Two years ago, the first edition of our Nebraska football yearbook, A Sea of Red 2008, was appearing on shelves throughout Nebraska. It contained a short article regarding the "Greatest Fans in College Football" signs that are over the gate entries to Nebraska's Memorial Stadium. At the time, Husker fans were welcoming back Tom Osborne and wondering what changes would be made to the game day atmosphere, particularly those introduced by (former?) "Enemy of the State", former athletic director Steve Pederson.
Here's a snippet from that article in A Sea of Red 2008:
On Father's Day a few years ago my kids bought me a ‘World's Greatest Dad' shirt. It was cute and I appreciated it. I'm sure many other fathers have had the same experience. It's nice when someone else gives you a compliment like that, even if it's your children and they're young enough to see you as Superman. However, imagine that I drove to Target and bought myself the same t-shirt. Instead of being a compliment the shirt would be a farce (not to mention a little bit creepy). You cannot declare yourself "Greatest Dad" with any more credibility than you can declare yourself a "Greatest Fan".
After two years, I still feel the same way. The signs should be removed, not because we're not great fans - the sell-out streak is proof of that - but because the signs are a self-declaration of superiority, a vanity I find distinctly un-Nebraskan. (Or Is it that our athletic department is so afraid that Husker fans might not live up to the task so badly that they feel the need to remind us to be on our best behavior every time we enter the stadium?)
Now up pops this controversy with the Red Out Around the World web site, which originally declared a strong desire to beat Texas. ESPN's Pat Forde took notice, and used our own hubris against us while skewering Nebraska by saying:
For decades, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have been the self-proclaimed kings of institutional class in college football.
Their fans lead the free world in civility and decorum toward opponents -- just ask them. To hear the Big Red faithful tell it, Gandhi could have learned a few things about dignity on a football Saturday in Lincoln.
Forde's article registered so loudly the the Red Out site has been changed, removing all traces of our desire to beat Texas, simply declaring "Wear Red - October 16, 2010 - Be Loud". Instead of stating what 99% of Husker fans are thinking, the site has lost its edge, all because a frighteningly high level of decorum must be maintained. Nebraska finds itself caught in its own trap. That is a damned shame - I don't know of a single Husker fan who doesn't want to see our beloved Huskers rip the throats out (gasp!) of a team to whom we've lost to so many times by so few points.
There's a simple solution to the problem. Remove the signs. Stop going around telling other teams about what great fans we are and let other people brand us as the best fans in college football, as Texas coach Mack Brown did in June:
On next year playing Nebraska in Lincoln: I think it's special every time we go up there. I like going there. I love their fans and they've always been the best. I'll never forget that moment with Ricky Williams and them standing up and giving him standing ovation and definitely their strength coach standing there, and there's never been a better sportsmanship moment in my life than them chanting `Heisman' as he was leaving the field. I will miss Nebraska because I like who they are.
Do that, and Nebraska will be granted a little more freedom the next time they try to have some fun with an opponent. Husker fans might enjoy a little more freedom, too. We've still got the sell-out streak to fall back on if opposing fans get too uppity, but at least we won't be being beat over the head with our own declaration.