It’ll be a strange feeling for me when I sit down in my recliner to watch the Huskers take on Penn State. You see, I’ve been a season ticketholder since 1992, and I haven’t missed a game since 1998. I have an excuse for that: my future wife had a friend that scheduled her wedding for the Saturday before Labor Day to avoid the Huskers, only to have the Eddie Robinson Classic game against Louisiana Tech scheduled after everything was non-refundable. We were feeling bad for the bride and groom that did everything right and still got hozed, so we chose the wedding.
The only real threat to the streak ending was a hip injury suffered when I fell off a ladder in 2007. Ironically, credit for my streak belongs to Steve Pederson and Bill Callahan; I couldn’t find a taker for my Oklahoma State ticket, so I ended up gutting out that 45-14 shellacking. Shawn Eichorst and Mike Riley couldn’t kill my streak either.
But COVID-19 will this weekend.
And what might be weird to some is that I’m not all that upset about it. It’s not that I don’t want to be back in Memorial Stadium. I’m going to miss the walk to the stadium, seeing the Sea of Red and feeling the energy that nearly 90,000 Husker fans generate. I might miss most my end zone perspective of watching the pipeline open up holes or linebackers reading the play. I’ll miss that HuskerVision tries to give you a replay of every play - something that the TV networks don’t do.
I’ll miss the Tunnel Walk and waving my arms back and forth after an extra point. I’ll miss screaming “DEE-FENSE”, “HUSKER! POWER!” and “GO BIG RED” so loudly that I have laryngitis on Sunday morning. I’ll even miss watching the Cornhusker Marching Band fail yet again to line up straight in their pregame routine that hasn’t changed much since I started regularly attending games after college.
But staying home this Saturday is the correct decision, without any doubt. I don’t blame the Big Ten for this; it’s just not safe to allow fans into Memorial Stadium this fall. Maybe - just maybe - if attendance was limited to 15,000 fans, it might not be quite as risky. But by all accounts, Bill Moos and Nebraska never considered limiting crowds that severely, so empty Memorial Stadium will remain.
I’m not upset about not being able to go the game because so many things in life have changed since March. Not eating in restaurants, celebrating events virtually on Facetime and Zoom, and wearing a mask whenever I’m around people outside of my household. So many things that I had planned to do at the start of the year either didn’t happen or aren’t going to happen. And with local hospitals now reaching capacity, I’m worried that way too many more lives will be lost to this terrible pandemic.
So I’m looking at this as a glass half-full situation, because I’d much rather watch the Huskers play on television than not watch them at all. With all of the cancellations going on, we need to be grateful for the games we do get to enjoy and recognize that until science finds a solution to this pandemic, life isn’t going to be the same.
And that’s not an “if” but a “when”. Hopefully that’s in time for the 2021 season. But for now, it’s the best we’ve got. Wear your mask, people, so as many of us as possible will be around for it.