It's a Thursday night. You're sitting in your neighborhood bar on the same bar stool you've been sitting on for so long that most people in the place know that it's your bar stool.
Some guy walks in, a new guy, by himself, which you think is odd because this is a "neighborhood" bar and people don't just walk in out of the blue. New people don't come here, ever, not even if they're invited by friends mostly because no one in the bar has friends outside the bar. It's one of those kind of places.
You know that sooner or later someone has to challenge the new guy. Someone is going to start an argument with him, and try to make a fool of him when the rest of the bar doesn't agree with him. It's all about turf and defending it against a new invader.
Normally it starts within a few minutes of his first words beyond ordering a beer. If there's a game on, someone's going to ask him what team he's for. If there's politics on, someone's going to ask his opinion. It's all part of the sizing up process. (An aside for a moment that might save you some day - if you ever walk into a small town bar in western Nebraska, don't ask why the Weather Channel is on.)
Then comes to challenge. Someone doesn't like his team, the hat he's wearing, or the beer he's ordered. The new guy might try to shrug it off with a joke, or he might say nothing at all. It may not matter what he does. Maybe one of the regulars walks over and asks the new guy to leave. The new guy has two choices - comply with his tail between his legs or stand up for himself, everyone be damned.
Today he not only stands, but he puffs his chest out. The regular responds by puffing his chest, and the escalation is on. What the new guy doesn't know but you do is he's facing the toughest bastard in the place.
You know where this is leading and you're pretty sure what's going to happen. You grab your beer off the bar (because if a fight starts you'd best be always hanging onto your beer) and step off your bar stool to watch and see what happens.
While you're waiting, you're thinking two things:
- The new guy must have balls the size of Jupiter.
- He might also be the stupidest sunofabitch on the face of the earth.
If there's a honeymoon phase to Nebraska joining the Big Ten conference, this is it. We've a little over five months to go to the official joining date, no games have been played and the 2011 season is far far away, so there's not even a tinge of anxiousness between fans. Everyone is happy - Big Ten fans seem pretty happy with Nebraska, and Nebraskans seem pretty happy to be getting the hell out of the Big 12.
The Big Ten has made it clear that it's not going to be easy, scheduling Wisconsin and Ohio State as the two "optional" teams from the other division when they just as easily could have scheduled more winnable games against teams like Illinois and Indiana. Not only did they schedule the Badgers and Buckeyes, but they made them the first two games in the start of a new era. It's a not-so-subtle challenge.
Perhaps it's only a small gesture, but Nebraska's Athletic Department has responded to that challenge by declaring that the first home game of the Big Ten era, October 8, 2011, will be Homecoming.
Nebraska could have whimped out a little bit and chosen later games to be Homecoming - Michigan State on October 29th, or maybe a better choice, Northwestern on November 5th. Don't give me this stuff about November being too late in the season, the first Nebraska Homecoming game occurred on November 16, 1912, defeating Kansas 14-2. The Memorial Stadium sell-out streak started on a Homecoming game, November 3, 1962, with a 16-7 loss to Missouri. In 2002, Nebraska played Kansas for Homecoming on November 9.
Homecomings are normally supposed to be easy wins, the kind that make everyone feel better. The last two have come against South Dakota State and Louisiana-Lafayette. In fact the last time Nebraska tried to make Homecoming a statement game, things didn't work out so well - in Bo Pelini's first season (2008), the Huskers got clobbered by Missouri 52-17. (2007's Homecoming choice proved to be a dagger for the previous coaching regime as Oklahoma State lead 38-0 at halftime before cruising to a 45-14 victory.)
Husker fans will spend the next few months getting to know the Big Ten. There will be more high-gives all around, maybe some hugging, and then October 2011 will roll around and things will get much more serious. It'll be time for some chest puffing.
Go back to that new guy we were talking about just a little bit ago. Balls the size of Jupiter, or one stupid sonofabitch?
Ultimately your opinion will be decided by who wins.