Many of my earliest memories of Nebraska football came from family trips to the Nebraska Spring Game. My parents have had season tickets since before I was born, but unless somebody was ill, I always had to stay home in the fall. But in the springtime, the entire family got to go. As the years went by, I fell out of the habit of going to the spring game. In college, Saturdays meant working a part-time job to pay for school, so there was no time for the spring game. Then after graduating, I managed to get my own season tickets, and I periodically treked down to Lincoln for the game. Especially in those glory years in the middle 90's, when the Spring Game was something really special. 1995, when the game was paired with a celebration of a National Championship. 1996, when we stood in silence to honor Brook Berringer, who died two days earlier. And 1998, when we began an uncertain era after Tom Osborne retired.
My interest in the spring game waned in 2004 and 2005, when Bill Callahan sacrificed the scout team against the starters, making the experience a complete farce. I tried to convince myself that I was going to be able to scout the up-and-coming players, but the mismatch made it pretty much impossible. So in 2006 and 2007, I stayed home.
2008 brought me back to Lincoln in April for two reasons. First and foremost, the Clusterfool was over, and it was time to welcome Bo Pelini back to Lincoln. And more importantly, it was time to introduce my year-old daughter to the joy of Nebraska football, much like my parents introduced me many years before.I know many people are going to the game to check out the young players. Does Brion Carnes have a little bit of Tommie Frazier in him? Is Jamal Turner just as exciting and explosive as we've heard? How does Eric Martin look at defensive end? Certainly looking for the youngsters on the field is a big reason to head to the field.
But if you've got kids of your own, there's no better place to be this Saturday than in Memorial Stadium. It's a cheap ticket: $10 gets you into the stadium, and at last report, there still were over 20,000 tickets left. So you won't be left outside. And while you might dismiss it as a mere scrimmage, your kids will never know the difference.
Get down to Lincoln early, and head to the Husker Nation Pavilion to open the afternoon. Yes, it's alcohol free; it's a family event. Your kids can run around on the track and on the practice field. Ndamukong Suh will be holding a "TweetUp" there at 10:30 am on Saturday. After that, there are inflatables for the kids to bounce in, and you can wander in to the Osborne Center to check out the trophies.
Of course, since the game is a scrimmage, you'll probably be a little more relaxed...and hopefully yell fewer obscenities. They'll do the Tunnel Walk, so now's your chance to teach your kids all of those traditions we hold so dear: clapping along to Sirius and Hail Varsity, waving the corn after a touchdown, and all the chants ("HUS-KER! POW-ER!"; "GOOOOOOOOOOOO BIG RED! GOBIGRED!", etc.) Grab two balloons pregame; one to launch after the first touchdown, and the other to tie to the wrist because no kid wants to lose their balloon.
For a regular season game, it's taboo to leave your seats early, but this is a scrimmage, and different rules apply. With about 3 or 4 minutes left in the second quarter, start working your way down to the sideline. Officially it's the "Drug Free Pledge", but they let kids onto the field. It's a chance to work off some energy, stretch those legs, and let your kids score that first touchdown on Tom Osborne Field. Take your camera and get a snapshot. (My avatar is of my daughter at 17 months, waddling her way to midfield at her first spring game.)
The second half usually goes pretty fast; they use a running clock and get it over with. That's OK; you don't want to overdo it. If your kids are holding up well and you are in the mood, head over to Haymarket Park afterwards. Kansas State is in town to play the Husker baseball team at 3 pm. Maybe this is finally the weekend Mike Anderson's team wins a series.
And if your kids are still full of energy, there's a spring volleyball game exhibition against Iowa State at 7 pm at the Coliseum. Especially good to show your daughters that the Huskers aren't just a "boy" thing.
From my perspective, Spring Game Saturday is a day for the Kids. Sure, you'll want to keep an eye on the youngsters on the field and preview the newest Huskers. But for my money, it's a great day for your kids to introduce them to the wonders of the Huskers.