It is the heart of the football offseason. For die-hard fans, it can be tough to fill the days that lack football.
May I suggest you try putting your Husker obsession to some reasonably good use by cracking open a book? Not only will it help scratch the football itch, you might actually learn something too.
Here are a couple of suggestions to help you get started.
New and Edgy
Of course, I’m opening this list with the most recent material to come off of the presses. Jason Peter’s memoir, Hero of the Underground, comes out in July. It’s drawing some pretty good early reviews.
Peter—a legit Husker bad-ass in the 1990s—got heavily into drug use, washed out as a pro, cleaned up, and has resurfaced hosting a radio program in Lincoln. The book apparently pulls few punches when it comes to the ugly truth of Peter’s life.
A Couple of My Favorites
When it comes to Husker reading, there is a lot to choose from out there. Whole shelves at local book stores in Nebraska are dedicated to Husker football, and a search on Amazon provides dozens of options. You can read about everything from Husker heroes to game day traditions and even the physics of football (nerd!).
Forced to pick two that I think most fans would like or learn from, I’ll go with More Than Winning and Huskerville.
Of the several books by and about Tom Osborne, More Than Winning is hands down the best. It was published in 1985, following NU’s failed bid for that National Title in 1983, and before Osborne cemented his legend as a coach and fans believed he could walk on water.
It is a frank and plainspoken account of Osborne’s life and his philosophies. It chronicles Osborne’s roots very well, and it is that much cooler to read now more than 20 years later. You gain an entirely new perspective on Osborne’s choices later in his career by reading this book now. It kind of makes me wonder if Bo Pelini has read it, or if he would want to.
Huskerville is an entirely different kind of book and was published much more recently. The author, Roger C. Aden, is a faculty member at the University of Ohio. The book is as much about anthropology as it is football. It is telling a “story of Nebraska football, fans and the power of place.”
Aden’s basic contention is that geography and culture are as important as blocking and tackling when it comes to Husker football fans. I think he’s spot on. Of course, I’m an anthropology and sociology nerd, too. The book does read a bit academically, with many citations, though that is to be expected.
Aden does an excellent job of weaving people’s personal stories into the narrative. It comes as close to capturing the nature of the Husker fan base as anything I’ve read so far.
Blasphemy Can Be Entertaining Too
If you aren’t afraid to hear some ugly hard truths or confront possible demons, I suggest you read Big Red Confidential. A young Armen Keteyian used this negative depiction of Osborne’s 1980s Huskers as a way to shine some more light on college football’s dark side, and, frankly, to make a bigger name for himself.
It has sort of become to Husker fans what The Da Vinci Code is to Catholics. It’s blasphemy to think of Osborne that way, but you still can’t stop turning the pages. Osborne supposedly tried to suppress the book. Neither the publisher nor the author got sued for libel, so it can’t be that egregiously far from the truth.
Big Red Confidential will probably make some of you angry. But it does a good job of showing how sordid things in big time college sports can be—and that was almost twenty years ago!
There’s my short list of recommendations. Like I said, there are dozens to choose from. I’d like to hear what some of your favorite Husker books are and why.