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Op-Ed: Rivalry Hatred Is Not the Nebraska Way

Actions built on a base of hate and anger inevitably lead to regrettable actions. Maybe that’s not the greatest idea to champion.

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Last week here at Corn Nation, managing editor Jon Johnston embraced a “rivalry of hate” between Nebraska and the Iowa Hawkeyes. I’m not going to rehash my arguments against declaring a capital-R Rivalry, except to point out yet another difference between the two programs.

I get the dislike of Iowa fans...especially since the Hawkeyes have now won four in a row. (Thanks, Mike Riley.) Iowa fans have long sniped that Nebraska’s success on the field was merely the result of playing in the weaker Big Eight conference, and that they wouldn’t be anywhere as successful if they were playing in the Big Ten.

Well, now the Huskers are in the Big Ten, and Iowa fan has scoreboard. And they aren’t afraid of letting those of us on the uphill side of the Missouri River know about it.

The problem is that, thanks to the frustration with on-field failures, Husker fans are now reacting in un-Nebraska like fashion. Traditionally, Nebraska fans have prided themselves at being good sports. We share our pregame beverages with visitors, and are openly friendly with the opponent. It’s been that way for years; just ask legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.

So why, all of a sudden, are we suddenly turning into the Colorado Buffaloes?

Bill McCartney decided he needed a rival when he took over as head coach of the Buffaloes in the 80’s. He picked Nebraska because the Big Red was good and bordered the state. That made sense. But he took it a step further, by basing it on hate, like he remembered from his days at Michigan. He banned anybody in the athletic department from ever wearing red; the only time red was used in Boulder was to identify the Nebraska game as a “red letter” game on the schedule. And the folks in Boulder go the message that red was unwelcome. Cars were keyed, beer was thrown (both fresh and recycled) and fans were abused. Woody Paige launched a bid to get on ESPN by writing ridiculous Nebraska jokes.

Nebraska fans back then took offense at this sort of behavior; rivalries were settled on the fields, not in the parking lots and alleys outside the stadium. Nebraska fans may have thought they “hated” Oklahoma and Barry Switzer for spoiling so many Novembers, but in retrospect, it was more like “dislike” in comparison. This level of hate ran counter to what Nebraska fans generally found acceptable; so much so, that even today, many Nebraska fans refuse to acknowledge the Buffaloes as a rival.

The “forcing” of the rivalry grew stronger when the Big XII conference was created. Nebraska thought the four Texas schools were joining the Big Eight, but the other seven Big Eight schools saw it as a completely new proposition. In order to support a conference championship game, the 12 teams were broken into two six team divisions, with Oklahoma leaving their old Big Eight partners to join the four Texas schools in the south division. And worst of all for Nebraska, replacing the Huskers as the Sooners’ traditional season-concluding game in favor of the Bedlam game with Oklahoma State.

ABC then made the call to fill that season ending void on the Huskers schedule with the Colorado game. It made sense to TV; the Buffs and Huskers were regularly playing for the Big Eight title in the early 90s. Colorado loved it and saw it as validation of their rivalry. Husker fans didn’t and grew even more entrenched against the “forced rivalry”. There was hate there, of course. Hate towards the actions of Colorado fans and the loss of the annual Oklahoma game.

So when Nebraska joined the Big Ten, it seemed logical to replace one black-and-gold opponent with another: Iowa. A regional supermarket chain created a trophy, and the two schools created a “Heroes” concept to make it a positive rivalry. Nebraska was clearly tired of two decades of assclownery from a handful of Colorado fans, and didn’t want a repeat when the Black Friday matchup turned to the east.

Except it seems to be happening. Husker fans who rolled their eyes towards the antics of Colorado douchebags twenty years ago now return fire. Or now even instigate them in the first place. On last week’s CornNation threads, community members were popping out “f-bomb Iowa” responses faster than a microwave heating a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn. It used to be that the f-bombs only came out in the comments after yet another Tanner Lee interception or Wisconsin jet sweep; now they are too numerous to keep track of.

But what’s the big deal? So we like to swear.

Nobody’s been harmed, yet. Which is true, but incivil language leads to incivil actions. And before lone, we’re going down a slope leading to things like this.

Far be it from me to proclaim that the fans of the “Weasels” are completely innocent here. The point here is that there comes a point that the “rivalry” has gone too far, and it’s best to cool it long before people are hurt or property is destroyed.

That type of rivalry is not the Nebraska way. We aren’t like that.

A little trash talking, a few jokes are one thing. But let’s keep a level head about it, and not allow this to get out of control.