so much.
I think that many of the fans just don't want to get hurt again because hey, yeah, we like our football, so all of the readers from the rest of the conference and the country can point and laugh and say "Hurr hurr hurr" all they want. We have a passion, so sue us. The thing is, Cornhusker fans, if we don't let our hopes grow and we don't dream, if we don't hope, if we don't expect that we will win: we won't. It's that simple. I know it may seem VERY far-fetched to a number of you reading this, but the fact is, things on and off the gridiron have been willed to happen. Think of the kind of energy 76,000+ can bring.
Maybe, just maybe, the magic that was on that FieldTurf not too long ago would reappear. Maybe the needed block would happen out of nowhere and maybe the fingertip grabs would be made. Of course, that could just be coaching and it could just be talent…but what if?
As many of you who frequent this site know, there is going to be some pretty top notch talent taking trips to Lincoln this year and it might not hurt if we, and I mean all of us not just 75,999, gave it our all too? Sure, the headaches are a pain, but that's what Aleve's for. Get out there and have some fun, folks. Be yourselves, be rowdy and give ‘em an earful. I know I will.
So, as you start down I-80 this year and you ponder about what could be in store for the Cornhusker Footballers of '05, ask yourself this question: If these young men are truly ready to play like champions, or at least give it their all, am I not ready to cheer them regardless? After all, Nebraska fans, you know us. We do like our football.
Questions, comments and mini helmets can be sent to Blankman71@cox.net