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Corn Flakes: Time for Balloon Tradition To End

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, NebraskaWatchDog.org posted an article that began with the following:

A Nebraska environmentalist has started a petition on change.org urging University of Nebraska officials to end the tradition of releasing thousands of red Husker balloons after the first touchdown of every Husker football game.

"Releasing balloons to celebrate the first touchdown at Husker football games is nothing short of mass littering - punishable by fines most everywhere else - and the practice kills wildlife while polluting Nebraska and states thousands of miles away," petition promoter Benjamin Vogt wrote on his blog Tuesday. "This is not a tradition worth keeping if we love Nebraska, our home.

I don't know who or what NebraskaWatchDog.org is, whether it's a lefty, commie site, or a righty, neo-con site, and I don't care.

In the interest of keeping things short, I'll say I agree that it's time for the balloon tradition to end.

(For those non-Husker who might be reading this article - it is a longstanding tradition that Husker fans release a red ballon after the first score. Hardcore traditionalists will say it's the first touchdown, but they have probably never had a small child next to them wanting to release their balloon because the child had grown bored of having one tied to their hand for too long during a field goalfest of a game.)

I get the attraction of balloons. What kid doesn't like a balloon... or at least, I think they still like balloons. It's been a long time since I was a kid.

Better yet, what parent doesn't like a balloon? They're cheap entertainment for a child, certainly. Tie one to their wrist, and it's like you've sat them down in front of a TV for 30 minutes. Methinks that's how most parents see them. Secretly children wish to be rid of the damned things because they can interfere with the eating of ice cream or other sweets, so they wish for the same as the adults; a touchdown on the first offensive drive.

The problem with the combination of balloon and child is getting rid of the balloon without upsetting the child. Balloons are not easily hidden nor deflated. Pop the balloon and you have an upset child. Create a tradition where said team scores against opponent and you release the balloon to go off somewhere... where? Who cares. You've gotten rid of a balloon without the child being upset, established a tradition, made the dangerous balloon mafia happy all in one shot.

Do a few thousand balloons make a huge impact on the environment? Probably not, and possibly not as much as those empty Keystone Lights you keep chucking out the open window of your pick up after you're done with them, but as the earth's population grows, each piece of non-biodegradable plastic (and aluminum) that's left lying around continues to add up over time. This is important even in Western Nebraska where there are far more cows than people.

The real problem is the rest of the world has taken to frowning on the random release of plastic into the air. Never mind whether the balloon is bio-degradable, it's a bad look these days, and the last thing Nebraska needs to do is to look outdated. Wait until the day a top recruit turns down Nebraska because the Cornhusker program is not "green" and everyone will be wondering who was responsible for such an outdated ritual.

Those opposed to ending this tradition are likely thinking; "What's the big deal, they're just balloons", to which the proper response is "What's the big deal, they're just balloons."

In a few years, the sky will be filled with drones anyway, and while you might not think it a big deal a balloon landing in your garden, a drone brought down by an errant balloon crashing onto your garden, your car, or your Husker tailgate is an entirely different matter altogether.

It's time for this tradition to end.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have hated balloons ever since having one as a child only to have it taken by my sister, who then played the "let's see how high it gets before I can't catch it" game and as we all know there's only one end to that. I had a wretched childhood after that and it's obviously left me an embittered old man.)

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