It's pretty easy to see the rivalry's significance. Two towns about 50 miles apart. One is the largest city in the state while the other is home to the state government.
They both house the same people, Nebraskans.
But there has always seems to be a schism between the two. Not growing up in either one I could see the difference. These two town are run differently.
The town up north prides itself on the international companies it holds. Its a riverfront town that was built up on 1800's commerce that came up and down from the Missouri. Sometimes, if you're good enough, the kind folks from Chicago or Minneapolis will come and hire you away.
Omaha always had the business, but never the sports team.
The town to the southeast has more of a small town feel. It's a place where kids from all over the state can come an get an education. Those kids will then either go back home or stay in the area.
However, it had something that the town up north did not, the state's major sports team.
Way back in the day...
I am sure a lot of this goes back to the state's founding when the one city lost the state capitol to the fledgling town to their southwest. There was a belief that the southern half of the Nebraska territory might be annexed to the newly formed state of Kansas. This is where a majority of the state lived at the time so there was concern from Omaha that they would lose it.
Funny thing happened while they were trying to keep the capitol. The possible location of the new capital city was grated it's name from a senator from the city to it's north in an attempt to keep it from happening. There were more confederate sympathies down there so he thought they would reject their capital being named after the former Union president.
Thank you Senator J.N.H. Patrick!
This is just one sampling of the animosity between the two cities. I'm sure there's a great great grandson of a cattleman in the Lincoln area who is still upset about his ancestors getting a raw deal in the Omaha cattle yards in the 1890's.
How Sports Fit In
Nebraska never had a huge history with its basketball program but it was better than most in the state. It's pinnacle came when Danny Nee came to town in the 1980's and brought the program into relative prominence. The football team was doing well and the basketball team was finally taking care of its own.
Around 2000 Nebraska basketball was going on a slightly downward trend. The success that it had in the early to mid '90's was no longer there and the administration wanted to go another direction. Nebraska basketball hit a low point that it wouldn't start to come out for for nearly another decade.
During this time, another team in the state started rising.
In 1995 a boy from Crete became the new basketball coach at Creighton. It took a few years but in time the Blue Jays started to become the premiere basketball school in the state. Dana Altman creates a basketball power on the Great Plains. Omaha finally had a sports team that could bring attention to their town. Something the city down south always had and they always wanted.
This is where our story really starts...
There has always been a competition between Lincoln and Omaha.
Omaha has always prided itself on its moderate size and its Midwest vales that has been able to bring big companies to the riverfront. You have a place that has almost everything in a big city without a lot of garbage that can come with it.
Lincoln, on the other hand, has almost a small town feel to it. I must be from all the small town kids who come to college at the University and end up staying there. People are less rushed and a little more down to earth.
If you talk to most Greater Nebraskans, they like both towns just fine. They may have a preference over one or the other but overall they have no problem being a patron of either.
What this rivalry really comes down to is the perception of each other.
Omaha, sits next to the Missouri river and generally doesn't think much of the city of Lincoln. It's a city that really doesn't need to leave its own confines. Most people from Omaha only make it down to Lincoln during Husker football season. They think it's a fine city, but they really have no interest in being there.
Lincoln, on the other hand, seems to have a chip on its shoulder. It's the government center of the state and holds the flagship university. They look up at Omaha and see, what they perceive, to be a smug attitude towards them. Lincoln is a town that still needs to come up to Omaha every once in awhile. Whether it's to shop, do business, or for entertainment reasons Lincolnites still go.
There's been a flip
Omaha, a business town, has built it's sports fever around Creighton basketball and the success it has had over the past two decades. Lincoln, a sports town, has started seeing a lot of success in it's businesses and growth that was only recently seen in Omaha.
Omaha built the Century Link Center
Lincoln built the Pinnacle Bank Arena
Both cities have grown into areas that the other has prided itself on.
Where am I going with this?
I'm sure you are all bored by now on this take of the two cities. My point takes me back to my college days in the early 2000's.
I grew up in Greater Nebraska and grew up with a basic understanding of both places. I took pride in the success of what each did. I was lucky enough to go to a hand full of games in the 1990's when Nebrasketball was taking off. Heck, I was lucky enough to be there when we were good enough to beat Kansas. It's what helped forge my love for the team today.
Creighton basketball really took on a life of its own when I went away to school and I was proud of it. I had no connection to the university but it was a Nebraska school so I was proud of it's accomplishments. When they do well, I'm generally happy. When Chadron State or Nebraska Kearney does well, I take pride in it. Maybe it's the small town in me. I don't know.
Outside Looking In
I sit looking at both of these teams right now and I see a rivalry that goes back to the two cities. These two team are playing for city pride and I doubt they know it. The success of each of these towns has come from the rivalry that has been brewing for decades. This is the one night of the year that it truly bubbles up for everyone to see.
Every steal the Blue Jays get are for a town that loves their sports teams as much as anything else.
Every basket made by the Huskers are for a town that knows it's just as good and any other.
As for Jayskers?
I'm not a psychologist so I'm not even going to touch it. Some people just ain't right....