In less than a week, Memorial Stadium in Lincoln will be filled to the brim with denizens of—to borrow a phrase—red-clad loons.
They want to watch Nebraska football. They've been waiting since New Year's Day.
What if we were taking our children to the game, though? What would we say is the most important thing for them to remember?
Is it the 40-foot red waterfall inside the stadium?
How about the statue of legendary coach Tom Osborne and the late quarterback Brook Berringer outside the stadium?
No, it's none of those. It's about the Sea of Red.
You wear red. I wear red. Everybody wears red. There are 16 other red shirts in your closet, and your wife has 13 of her own. That's not counting red hats, socks, shoes, sweatshirts, hoodies or even gloves.
Everybody in Nebraska wears red.
Memorial Stadium, home to the Cornhuskers, currently seats over 85,000 fans, 98 percent of whom are decked out, head to toe, in the scarlet of the Huskers. You show up early, and you are always there. You, the Nebraska fans, are known as one of the most passionate fanbases in the country, and nobody can name another fanbase that is more loyal.
On November 3, 1962, Nebraska lost at home to Missouri. That loss, though, started a sellout streak that is unmatched in college football. When the Cornhuskers host Southern Miss on Saturday, it will be before the 319th consecutive sellout.
If the Huskers are playing, the "Children of the Corn" show up in droves.
You are also known for being extremely nice to visiting fanbases. You are the same fans that Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden wrote about in an open letter to the Lincoln Journal-Star (via Huskers.com) in 1980:
"I have been coaching college football the past 28 years and have played before some great crowds in this country. I have never seen people with more class than I saw at Nebraska last week. The Nebraska fans, players, cheerleaders, band, officials, coaches, etc., gave me a living testimony of what college football should be all about. I actually had the feeling that when we upset the Nebraska team that instead of hate and spite, the Nebraska fans thanked us for coming to Lincoln and putting on a good show. This is nearly unheard of in today's society. Nebraska, you are a great example for Americans to copy. I hope we show half the class your people do."
Win or lose (and more winning has definitely happened), you stand and clap for the opposing team as they leave the field.
I remember when Texas came into Lincoln and beat Nebraska in 1998. It ended a school record 47-game home winning streak. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the chants from the Husker fanbase directed at a certain Texas running back named Ricky Williams.
"Heisman Trophy," they chanted. It caused my heart to stop and a lump to form in my throat. That's respect right there.
More recently, Michigan State scribe Hondo Carpenter (via Huskers.com)had nothing but good things to say about Nebraska.
That's the Sea of Red. That is class. It's OK to want your team to win. We all do. It's about respect, though. Even in loss, it is important to recognize the other team's ability to overcome every obstacle in its path and come out with a victory.
There is a saying above each entrance into Memorial Stadium that reads, "Through These Gates Pass The Greatest Fans In College Football."
When we teach our children what that means, let's keep in mind it isn't about just the sellout. It isn't just about winning. It's about the respect for other people and other teams.
When it's all said and done, stand and cheer for the other team. They deserve it.