KETV-channel 7, the Lincoln Journal-Star, and 1620 the Zone (podcast) are confirming today that Nebraska is working with hip-hop DJ Mikey Bo to revamp the Tunnel Walk entrance for the 2007 season. What's it sound like? Well, you can go to Mikey Bo's MySpace page to hear a preliminary version, or you can look at an attempt to mesh the preliminary soundtrack with last year's video, as posted on YouTube:
My initial reaction: skepticism. First of all, we need to remember that this is a draft "teaser" version and that listening to a draft cut on headphones or a cheap set of computer speakers isn't anything close to what it could look like in a stadium filled with 85,000 fans and visuals projected on a 120 foot wide screen.
But why skepticism? Even though it's only 13 years old, the "Tunnel Walk" is now a Husker tradition. Yes, the Huskers stole the idea of entering to "Sirius" from the Alan Parsons Project from the Chicago Bulls. And yes, the idea of following the team out of the locker room on the HuskerVision screens came from Steve Pederson. Fans had no idea what was happening on September 17, 1994 after the screens went black with about 6 minutes before kickoff, when suddenly the deep bassline began reverberating from the new sound system, followed by simple dancing stars and suddenly the team appeared on the screen as they left the locker room. It was an immediate hit with everyone. By midseason, opponents had elected to wait in the locker room rather than be on the field when the Tunnel Walk was in progress.
The tradition was cemented on January 1st, 2005 when Nebraska made a deal with Miami and the Orange Bowl officials. The Hurricanes could use their smoke screen entrance at the Orange Bowl if the Huskers could enter to the sounds of Sirius. Husker fans in the Orange Bowl immediately recognized "their song"...and the rest of that night is history. The next season, animation was added to feature the Sears Trophy and the tradition built on itself.
Last season, Nebraska tried something different with disappointing results. The animations had become kind of stale, so instead we got Keith Jackson introducing it, a brief highlight video, and 3 players explaining why "I play for Nebraska". The highlight video was usually the best part, but the other parts usually fell flat as the HuskerVision team put together a package that may have been amazing inside a sound controlled studio or theatre, but disintegrated in a stadium filled with 85,000 screaming fans.
The HuskerVision team simply overproduced this video, adding in a dramatic underscore and adding in subtle sound effects that made it very impressive when being viewed in silence. That's exactly the opposite of what you want in a dramatic entrance with 85,000 people in the stadium. Fans stop their applause and screaming several times...once for the inane fireworks, then again when Keith Jackson appears, then again to try to listen to the players explain why they "play for Nebraska". End result: a muddled, disappointing mess.
Compounding the disappointment was the end of the opening animations, which became the truest form of tradition, a natural evolutionary tradition. You can't force tradition. (Remember Chip Davis' awful "alma mater"? They tried to force it for a few years before finally giving up on it.) So while it was a noble attempt, it simply didn't work.
So rather than return to the tradition, apparantly the athletic department has tried once again to tinker with tradition. Will they be successful with "take two"? I don't know, and I don't want to prejudge it before it happens. The "teaser" track I've heard shows a little promise if used as a prelude to Sirius before the team appears, especially if used as part of a brief highlight video. Sirius is the key to making this work. Yes, it's been used over and over again by countless sports teams. It's not unique to Nebraska. But what made Sirius so successful is that simple deep bassline that reverberates through the stadium, and it's been used in every tunnel walk, including the walks by three national champions. I don't hear that bassline in the demo yet. Maybe it's my speakers, maybe it's my sound card. Maybe they are still working on it.
That by itself is the antithesis of "tradition"... you simply cannot change tradition haphazardly if you want it to continue to be a tradition. Traditions evolve very slowly through the years, and if you feel the need to continuously tinker with it... it's not a tradition.
I'll reserve judgement until I see the finished product, but color me skeptical.
Update: The 2007 Tunnel Walk sucks...