If you want a real college football experience, and by that I mean a truly all-in, comprehensive, the-entire-state-is-here-kind-of-experience, then “There Is No Place Like Nebraska.”
The title of the fight song rings true as the Nebraska football home game experience indeed lives up to the hype; and more. Having just returned from my maiden voyage into the Sea of Red, I can tell you it’s like an SEC vibe, minus the condescension.
SEC fans know they have something special and constantly remind you how special that is.
Nebraska football fans know that they have something special and welcome you into the fold.
— Paul M. Banks (@PaulMBanks) October 24, 2015
This is a journey into the world of:
only talking softly in the press box, Blackshirts, 90,000 Nebraska football fans making it the third largest city in the state on game days, Black 41 Flash Reverse, the sellout streak and much much more.
First off, I need to thank my guides, Gary Sharp and Damon Benning, of “Sharp and Benning in the Morning” on 1620 The Zone.
During the season, I do a weekly radio hit, analyzing Northwestern and Illinois in “The Big Ten Whip” portion of their show (Tuesdays, 10:45 AM central).
Yeah, I’m just as shocked as you are that both my teams beat NU this season.
Here’s the podcast from last week leading into my initial Nebraska football road trip:
Again, Damon and Gary told me exactly what to expect in Lincoln. And here’s my segment from today, recapping the trip, podcast embedded below:
The Nebraska football program boasts a national record 345 straight sellouts and counting. The streak began way back in 1962.
In the words of Nena, “99 red balloons” are released into big sky country once the Huskers make their first score in each game. Actually, it’s a helluva lot more than 99 red balloons.
College football is the greatest event game of all. This is a proven scientific fact that’s not up for debate. People in Nebraska know this as they possess a special trait that I have not found in any other state’s sports fans. It’s a trait that I don’t think I will ever find in any other state’s sports fans ever.
They follow the national game, all teams, all conferences.
Most fans consume just their team, maybe a couple of the fiercest rivals, then maybe their division and conference. This is true not just for college football, but all sports.
Nebraska football fans, on the other hand, keep tabs on all of college football. Being someone who likes college football first and foremost, I’m alien in my hometown of Chicago. Actually I’m more Martian, like these guys from “Sesame Street.”
Does Chicago have a home college football team? “nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.”
Do Chicagoans love their college football? “yep yep yep yep yep yep yep yep.”
Lots of Chicagoans devote their autumn Saturdays to college football, it’s just that we’re all split in our allegiances. (I’ve explained this landscape in more detail here. I know it’s a “NIU to Big 12” piece, but trust me, scroll down to #2 “The Chicago Market Question” that covers the whole dynamic.)
If Illinois went 9-3 or something like that every season, and had already been doing that for multiple decades already, then the Illini would be our team, but if ifs and buts were candy and nuts then we’d all have a Merry Christmas.
Notre Dame is the most popular team in Chicago, and they are the team that I actually cover the most. Every workday experience at Notre Dame Stadium involves several “as a reminder, there is no cheering in the press box” warnings. No one adheres to these warnings of course.
In Nebraska, what you get instead is “there is no loud talking in the press box” several times a game.
It seems people at NU do a better job of following protocol than in South Bend, but I only have a one game sample size to go on.
Memorial Stadium is indeed a cathedral of college football, so I appreciate both of these institutions treating this game with the sanctity that it truly deserves. After all, college football is just a metaphor for The Civil War. No, really it is, and I’ve detailed that here, as it’s basically the SEC versus the rest of the country.
For pre and post game activities you have to visit the Haymarket Area. The large party zone is the place to be in Lincoln and it’s about .6 miles from the stadium. It’s bordered on the north end by Pinnacle Bank Arena, the relatively new, state of the art venue home to Nebrasketball, as well as concerts.
Outside of it a drunk college girl on the street gave me a “please make out with me” look/vibe/stare/gesture/something when I was about to do a photo-opp of the arena.
Hey, everybody told me that all Nebraskans are all so nice, so she was probably just trying to live up to the reputation.
Also, before or after you visit Tom Osborne Field make sure you find a place that does a Whiskey Marinated Filet Mignon. It’s the most sensual steak experience you’ll ever have.
For the game recap, from the Nebraska football perspective go here.
Where does the Nebraska football game experience rate nationally in my humble opinion? Well, it’s in my top five; which I’ll be publishing here during conference championship game week.
Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes to the Chicago Tribune RedEye. He also appears regularly on numerous television and radio talk shows all across the country. Catch him Tuesdays on KOZN 1620 The Zone.