This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
To put it simply, I was born that way. My parents have held season tickets since before I was born, and Saturdays in the fall revolved around the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Home game Saturdays began with a mad rush for them to get ready to head to the game and await the sitter. Away game afternoons were spent sitting in the kitchen listening to the game on KFAB. Eventually, I realized that I could listen to the home games on the radio as well, much to the chagrin of my little sister and the sitter. I didn't get to go to many games, though every so often, somebody couldn't go and I'd get a shot. I don't remember much about my first game, other being in awe of the mass of humanity and asking my mother whether she heard me yell "Go Big Red!" on the radio (since it was her ticket I used!) My dad was impressed because I knew the entire offensive line; those were the days when jerseys didn't have names on the back.
The first specific game I remember attending was the 1978 Nebraska-Oklahoma game. You know, the one where Billy Sims fumbled on the NU three yard line late in the game and John Ruud launched Kelly Phelps into an unconscious flying object. I also got to see Turner Gill's first start against Colorado in 1981. Jobs in high school and college made it nearly impossible to attend games for several years, but upon graduation, I started to attend games regularly. In 1992, when Nebraska converted a block of student tickets into season tickets, I got my own season tickets. And oh, what a run that soon followed. After the heartbreak of the 1994 Orange Bowl when Byron Bennett's field goal hooked left, I made a point to be there for the 1995 Orange Bowl against Miami. Cory Schlesinger's burst into endzone exorcised years of frustration in that stadium, and when Kareem Moss picked off Frank Costa, a torrent of emotions were unleashed.
I found a last-minute tour package to the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, and celebrated the total domination of the Florida Gators by heading over to the ESPN set to heckle Craig James and Lee Corso. There was a sense of fulfillment as I walked out of Joe Robbie Stadium after the 1998 Orange Bowl, knowing that I had just witnessed the greatest run in modern college football history. I shared that experience with my eventual wife, who woke me at 2:45 am when the coaches poll was released. Two years later, I proposed to her on the "N" at midfield. Our last bowl game was the 2002 Rose Bowl, and while kids have put our days of road trips behind us, we're still huge Husker fans. Steve Pederson and Bill Callahan couldn't kill our fandom, and now we're busy immersing our kids into Husker football the same way I was.
1976. It was my first Nebraska game - the Huskers were undefeated and the Tigers came to town. It was an excellent game - I remember it mostly because of Dave Butterfield. Nebraska had taken the lead in the fourth quarter - the Huskers had Missouri bottled up on their own two yard line, and Dave Butterfield gave up the longest pass play in Big Eight history - a 98-yard bomb that broke the hearts of Husker fans everywhere as Nebraska suffered their first loss of the season, 34-24, to the Missouri Tigers. I don't know if it was Dave Butterfield's fault or not, but my brother-in-law walked all the way back to the car repeatedly using his name with several adjectives, so I just assumed. Dave - if you're reading this - maybe you could set the record straight?
Anyway, I crammed a four-year degree into seven years, staying at Nebraska 1980-1987. I watched us lose a national title by one play each one of my first four years in college. Here's the thing, though - I never thought I was rabid about my fandom. I just thought I was normal. After school, I'm moved up here to Minnesota. I tried my best to fit in - I was a Gophers season ticket holder for three years and finally gave them up, not because it wasn't fun, but because I was tired of Gophers fans telling me to sit down and shut up (seriously). It wasn't that I stopped being a Husker fan, in fact, it made me realize just how wonderful Husker football is. I was involved in the Minnesotans for Nebraska alumni group until our first son was born, after that I took up coaching soccer and Scouting. Steve Smith, aka Red Clad Loon, captured that time in what is still the best Husker fan book ever written - Forever Red. You can talk about Mike Rozier all you want (and we will), but if you never heard of "Hoppin' Cop" or "7Up Guy", well, you're missing something.
Anyway, all the while, I still had that feeling that I was just normal. This is what Husker fans are. Crazy for fall. Nuts about football, thinking about it all the time. Perhaps more than sex, even. Like I said, crazy.
I think I was on a golf course somewhere, and happened to mentioned my fandom to a friend of mine, and included the fact that I thought I was normal. He looked at me as if I'd just shot him in the leg. He said "Jon, ever since I've known you, you've been the biggest Husker fan I can think of. You're obsessed. You probably have a mental problem."
Thank God that years later Al Gore invented the internets and I could create this web site. It's like therapy, you know, except that it doesn't cost $125 an hour.
So - those are our stories. I'd like to hear yours. Neat thing about this EA Sports campaign is that it gives us a chance to talk about ourselves, the teams we love, and our favorite players. Kind of cool in the middle of July. I'm not going to stand in line to buy the game, but I am going to get it sooner than later. Question - is there some kind of online thingy where we can meet and you guys can play each other?