Saturday, Nebraska celebrates 300 straight sell-out college football games, from November 3, 1962 ‘til September 26, 2009 - 47 years. It's hard to look at the numbers without being in awe. That's a long time. We've collectively gone through so many changes in this country that it would be cliche' for me to start a list, so I'll spare you.
Here's the thing - there's another significant date that not too far away from the November date and it's June 6th, 1962. My birthday. When Nebraskans are collectively talking about what's happened over the length of this sell-out streak, they're talking about a lifetime. My lifetime.
It hit me last night that I have a fundamental problem accepting the sell-out streak as "long". It would mean that I'd have to admit I'm old. Doing that might result in the mid-life crisis that I've so far avoided. Plus - you're only as young as you feel, right?
I have three children. They're wonderful kids, most of the time. The times they're not, they're reminding me how old I am. At times, they're subtle about it - "Dad, why don't you dye your hair" and at others they're not - "Hey, oldie, can I have some money". It's great for the self-esteem.
I finally got them to their first Nebraska home game this year against Florida Atlantic. They were in awe of Nebraska's home crowd, how loud the stadium was, and the energy and excitement that surrounds Husker football. After the game I asked the youngest what he thought, and being of few words he said "It was good. There was a lot of red".
When I tell them that Nebraska has sold out every home game since 1962, they're in awe again. Their jaws drop. It's not the same awe that I have, though. I might as well tell them it's been sold out since the jurassic period. They don't come right out and say it, but I know what they're thinking.
Did they have electricity then?
Did they have television?
Yes, but only three channels.
They had cars, right?
Yeah, they had cars, but they fell apart before they hit 100,000 miles, tires lasted only 15,000 miles and gas was around 25 cents a gallon.
I mention the finer points of life then - what it would be like for someone their age.
You know how they do fire drills now? Well, then people built bomb shelters and they did nuclear bomb drills in school. They were worried about the Communists taking over. (Maybe things haven't changed as much as we'd like to admit....)
What about indoor toilets?
Well, yes, everywhere but Stockville, Nebraska where the story is that Frontier County's courthouse was the last in the nation to get indoor plumbing and that wasn't until 1962.
Maybe the kids have a point about my age, but I'm not ready to admit it.
Besides, other people are old. Like their grandparents. Like this guy who's made it to every game during the sell-out streak and then some, 71-year old Rod Hansen. He's been to 304 straight and started watching Husker football when Bob Devaney started coaching. That dude is the collective soul of Husker fandom.
Perhaps Nebraska and I can hit another milestone together. 400 straight sell-outs, maybe about 15-16 years from now. By then I might be ready to admit that I'm old. It won't matter to my kids, though. By then they'll be using a different adjective to irritate me, and it might apply appropriately to the sell-out streak and me.
By then we'll both be ancient.