Friday, November 26, 2010

In a Town Called Lincoln Nebraska

One of my fondest college memories (admittedly a lot of them disappeared into an alcohol-laden haze shortly after becoming eligible for "memory" status) is the 1986 Colorado-Nebraska football game at Folsom Field. It was played in the early afternoon on the 25th of October - a matinee performance in a sports day that - by the time it ended - would be either famous or infamous (depending on geography) for something else entirely. It was on that day along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains that the promise Coach Mac had brought west with him from Ann Arbor when he arrived from Bo Schembechler's staff to save the Buffs actually showed up. For the first time in his tenure as Colorado's head football coach the Buffs defeated the Huskers. For the first time in a generation, they did so at home. Prior to 1986, the home-standing Buffs had last defeated the invaders from the Eastern plains at Folsom Field in 1959.

Mercifully at some point after Jill, Joe and I also ceased performing the Buffaloes Shuffle the two schools decided to move their annual game - we have been conference foes for as long as I can recall - from its mid-to-late October perch to the Friday of Thanksgiving Weekend. Why? Because while the Buffs' colors are black and gold and the Huskers' colors are red and white, both universities are on the march relentlessly for green. Every year since the move was made, the game has been broadcast on national TV. National TV may not be a big deal if you are a certain small, religiously-affiliated school in Indiana and you have your own broadcasting network. But for the rest of the colleges in this country, whether they like it or not, television's cash is King and they are all just jesters in its court.

I say "mercifully" the game was moved after we had completed our time in Boulder because had it been played then as it is now, none of us would have seen the Buffs defeat the Huskers way back when in '86. All of us would have been home for Thanksgiving and would have watched the game on TV. CU is a school that attracts kids from all over the United States to its campus - and if you have ever seen Boulder, Colorado you would understand immediately both the origin and the dimension of the attraction. However, the downside to attracting so many kids from so many different places to your campus is that when school is not in session, the students in Boulder tend to scatter to the four corners of the Earth. Watching the Buffs play the Huskers in Folsom Field on Thanksgiving weekend is nice. Being home, sleeping in one's own bed, eating food prepared with love by someone not wearing a hairnet and having your laundry done without having to jam quarters into a machine and guarding against some frat tool removing your still-wet underwear and towels from the dryer in favor of his own is so much more than nice that it is an unfair comparison.

I for one never quite got how it served CU's interests in the long run to play a home game at the end of its season in which it ensured that at least half of the seats at Folsom Field would be occupied by fans flying its rival's colors. There is not a group of people on this planet who travel as faithfully and as relentlessly as do the University of Nebraska's football fans. They make the Bedouins look like homebodies. Truth be told, if you lived in Nebraska you too would probably pursue every opportunity to escape across the border to anywhere else as often as you could. Football affords the faithful just such an escape not fewer than one half-dozen times every Autumn. Only a fool would pass it up.

In the interests of full disclosure -and while it is easy as a CU fan to poke a bit of fun at the Husker faithful (Q.: What does the N stand for on Nebraska's helmets? A.: Nowledge.) - the Nebraska fans who I saw on at least a couple of occasions in Boulder during game week were among the nicest, most polite folks I have ever met. They are almost to a person very well-versed, intelligent football fans and while their school has had quite a bit more success on the gridiron than has my Alma mater, they were never anything but gracious in victory and (when the occasional upset happened) in defeat. They make excellent guests in your college's town when they come to visit because they travel in large numbers and they like to have fun (a/k/a "spend money") while they are there.

This may very well be the final CU-NU game for the foreseeable future. We have been conference foes for what seems like forever but effective the end of this season, we shall not be any longer. The Huskers are leaving the Big XII for the Big Ten while the Buffs are following the advice of Horace Greeley and heading West to what is now called the PAC-10 and shall be called (effective next season) the PAC-12.....unless some college administrators develop a sense of humor and concede that since it is a collegiate athletic conference it should be called the, "12 PAC". Whether we shall ever again play against NU as a conference foe I know not. I know though that if Coach Cabral and his kids can somehow spring the upset on the turf of Memorial Stadium in Lincoln today, then Ralphie will get one more chance to run this year.

After today, we shall no longer be conference foes. But at least for a while we had us some fun.


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