MAYBE YOU'VE SEEN US BEFORE, DRESSED IN OUR RED PANTS, RED SHIRTS, white loafers, red windbreakers and corn-head hats. Since 1962 we've filled up Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on autumn game days 311 straight times. I grew up in Lincoln in the '80s—the days of Redwine, Rozier, Rimington and Rathman—and have been to at least 80 of these games, which to us Nebraskans are more akin to celebrations of state pride than athletic events.
But do you, Mr. and Mrs. Big Ten fan, really know us, other than the fact that we have an obsession with all things red? Well, let me tell you a few things about Huskers lovers.
WE WANTED TO GET THE HELL OUT OF THE BIG 12 (Or as we called the conference, Texas and everyone else.) Even before Nebraska began Big 12 play, in 1996, coach Tom Osborne opposed the addition of the conference title game. Why? Because Osborne believed that an upset loss could cost Nebraska a shot at the national title. And what do you know? In that very first season the Huskers would have played for the Big Trophy but lost in the Big 12 championship game to... Texas. (Of course we grew to love the conference title game the next year when we stomped Texas A&M 54--15, and we're looking forward to crushing whoever comes our way in the inaugural Big Ten title game in Indianapolis.)
The coup de grâce came when Big 12 members voted in 2010 to hold the conference title game in Jerry Jones Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for three more years, making it five years in a row there, essentially giving Texas another home game. So when the Big Ten invited Nebraska to join last summer, it took all of a few heartbeats for Osborne (now the school's athletic director) and the Huskers to accept.
WE CLAP Back in 1980 I sat with my dad in our West Stadium seats and watched Nebraska quarterback Jeff Quinn take the snap against Florida State late in the fourth quarter with the ball at the Seminoles' three-yard line. We trailed 18--14. Quinn fumbled, FSU recovered and we lost. As my nine-year-old eyes leaked tears, I saw something amazing: The Nebraska fans stood and gave coach Bobby Bowden and his underdog Seminoles a rousing ovation.
Thirty-one years later I had lunch with Bowden. When I mentioned that game, Bowden closed his eyes and smiled. "There's no question that Nebraska has the best fans in the nation," Bowden told me. "I was so moved by what they did that day that I can still see it clearly in my mind. They embody what college football should be all about."
WE EAT STEAKS AS BIG AS FRISBEES AT MISTY'S RESTAURANT THE NIGHT BEFORE HOME GAMES Wear your team's colors and you probably won't pay for a red beer—tomato juice and Coors Light, a Cornhusker State specialty—all night.
WE TRAVEL IN HORDES I'll never forget walking into Notre Dame Stadium in 2000 and being overwhelmed by the sight of some 30,000 fans clad in scarlet. Said Huskers quarterback Eric Crouch afterward, "It looked like there was a big fight outside for tickets, and a bunch of Nebraska people won."
WE LOVE POWER FOOTBALL The Nebraskans I know are hardworking, tough-as-rawhide folks, and these are the attributes we want to see on the field. It makes sense: the Huskers are us. My brother summed up how most Nebraskans feel about our team when he said recently, "Liberty and freedom are nice, but goddammit, just give me a Husker win on Saturday." From what we can tell of you folks, we think we'll fit right in.