Sean Beckwith: The plight of Nebraska fans
September 13, 2017
It is incredibly convenient that offseason coincides with college football season. I know this is Denver Broncos country, but I'm from Nebraska so there are no fallback teams for me. If the Broncos are bad, then there are the Buffs, Avalanche and Nuggets.
In Nebraska, we get 13 to 14 days a year to act completely irrational. If these doubles went any further into the season, I would probably lose one of my jobs. It wouldn't be for drinking on the job or skipping work, but more likely a stream of cuss words loud and appalling enough to wake half a hotel.
Imagine bottling adrenaline, anxiety, joy, anger, hope and hopelessness into a syringe, injecting it and then dumping a Molotov bourbon cocktail on top that burns red hot for close to three and a half hours; that's what life as a Cornhusker fan is like on fall Saturdays. The outcome of the game affects moods for days. It's not like the NFL, either, where dropping a game isn't a huge deal.
When Nebraska loses, it's a referendum on the state itself for sports fans. Obviously, the Huskers lose a lot more now than they used to and the pride isn't what it once was, but real college football fans know attachment only grows with age.
Nothing puts the Husker group-text thread on tilt like a disappointing half or even quarter. Guys are calling for coaches' heads, every statement is as hyperbolic as possible, which leads to people responding as if they were trying to talk a jumper off a ledge. There is always an irrationally optimistic fan who clings to the tiniest shred of hope. He'll find any reason, no matter how implausible, behind a defense getting massacred or offensive line implosion and gladly defend it without question.
"Oh, my god, this is disgraceful. Arkansas State has 300 yards in the first half. Bobby Disco is an affront to defensive coordinators everywhere."
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"Doubt. He's just not showing anything for next week's opponent. We're tight."
And the thing is, I'll respond, typing on touchscreen phone hard enough to hear the taps and think that the super fan's mind will change. It's the definition of insane behavior. If you think arguing unwinnable points, exhausting more emotional energy in three hours than I normally use in three months and exposing myself to conditions that give people heart attacks would deter me from planning my week around a game played by college kids, think again. There is nothing sensible about diehard fans of any team, but the glory, vindication, payoff and fun that comes with a win is a temporary euphoria.
Beating a rival or a team of a close, personal friend brings with it bragging rights that can not be bought or diminished. The person on the other side of the argument knows this, yet will refuse to give a speck of credit. Occasionally you'll run into fans who are gracious and polite in defeat — which is how I try to act toward random fans at games because I'm from Nebraska — but that's not the case among friends. I'd rather you cite the most outlandish referee conspiracy theory or injury to justify your loss than give my team any credit.
When Nebraska is bad, it's like a bad ski season. The occasional late-season powder day or win can make you forget about the otherwise dismal year for a day or week, but then you're left questioning higher powers for cursing your happiness. Unfulfilled anticipation has its own section in hell.
On the other side of the spectrum, I'd like to imagine everyday is a Husker game day in heaven. If that is the case, though, my stay might not last too awful long, provided I get there in the first place.
Waking up on a fall Saturday is my own little holiday. I watch College Gameday on ESPN as a matter of routine — never mind the fact that Lee Corso hasn't spoke in coherent sentences for at least five years. Then I'll labor through the early slate, often highlighted by a few Big 10 teams who recently discovered the forward pass. I can't properly psych out myself when I'm forced awake by nips of brown liquor. I like to be unnecessarily sweating at least three hours before game time.
I can't even enjoy burgers and hot dogs during a game. The bare necessities are reduced to oxygen and a view of the game.
Afternoon starts are ideal partly because it's enough time to tailgate or pregame, but mostly because it's not too much time. I like to be able to enjoy the big-time match-ups at night. It's a nice cooldown from being on the edge of having a panic attack.
I would've liked to make this more Colorado-centric, but that would've involved taking pot shots at Rick Neu-weasel and Kordell Stewart. Regardless of if you like sports, everyone should have a passion for something similar to Nebraska fans' obsession with football. Be it Harry Potter, sharks, stamps, comic books, baking, whatever — the less serious the better.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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