“The one constant through the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game; it’s part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that was good and could be again. Oh...people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
The booming, lovable bass of James Earl Jones delivered these lines in the iconic Field of Dreams, but substitute “Husker football” for “baseball” and he could sure as hell be talking about Nebraska. Yes, many here are NFL fans but judging from the smattering of Bears, Vikings, Broncos, Packers and Chiefs jerseys, there’s not much of a consensus.
This is Nebraska and the football team is the closest thing we have to a common cause. After the 90’s run of titles, we thought we were set forever and then came Frankie’s slow dismantling, the Callahan/Pedey “let’s trash all tradition” movement, Bo’s return to 9-win consistency but with an “us-against the world including our own fans” mentality and then all of it culminating with the unmitigated disaster of the Mike Riley “era”.
Now, it appears there’s reason to hope. To actually hope for success with reason instead of that “Welp, Ol’ Joe’s buddy who met Dirk Chatelain once in traffic said Tanner Lee has a cannon and screw it, we’re 0-0 right now” kind of hope that precedes a round of Fireball. And then a few more.
Not that there’s a reason for anyone to give a shit, but life’s given me an interesting stretch lately. A big part of my life suddenly wasn’t there anymore and in the ensuing months, I made a new and unexpected friend who doesn’t say much but has a way of getting his points across. He also happens to be a big fan of The Shawshank Redemption and if there’s an actor whose voice can rival James Earl’s when it comes to powerful & iconic, that would be one Morgan Freeman.
(BTW, I want Morgan to narrate my life just like Shawshank. With Explosions in the Sky on the soundtrack. How do I make this happen?)
Anyway, Shawshank is about hope, yes? Mr. Dufresne?
“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
So, anyway, here is a Top 5 Shawshank quotes for the 2019 Husker season:
- “Lord! It’s a miracle! Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!” Like Shawn Eichorst, Mike Riley and the exodus of transfers to Corvallis (I figured I better do something petty & vindictive before you thought I’d grown a ponytail and broken out my tie-dye)
- “Andy Dufresne - who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.” A perfect way to describe the finish to the 2018 season. After the trauma of 2015-2017 and an 0-6 start to 2018, the 4-2 finish with close losses to Iowa & an Ohio St University had us all washing off in the creek while the lightning flashed.
- “Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well. Your friend. Andy.” I’m just lucky enough to share a first name with Andy Dufresne. Those of you beaten down by the last 20 years or so? Consider this a personal invitation to come join us this season. You remember the name of the town, right? (Zihuatanejo) (I mean, Lincoln.)
- “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” Get busy living or get busy dying. That’s goddamned right, said Red. I would think that’s pretty self-explanatory. Time to go all in. No eye-rolling when shit goes sideways - and it will. Stay up. Stay behind them. Believe it’s going to turn around instead of laughing it off and pretending you don’t care. We will be rewarded.
“I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”
Just reading those lines makes my heart swell. And now I’m I’m hearing the musical crescendo as Red walks toward Andy on the beach and the credits start to roll. And I find I can hardly wait for kickoff. Even if it is just South Alabama. (Damn, there better not be any lightning this year.)
The laughs will come soon enough, but before we get there, let’s get a quick list on love. There will be much to love about this season and it may or may not be reflected in the record yet completely this season. It doesn’t matter. Leave the sarcasm behind - and this is coming from one of the most sarcastic, waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop assholes walking.
In life as well as Husker football, I’m done with the fear and the anger. It’s time to go all in from the heart. The wins are that much more powerful if you’ve survived the pain of the losses. And I’m not just talking about 1994 Orange Bowl, the 1996 Big 12 Championship, etc etc. Find the love in what you do including cheering on your Huskers.
In that spirit, here’s 5 things I’m loving about the 2019 season:
- This coaching staff. Bringing in the alumni, ebullient in press conferences, engaging the fans, respecting tradition, bringing in new schemes with the old building blocks. Who in the blue hell thought the opposite of this was a good thing??
- Darrion Daniels. A grad transfer with one year left blows off the draft for the chance to play with his little brother and becomes a captain. Write that script, take it to the networks and get laughed out of the room.
- Dedrick Mills. Freshman All-American at Georgia Tech screws up messing with weed, transfers to junior college, breaks his collarbone, is ready to hang it up until momma tells him to stick it out, doubles down, makes grades, fights his way to Lincoln and quickly earns a rep as one of the most relentless players on the roster. Anyone besides me feel the goosebumps of a good redemption story? I thought so.
- Going to Colorado and dropping a 42-14 uppercut on the Buffs. Maybe that one isn’t set in stone...but tell me some furniture won’t get busted out of joy if that goes down.
- Adrian Martinez. A sophomore captain who has the room and a full year under the tutelage of the Professor Mario Verduzco - the kind of coach who encourages the cross body sidewinders into traffic if you see the lane. Players make plays. We have a playmaker.
THE 2019 SEASON IN A NUTSHELL, BET ACCORDINGLY
Alritey folks, the hearts and goosebumps are over for now. Let’s have a little fun.
2019 game by game in two lines or less. Copy it down now. Unless we go 6-6, then I deny everything.
Huskers 59 South Alabama 17 - Only an 11am lightning storm will prevent this. It is not happening again, so leave your crocs at home.
Huskers 42 Buffs 14 - We covered this above. And 6 Buffaloes suffer mysterious twisted knees, no calls because knee-twisting is just good technique. Karma comes a knocking.
Huskers 41 N Illinois 17 - Sorry, boys, Tanner Lee is unavailable.
Huskers 55 Illinois 18 - Oh, Lovie.
Huskers 31 Ohio St 30 - Urban Meyer makes an Urban Meyer rat face, grabs his head in agony and retires. Is told he already quit after the 2018 season.
Northwestern 28 Huskers 27 - Because...well...home game vs Northwestern. Can’t fight mystical shit.
Huskers 52 Minnesota 28 - Apparently, Minnesota was way better than us last year. Even though we boatraced them head-to-head. With a motor, not a paddle, PJ.
Huskers 44 Indiana 26 - The comeback season is not sidelined by a Lee Corso connection.
Huskers 38 Purdue 37 - Rondale Moore and Wan’Dale Robinson put on a prime time show for a national audience. Yes, this happens.
Stinkin’ Badgers 27 Huskers 26 - The gap closes but- GODDAMMIT!!! Ok, I’m better now.
Huskers 52 Maryland 3 - The boys were apparently a little upset by last week’s close loss and take it out the Terrapins.
Huskers 31 Iowa 27 - Martinez scrambles left, scrambles all the way back to the right sideline, and with no time on the clock fires the ball approximately 42 yards across the field to Jack Stoll in the corner of the end zone for a 3-yard TD pass to vanquish the rat bastard Hawkeyes & win the West.
B1G Title Game - Michigan 36 Nebraska 35 - Sooooo close. Harbaugh gushes in the presser and says Huskers are back to stay but then inexplicably takes his shirt off to make some odd point and the press flees.
Bowl Game - We hand someone their ass. Final record 11-3. It ain’t a B1G or national title, but we overachieve and represent. Mission accomplished. That is all.
All in, I’m telling you. Go Big Red and bring on 2019.