As long as I can ever remember, fall Saturday's have always revolved around Husker football. My parents have had season tickets for 51 years, and it was simply what I've always done. I rarely got to go, but I spent every Saturday afternoon huddled around an AM radio when I was a kid. (That, of course, was back when only one or two games a season were televised. The toughest one to get away with were those night games from Hawai'i, when I tried to get away with sneaking my radio into my bed. Somehow, I didn't get caught...probably because my parents were in the kitchen listening to the game as well.)
I share that because I watch Husker football games different from any of the other teams I follow. It doesn't matter if I'm at the stadium or at home: I'm up off my feet and screaming at times. More than once, I've banged into the ceiling with a celebration or stomped angrily on the floor so hard the whole house shook. (The worst was when Bill Callahan called for an 18 yard field goat attempt at Pitt in 2004; when the kick was then missed, I let out quite a stream of unrepeatable words.)
When the kids were born, I was banished to the basement to watch the game to ensure that I didn't disturb any naps...which usually didn't bother me, because that was also where the big television is. I just had to remember to try to keep it down, which I usually did.
Now the kids are older and even watch the games at times with me, so I haven't had to watch my reactions quite as closely.
That is, until last Saturday...and third and seven. Or was it the 50 yard bomb? Between the two plays, I was upset. Mad. Ranting. I wasn't screaming or swearing, but I definitely was ranting - mostly because I knew that the loss was inevitable at that point. I was ranting and raving so much that I was oblivious to what my behavior was doing to my kids - until my wife told me so about five minutes later. My six year old son was so upset at what had happened to "our team" that he was in tears - and seemingly inconsolable.
Suddenly, I realized that Nebraska football wasn't the worst thing that had happened to me that day. It was my reaction to Nebraska football that was the worst thing of the day. There was only one thing to do, and that was end the football day as far as my kids were concerned. The television got switched from BTN to a kids channel, and there it stayed until after the kids went to bed. Lots of hugs, bedtime stories. No football.
What I learned Saturday is that I need to do a better job of controlling my emotional reaction to Nebraska football. It's not so much what I know and believe about football - it's how I act, especially in the larger scale. It wasn't about being displeased with how the game ended, or in attributing why it turned out that way - it was about how I reacted around my kids.
And I believe that's a lesson for all of us and how we deal with each other. It's OK to believe that Mike Riley is the right guy to lead Nebraska football - or that he's Bill Callahan 2.0. What's important is how you react to people with different opinions. We've lost the ability to disagree civilly; we've become a toxic environment that other fan bases ridicule. (How bad is it? Iowa fans are now laughing at us.)
Nebraska fans like to believe that we treat other fan bases the right way.
And we do, for the most part. But maybe we could do better with each other. We're not even halfway through this season; do we really want to eat each other alive?
Think about that today - whether the Huskers win - or not win. (I won't say the "L" word here.)