While watching such an awful display of football, one thought prevailed in my mind: Nebraska fans deserve better than this.
Nebraska prides itself on having some of the best fans in all of sports. Cite Nebraska’s record number of consecutive sellouts. Look at pictures of Northwestern and Iowa’s stadiums this year that were filled with red. Pick up the Omaha World-Herald in April and see that the front of the sports page is covered in spring practice reports. All signs point toward a state that is borderline obsessed with this team.
In a small state with enormous pride and no professional teams in any sport, all focus and energy gets placed on Nebraska football. During the games, the streets are near empty, and the grocery stores are vacant after a virtual rush hour in the moments preceding kickoff. Weddings are scheduled around Husker games, and Nebraska shirts are cause for greetings between complete strangers all around the world.
One of my earliest memories is watching Tommie Frazier drag half of the Florida Gators’ defense down the field en route to a touchdown and a national championship. As a kid, I knew Nebraska’s head coach before I knew the president of the United States. And for the rest of my life, I will rave about how if Ndamukong Suh did not deserve the Heisman, no defensive player ever will.
This is the Husker culture. It may be over-the-top. It may be an almost unhealthy level of attachment to a school’s football team. But it shows how much this team means to the people of Nebraska. And what occurred in Indianapolis on Saturday night simply does not do the fanbase justice.
A Nebraska football blog recently posted a poll question asking its readers if they would cut off a finger if it meant the Huskers would win the Rose Bowl this year. An overwhelming majority responded, “Yes, give me a knife.”
While this survey is obviously hyperbolic, it demonstrates the commitment and devotion Husker fans have to their team. After horrific defensive displays like Nebraska’s games against UCLA, Ohio State and Wisconsin, I start to wonder whether the players and coaches share that passion.