Monday, September 28, 2009

The Cynic’s Guide to College Football: Special Report, 300 Edition

One of the nice things about writing for a national sports blog (aside from the money, fame and women they keep telling me will be here soon) is that it gives me a good excuse to make road trips to college football games around the country. This last weekend I had the opportunity to do something unique—something that had little to do with a game itself, and more about the reasons why we love college football. I made the trip to Lincoln, NE to join in the celebration of Nebraska’s 300th consecutive sellout.

A remarkably lifelike image of The Cynic in action.

Think about that—no unsold tickets for 300 consecutive games. The last time a seat went unsold in Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, it was 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a week old. Gas was 32 cents a gallon. The Beatles had just released their first single, “Love Me Do.” And the silicone breast implant had just been invented.

God bless technology.

Sure, the cynic in me (after all, that’s my job) says it’s easy to say, “Well, what else is there to do there?” But I’ve discovered not only is that sterotype not true (hint: Omaha and Lincoln have the same entertainment options as any typical mid-major or capital city, plus some neat “local flavor” stuff), but there’s something much deeper. Because there is no pro team or “Nebraska State”, the people of Nebraska identify with their team in a way not seen in many other places. The best analogy I can think of is to imagine Boston if there were no Bruins, Celtics or Patriots.

And the Red Sox only played seven home games a year. You think they might fill up Fenway for those games? That’s the level of devotion we’re talking about here—because the Huskers are the only game in town, the entire state rallies around that one team and are as fiercely loyal as any fan base in America. And it’s not just in football—earlier in the day, the Nebraska girl’s volleyball team lost to #2 Texas in front of their 125th consecutive sellout.

There is a waiting list for volleyball season tickets. Now THAT is fan support.

The game itself (a 55-0 shutout of Louisiana-Lafayette) wasn’t much to write home about, but the fanfare surrounding the 300th sellout was worth the price of admission. It was homecoming. The Huskers rocked some pretty cool throwback uniforms. Surviving members of the 1962 team were back, as was 1972 Heisman trophy winner Johnny Rogers. The massive video board featured tributes from former Huskers (Frank Solich, Turner Gill and Barry Alvarez) as well as some “outsiders” who played a big part in Nebraska football history (former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer and ABC commentator Keith Jackson).

Whoa, Nellie.

Since 1962, the seating capacity has expanded from 31,000 to 86,000. Nebraska fans been through heatwaves and blizzards, Bob Devaney and Bill Callahan, Brook Berringer and Lawrence Phillips, five national titles and five years of Steve Pederson, dominating wins and Sooner Magic. So while the last 300 home games have been undeniably good for Nebraska (261-39), Husker fans have also had their hearts broken more than a few times. And yet they remained as loyal as ever.

Switzer was responsible for much of that heartbreak.

Above the gates on the east side of the stadium, there is a sign that reads “Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football.” And they’ve got 300 straight sellouts to back up that statement. So congratulations, Husker fans. Your reputation as one of football’s nicest and most loyal fan bases is well-deserved. I look forward to seeing you all again in October 2023 for the 400th sellout. Anybody wanna bet the streak will be broken before then? I didn’t think so.

Hard to argue.

A few other random shots:

300 games. 300 sellouts. One sea of red.

Wait, I did find two empty seats. Section 38, Row 90, Seats 9&10, I’m calling you out!

Even the balloons got in the spirit of things.

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Minda said...

Awesome post! I'm glad you enjoyed it here in Lincoln, and I hope you come back. We do love our Huskers here.

Josh said...

Great post! I am glad you made it; I was very close to you. I think I missed your pic by two seats! You are dead on about our dedication, this is the biggest team we have to cheer for. We welcome you back, as long as you wear red!

Cleveland Frowns said...

enjoyed this post. glad nebraska won and presumably covered.

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