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Friday, January 27, 2006

Shameless Worship of Cornhusker Fans


As a college football fan in general and specifically a Michigan fan, there are several schools that I just have to hate. First and foremost is Ohio State. No reason is needed here; it’s tradition, although the troglodyte nature of many Buckeye fans sure makes it easier.

After that, the reasons to hate a school can be superficial—even stupid—and may have nothing to do with the football team. Oregon just rubs me the wrong way now. All that Nike gear, the bushels of Phil Knight’s cash, and those god awful uniforms that are a blight on college football just sicken me.

Miami is easy to detest as well. The swaggering gangsta vibe is made all the more irritating by the fact that these playas spend their winters in southern Florida surrounded by hot, gang-bang craving co-eds. I’ll admit it, I’m a hater.

Then there’s Nebraska, the team of pumped up misogynistic criminals and whiney transfer quarterbacks. (A quick aside here, I work with a gentleman who used to be a Lincoln police officer who responded to the call against Lawrence Phillips and he said Scott Frost was hiding in the closet at the time.) It’s appropriate that their color is red, I’ve always thought that if the old Soviet Union was ever going to field a college football team, it would have been the Cornhuskers. The way the bulky, ruthless Nebraska teams bullied their cupcake opponents and girlfriends was reminiscent of Red Army tanks rolling through the cities of eastern European countries. They even have that whole paying lip service to the benefits of an agrarian lifestyle thing going on. They just needed to replace the “N” on the helmets with “CCCP” for the transformation to be complete.

Then there’s the 1997 season. This season was shocking to me because the team I was rooting for was actually winning every game. There was no choking in the big game against a quality opponent and no mailing it in and losing a shocker to some unranked team of nobodies. This was prior to the era of the fourth quarter collapse. Michigan won every game. Michigan played ridiculous defense. A Michigan player won the Heisman Trophy and, since he wasn’t a quarterback or running back, he actually was the most outstanding player that year. This was a dream come true.

Then came the final Coaches Poll. Somehow, Nebraska snuck in there and was proclaimed the national champion. Of course, it had nothing to do with Tom Osborne retiring and getting a nice little send off from his fellow coaches. Of course, it had nothing to do with Phil Fulmer still being pissed because Peyton Manning didn’t win the Heisman (or maybe he was pissed because his pulled pork platter was a few pounds too small that day). But, it happened. There always seems to something bad around the corner for the team I root for—lately they just flat out lose—but back then, when they won everything, that Coaches Poll was it. The AP poll seemed like a consolation prize.

So, I definitely have a historic dislike of Nebraska that has only gotten worse lately. They’ve abandoned their traditional power run game for the West Coast Offense (which I hate) and have an idiot of a coach in Bill “Cutthroat” Callahan. Nope, I don’t like Nebraska one bit.

But, Nebraska fans are the gold standard of all fans, people. These are the fans that every team should want. They are numerous, they are loud, they are passionate, they are unified, and they are well behaved. There were a few in the hotel I stayed at. I barely noticed their red t-shirts as they politely made their way through the breakfast buffet that morning. Then, later in the day as I was searching for a parking spot, I saw more of them, a lot more. While I sat in traffic, squads and platoons of red-clad football fans were making their way to the Alamodome.

I expected that there would be a lot more Nebraska fans than Michigan fans but it looked like they outnumbered Michigan fans at least 5 to 1. Still, there was nothing the least bit menacing about them, they were just on their way to a regular old football game. I never heard any taunting or profanity from any of them and they certainly wouldn’t dishonor their team by throwing anything at anyone. I’ll admit it, I am envious.

Once in the Alamodome, they ceased to be a group of people and became a single, huge, red, living multi-cellular organism. They cheered, booed, chanted, and even moved in unison. It was impossible to not be impressed, I was spellbound. I can’t help but wonder if they practice together or something, since that kind of precision and synchronization can’t just happen spontaneously. Can it? I’m sure everyone watching the game on television could hear how loud they were. They were deafening.

And after the game, as I glumly walked to my car, they went right back to being nice, normal, boring individuals. The only celebration I heard was the occasional, drawn out cry of, “Goooooooo Big Red!” That was it and it was never directed at any of us poor, pathetic Michigan fans.

I’ve thought a little bit about this strange phenomenon of how can a crowd be so polite and sedate one moment and so ear-scorchingly loud and fiery the next and I’ve come up with the theory that it’s all in the demographics. I estimate that Nebraska fans were about two-thirds college age males and one-third families of mom, dad, and their two and a half kids. I’m figuring this to be the ideal demographic for a fanbase.

First, the college age males—always the most rambunctious and a dangerous segment of a population—provide the energy, the fire, the noise. These are the guys who do what fans are supposed to do, yell and yell loudly. They’re young, they’re stupid, they’re fueled by hormones and alcohol so they have no reservations about screaming their heads off for three hours straight. The problem with these fans is that if there’s too many of them, total mayhem ensues. You’ve got stadiums being torn apart, cars being overturned, couches being burned, urine and feces as substances to throw at people. Too many of these clowns around will make one seek shelter in the quieter places of the world like Baghdad or Kabul.

This is where the Nebraska families come in. They provide the balance. They’re the yang to the frat boys’ yin (I had to look up which one was light and which one was dark). The presence of all these mother and father figures keeps things under control. “Don’t piss in the bottle and throw it, mom’s watching!” “Don’t smash that windshield on that car, dad will kill you!” Nebraska gets the riot of noise and passion without the actual riot. And, I’m sure that all that youthful energy gets the Nebraska housewives and insurance salesmen screaming there heads off every now and then.

Anyway, that’s my theory. And, although I am really, really pissed off about losing and those damned Sun Belt Conference officials, at least a nice bunch of folks who really love their football team got to enjoy a win that evening.

31 comments:

Jamie Morris said...

Also, it should be remembered that the only reason Nebraska was undefeated that year is because of the miracle foot pass. Let's go back to November 8, 1997...

"Trailing 38-31 with 62 seconds left Nebraska had the ball at their own 33 yard line. Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost completed four passes to move down to the Missouri 12 yard line. After one attempt for the end zone fell incomplete Nebraska was facing a last gasp effort with 12 seconds left. Frost took the snap and rolled to his right. He fired a pass to Shevin Wiggins just in the end zone, but Missouri defender Julian Jones knocked the ball from Wiggins' hands. As he fell to the ground Wiggins kicked the ball into the air. Nebraska freshman Matt Davison dove for the ball and caught it with no time left on the clock. The extra point kick tied the game up and sent the match into overtime."

Absent that fluke, there's no co-champions that year. Still pisses me off.

Anonymous said...

Then again flukes are part of the game (and what makes it damn interesting). Take away all the so called "flukes" and a whole lot of history would be changed.

Anonymous said...

Well, this shoots my theory that Buckeye fans are A-Holes because they are always seeing so much red right in the foot. By your reasoning it would seem obvious that Michigan fans are weighted to much towards the family while OSU fans just never grow up.

Yost said...

Anon,

So right -- flukes are part of the what makes college football, and any sport, something we talk about years after the games are played.

Yost said...

BPD,

Great post. I've always heard Husker fans are some of the classiest around.

Yost said...

Anon 2,

Family? M fans are weighted too heavily toward the dead and dying. And the *&^% key waving!

IC said...

Another outstanding post, Baggy.

Your analysis of fanbase demographics is something I never thought of before and it is completely on target.

Also on target is your comparison of the Soviet Union and Nebraska's dominant teams of the past. Both were so drab, manacing, and seemingly efficient. I think the Huskers even had an O-lineman named Len Breshnev back in the early 80s. Pretty sure he won the Outland Trophy.

Benny Friedman said...

Even the fumblerooski - which I believe was popularized by the 'Huskers - sounds like something from Soviet Russia.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that was Nebraska with the Fumblerooski. Always a classic. Thanks for the nice article and good luck next year!

Yost said...

Thanks, Anon. And we'd wish you guys luck as well, but as mentioned in BPD's post recently, simply by playing Michigan in your bowl game (as SC and Texas did the previous two seasons), NU is already pre-ordained to take the national title next year.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

All,

Glad this was enjoyed.

Jamie,

Yeah, I remember that day very well. It was dubbed Judgment Day by the sports media. Michigan was playing at Penn State and Mack Brown's North Carolina was playing Florida State. The Nebraska/Missouri game wasn't a big deal and Nebraska was expected to win easily. Michigan established itself as the number one team by crushing Penn State and all the talk about North Carolina winning the ACC ended when the Seminoles defeated them.

I was stationed in Korea at the time and the Armed Forces Network broadcast most of the games live. This meant I watched the Michigan game at about 1am on Sunday after an evening of heavy drinking. That was when I was positive that team was for real. The score of the Nebraska/Missouri game was being updated the entire time and it was exciting to see the Tigers were hanging with the Cornhuskers. That game was broadcast at about 8am Sunday morning—late night Saturday and early morning Sunday was nothing but back to back college football games—and even though I knew the outcome I had to watch it and it was still exciting, if disappointing.

Yost,

Thanks. I wouldn’t doubt if every one of those fans picked up their trash from around their seats and deposited it in the receptacles on the way out of the stadium. The think it’s probably not that hard to have classy fans who aren’t that loud or supportive of their team or passionate fans who are excessively violent, but to have fans that are classy, and respectful while still loudly supporting their team is impressive to me.

Ian,

I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees the Cold War similarities.

Benny,

You are so right, I can’t believe I didn’t mention FumbleRuski. Maybe they really were sponsored by by the Red Army.

Anonymous said...

"There was no choking in the big game against a quality opponent and no mailing it in and losing a shocker to some unranked team of nobodies."

Kind of like how 2003 USC lost to unranked, six loss Cal?

Michigan: AP, FB News, FW, National Championship Foundation*, NFF, Sporting News

Nebraska: Alderson, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, Eck, FACT, Matthews, National Championship Foundation*, NY Times, Sagarin, Seattle Times, USA/ESPN

Seems a lot more people thought Nebraska was better than Michigan.

I certainly do.

CapBuck said...

Anon,

BTW, the bukeyepollrus awarded the NC to OSU this year. I guess that means the Bucks have a justified reason to moan about how they are not repescted as true winners or a partial NC.

Oh, wait, I forgot, there's the polls that simply analyze the teams and the polls that actually declare national chamionships. Silly me.

BPD, where in the ROK doing what? I have a far more sad story that has to do with watching college football allll the way over there.

Anonymous said...

I have a brilliant idea...quit whininga about your cupcake schedule that got you a share of a title almost 10 years ago. Good GOD people of Michigan, just realize that you have a bunch of poor sports as fans and that you need a new coaching staff, not a bash against one of the greatest football teams of all-time. Yes we (Neb) are down at the moment. Mark my word, if we had gotten a chance in 97 NEBRASKA wins by 20 or more, and don't even tell me that you deserve to win that is rediculous. Top to bottom we were better (our destruction of Payton and the Vols shows it). And oh by the way, we won this year, not sure if you saw that. Quit bitching about it and get a new staff and then come talk to me. Whiners.

Anonymous said...

LSU fan here.

Watching both teams play, it was pretty clear that Nebraska was much better.

42-17 domination over a pretty good Tennessee team (11-1) was the real reason the coaches chose Nebraska #1.

CapBuck said...

Anon (the nebraska one)

I don't see how you flame people for still caring about an issue ignited "10 years" ago when you obviously still seem pretty passionate about the topic.

Lets see, what am I trying to say...h-y-p-o-c-r-i, dangit where's my dictionary?

Yost said...

CB,

Yeah, correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't this a post praising Neb fans? Then this guy comes and flames.

However, you know, they were voted #1 in the Eck and DeVold poll so...

Yost said...

"NEBRASKA wins by 20 or more, and don't even tell me that you deserve to win that is rediculous. Top to bottom we were better (our destruction of Payton and the Vols shows it). And oh by the way, we won this year, not sure if you saw that. Quit bitching about it and get a new staff and then come talk to me. Whiners."

Well, BPD, I guess not all their fans are the gold standard. This guy sounds more cubic zirconia.

As for that destruction of Peyton, yeah, hats off. Beating him in a big game is a rarity.

Anonymous said...

Long time viewer, second time caller. I posted earlier this year, re Lethal Idiots, apologizing for the idiotic Husker fans over here flaming. Once again, this is nowhere typical for Nebraska fans. The type of idiocy you see here, is commonly reserved for K-State or Colorado fans ;)

Hopefully you guys have an amazing year next year, and we do as well, and then maybe we can hook up in a BCS game. Best of luck in the final week of recruiting and good luck for the '06 season.

A Husker Fan

Yost said...

Damnit, A Husker Fan, just when I try to get all riled up and talk smack after that lost post or two by another Big Red fan, you come with such a classy post that I regret having said what I said before.

Doh!

Thanks for your comments.

BaggyPantsDevil said...

The 1st Anonymous—and let me just say to all anonymous poster that your courage at posting anonymously and really putting yourself ‘out there’ is an inspiration to us all—I have no clue what your point is. I think the original post was a little over your head or do you have Tourette’s? Do your conversations tend to go like this:

Ted: “Hi Anon, nice weather out isn’t it?

Anon: Cal was unranked and beat USC in 2003!

or this:

Bob: Hey Anon, this global warming stuff really worries me, what about you?

Anon: Nebraska was better in 97!

I’m just wondering.

2nd Anonymous, I have a feeling the words “I have a brilliant idea” never EVER apply to you. I think the post was a little over your head, too. I’ve known a few overly sensitive people in my life and they don’t handle criticism well, but I’ve never seen anyone get so defensive about praise. Wow, that’s a new one on me.

Your contention that Nebraska would win by twenty is laughable. I can see people thinking Nebraska would win especially if they’re Cornhusker fans, but clearly you weren’t paying attention that year. You must be applying the principle of “my team will win by a lot because they’re my team and I said so” to the hypothetical game. Michigan’s defense that year, on average only allowed 9 points a game. They held Washington State, whose offense averaged 42 points a game to just 16. Since Nebraska’s offense averaged 47 points per game it’s reasonable that Michigan’s defense could have held them to just 18 points. By the way, that’s called math. So, there’s a chance that Nebraska wouldn’t even have scored 20 total points. Also, Peyton Manning losing a really big game, isn’t all that special.

Beaker said...

We were lucky a couple times that year. If TO isn't retiring, there's no split NC. Gotta say, '97 is one reason i can't totally condemn the BCS -- if we had it then we'd at least have known.

But then where would the fun be?

Funny, all that Soviet Union comparison is how we looked at Oklahoma.

BPD -- I appreciate the kind words about our fans. It makes it easy to get boastful, though I think the best illustration is the fans who stand and cheer the other team as they leave the field during home games, even when they kick our butts.

but we ain't perfect. you saw proof of that already in the comments.

And hell yeah, we practice. Mandatory dress rehearsal at the stadium, everyone is required to spend at least one year practicing weekly on cheers, chants, choreography. With some of us big cornfed boys it gets ugly, but we survive.

Actually it's just a cult thing.

Anonymous said...

As a Husker alum, I appreciate the kind words about Nebraska fans. As many others have written--college football games at UNL are the way it's supposed to be. My favorite story goes back many years when Alabama came to Nebraska and won. Bear Bryant always wore a houndstooth hat. Some fan swiped it--and didn't get two steps before other fans stopped him and returned the hat to Bear. MU and UNL had a memorable battle. Congratulations to Michigan for its tradition of great support for its team--and classy fans. Seattlsker

Anonymous said...

Really not trying to flame you, but your picture of Nebby fans is very skewed. They are some of the most pompous, arrogant jackasses the world has ever known. They MAY have been well-behaved at the bowl game, but (1) that is one day out of 10 million, and (2) the people that attend the bowl games are rarely a representative cross-section of the whole fan base. Again, arrogant and pompous jackasses. Then again, maybe that has been tempered by the fact that they have sucked for years now.

CapBuck said...

Anon (the one above here)

You're an idiot. Just because you're not flaming BPD doesn't make it ok to flame all Nebraska fans or make some crackish theory about Nebraska fans being more tame over the past few years.

The fact is that everyone's perception of everybody else's college football fans is most likely skewed by only a few interactions. A few Buckeyes get ridiculous at a Michigan fan (trust me, its happened) and forever that Michigan fan just might say 'Bukeye fans are all pompous asses.'

I consent that you may have had a bad experience with Husker fans, and thus have relegated them 'all' to such low status. However, I have had nothing but delightful encounters with almost every single Husker fan I have met. I have a proffessor here at school, one of the world's pre-eminent Pauline scholars, who is a classy example. Every Husker fan I ran into in San Antonio the year they plastered some Big Ten team was also quite civilized. The simple prospect of saying that 'all' Nebraska fans are pompous asses only shows how simple-minded you are; it is quite obvious that not 'all' Nebraska fans are pompous asses because I've met some of them who aren't.


BPD: I agree, partially. Nebraska would have had their hands full with the UM defense in 97, but the reason UM would have certainly won in my book is the same reason UM beat OSU that year (no, not Coop). There was this fellow on that team that played every position on the field, scouted the opponents personally and also called every defensive and offensive play in the game...who single-handedly managed to beat OSU with sickening play all over the field. What was his name........

Anonymous said...

If our two teams would have indeed met for the '97 title, it would have indeed been a beautiful thing to see.

Scott Frost, QB, and Ahman Green, RB, were hard for anyone to stop when they were in sync. They were two big, tough, mean players who grew up in Nebraska, dreaming of wearing the Husker uniform. As amazing as Charles Woodson is, I'm also a Raiders fan, he would have a hard time trying to make any open field tackles on either of these two men.

Our defense, while not on par with the '95 squad, was still quite mean. They were led by Grant Winstom, who to this day is still a beast and loved to play in the backfield as much as a Quarterback.

In my eyes, that could have been 1997 game would not have been a blow-out on either side, and would have been on part with USC/Texas this year. Once again, best of luck on this final week of recruiting and for next season. Heres to a BCS meeting between our schools.

A Husker Fan

PS:
Remember, on the internet, everyone is 6'5" 250lbs pure muscle with 15" love harpoons :-P

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Beaker,

It is funny how fans characterize their rivals. Everyone else gets cast in the role of the villain. The truth is no one really is, we’re all pretty much the same in that we love football and just want our team to win. Which team we root for is pretty much a matter of chance unless the person is one of those USC bandwagon folks.

As for internet comments representing fans, I don’t put too much stock in them. There’s no way to really tell if their really fans of who they say they are. They’re more than likely people just pissed off about the criticism of onepeat.com more than anything else. So you’ve got people who, for some undisclosed reason hate USC, pretending to be LSU fans who are now pretending to be Nebraska fans.

CapBuck,

I was in Uijongbu and worked in the counterintelligence office their. I had a good friend who was stationed in Seoul—we’d been stationed at Fort Bragg previously—and I spent my weekends there. The Saturday ritual was take the train to Seoul in the morning, spend the afternoon playing football until we were either suffering from hypothermia or injured, eat, drink way to much vile soju in Ietawon, then watch college football until it was time for breakfast. Those were great days.

My one disappointment that year was that I was on call the week of the Ohio State game and had to hang out around my office. The television reception went out—the Seoul guys had satellite—and I wasn’t able to watch that game.

As for the hypothetical Michigan/Nebraska matchup at the end of the 1997 season, I see it playing out much the same way as the 2003 Ohio State/Miami Fiesta Bowl. No one gave Ohio State much of a chance then, but they say defense wins championships for a reason.

Jeremy said...

Nebraska had to cheat to beat an unranked opponent in overtime. That same week, Michigan crushed the #2 team in the country 34-8. There is absolutely no way Nebraska wins the '97 match. Nebraska had a good team in '97, but come the hell on, people.

Jeremy said...

That's supposed to say CHEAT and OVERTIME. Apparently you can NOT, in fact, use HTML tags.

rbtgt said...

I'd like to point that ESPN did a story in '97 on Sportscenter before the Bowl games whereby they asked several Vegas sports books to handicap a hypothetical game between Nebraska and Michigan. The BEST scenario presented for Michigan, by the sports book at the Stardust, was that they had Nebraska as a 7 point favor--AT MICHIGAN! The other books favored the Huskers by even bigger spreads. They also handicapped this game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln and on a neutral field where, in both cases, the Huskers were favored by even bigger spreads yet.

The bottom line here gents is that sportswriters are a bunch of complete nimrods when it comes to being judges of something like this. Who would you rather listen to, the fraternity of guys who actually coach college football and a bunch of guys whose profession it is to handicap these games, or the nimrods?

IMHO, the sportswriters just exposed themselves for the goombahs that they are by voting for Michigan in the first place. The Vegas stance on this hypothetical match-up and the coaches subsequent vote just prove my point.

Thanks for the kind words about Huskerfan! Much appreciated!

CapBuck said...

BPD

My foks were stationed at Yongson for a couple years-my jr/sr year at college. I spent many a day shopping for cheapie-suits in Itaewon over Christmas break. Also spent some time over there at Camp Hovey as cadet, but thats a different story.

My jr year of college was the NC year for the Bucks. When that game vs Miami began, I was sitting in the Inchon Itnl Airport waiting for my flight to Chicago to get ready. I told myself time and again that the Bucks stood a shot of getting blown out...but if it was close early then it would probably be close late.

I was sitting in the lobby through the 1st and most of the 2nd quarter. I ignored boarding call after boarding call insisting that I get my fix on the game before takeoff. I was filling the public 'internet' phone with 500-won coins and going to espn.com to get the play-by-play recap.

When I finally gave in to the Korean Air flight attendant (who was sitting 10 feet from me, screaming into the PA 'final boarding call' as she knew I was on her flight), the score was 7-up with about 5 minutes to go in the 1st half.

Now, my criteria was: blowout early, who cares; close early, we got a shot.

So with 7-7 late in the 2nd quarter, yeah, I was tense.

I was flying in my #45 jersey, complete with Bucks hat and Buckeye necklace. The locals though I looked pretty funny.

Needless to say, 10 hours later when my flight landed it was all over. I even tried using that damned "5,000 bucks a minute in-flight satelite phone," but it wouldn't work.

When I landed I was on my cell phone before the airline would have been comfortable with, and I soon got the fix. The best part was my connection from Chicago to Columbus was packed with Bucks fans flying home from the game the 'next day' (seemed like three days ago to me in jet lag world).

And that, my friends, is how I missed the greatest Buckeye win of my current lifetime.

Stupid Army. Stupid family Christmas. Stupid international travel....