For as long as I remember, I have been an ardent Husker supporter. As an adopted blob of Korean baby fat, I was tightly wound in Husker onesies and initiated into the family. As I grew up, I wore every iteration of Husker gear possible, even begging my parents for the Osborne sideline Apex Huskers coat, and I have had more Nebraska hats than I can probably count. I have watched game after game after game, and if I happened to miss a game on TV, I most likely was listening to it on the radio or following it online. I remember the late 80's and early 90's and learned about how to read the option short side from Dave Weber and the Channel 6 Sunday Night Sports Team.
I have learned to hate most of Nebraska's real and/or perceived rivals including Oklahoma, Texas, K-State, Missouri, and Colorado, and I can probably name a few thousand instances where I have gotten a bit testy with a fan from any one of these fanbases. I can tell you times where I was really excited Nebraska would be on the field with their rivals and times when I thought it would (and did) end poorly. Two years ago, a lot of that tradition was thrown to the wind in the chase for money and stability with the former being more important than the latter. If you are a Rutgers or Maryland fan, I know how it feels to see the nostalgia of your childhood getting shattered, but it's worth it because this is a pretty amazing conference.
But this isn't a place to talk about that transition in depth. No, this week is supposed to be rivalry week for the Huskers. We are coming into the landing strip of Year 2 in the B1G and this Nebraska team has been through the ringer. There have been some extreme highs culminating with a dominating effort in front of a thrilled home crowd in Osborne's last official game in Memorial Stadium and there have been some unfathomable lows with Urban Meyer sending in the troops to put up another TD as we speak. Through it all, though, this team has been resilient and so long as they beat Iowa on Black Friday, the Pelini Process will be one step closer to completion. So what about this rivalry? What are we supposed to feel?
On the other side of the field stands a team in Black that we are supposed to hate. They should make our blood boil like Michigan Men make Buckeyes feel. When I see a Hawkeye logo, I am supposed to break stuff. When I find out a person is a Hawkeye fan, I am supposed to ask how many National Championships they have. When I find someone is from Iowa, I am supposed to laugh at the obvious inferiority they possess due to their choice in state location. After all, there is nothing us Nebraskans have in common with those dirty Iowegians that would make us even want to talk to them. Even worse, their overpriced grocery store is sponsoring this game where we honor some 'heroes'. THIS MEANS WAR!!! [sidenote: the Nebraska hero this year is awesome. He saved a dude from a burning semi-truck before it blew up. That is pretty damn badass.]
Okay, so that is the problem, right? I know that there are some fundamental differences between Iowa and Nebraska football fans, but I'll let you in on a secret: We're kind of all the same.
Two-sentence paragraphs aside, I really mean that and it makes me like the Hawkeyes. Let that sink in. I have always respected the Hawkeye fanbase for sticking to its guns and defending their team. While Nebraska football is an extension of our culture, the Hawkeyes really are the same for most Iowans. Well, except the ones who root for Iowa State, and if there is one thing we can both agree on, it's that people who cheer for Iowa State deserve ridicule. For me, however, it goes even bigger. While I am on record with friends for hating driving through Iowa, and for maybe talking about writing a book called, "Why Iowa Sucks," I must admit that Nebraska and Iowa are pretty much the same group of people and I could write pretty much the same book about Nebraska. We are farmers and people who profit from those farmers.
Sure, Des Moines and Omaha are growing more culturally diverse by the second, but at the core of each is the sense that there is such a thing as Midwest Values and we know what it is like to get stuck behind a tractor on the outskirts of town. We appreciate the small towns that make up 90% of our state and when the larger states talk about their Cities, we understand that those cities have nothing on the tight-knit communities that make the world go round. Who cares if Chicago is a city or a town. Neither has anything on McCook or Fort Dodge. Sure, we sell out our stadiums more often than not because this is the only game in town, but why is that a bad thing? College Football is an extension of who we are. It's amateurism and grit and toughness and all of those things we try to emulate every day.
Of course, I am probably alone in thinking we should all be friends. In fact, I am just waiting for all of the angry Nebraskans asking for my blogging license and asking me to recite the starting lineup of the 1995 Nebraska team just to make sure I am not a spy. It's only natural to hate the idea of being friendly with a border team. Still, for all of the reasons we didn't get along with Missouri and Colorado, Kansas and Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas, we love about Iowa. We get each other. You're not California-like, you're not Southern, and you're not Kansas. It's a good thing.
As for the game, I think that it's going to be sloppy on Friday because it's a Friday game and Thanksgiving meals and missed family and everything else. Nebraska has more firepower and will probably win on Friday as well, but it won't always be that way. Football is as cyclical as anything and Iowa will rise up and win a few here and there. While us Husker fans want to keep holding onto the past, we're probably only a little bit better off because we have the history, facilities, and boosters to spend a little more. Either way, what happens in the next few years only matters because we want it to matter. It's hopefully the beginning of a spirited rivalry with good games that decide the division. After all, none of us wants those silly Wolverines going every year.
A lot of us here in Nebraska are okay with hating you for the next several days, I want you to know we aren't ready to set your houses on fire or throw frozen oranges at your head. While some of us may treat you a little rudely, just know it's not personal. We get each other and we can't forget that. Iowa and Nebraska don't carry major TV markets, but we do have good brands. It's something to be proud of and as the B1G gets bigger, it will always be good to know we got the Midwest thing going for us.
Now that I've said that, I hope your team dies a fiery death on Friday and that the Nebraska Offense Killing Machine breaks you. Sure, I might have just written that I kind of like you guys, but that doesn't change that I will always be a Husker fan first. I suppose I should go check on some ticket prices for the game. I hear there are a few available...