Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tearing Down the Orange Bowl?

Word out of Miami is that the University of Miami is thinking about moving from the Orange Bowl to Dolphins Stadium after this season. Many Cane fans are fighting to keep the team in the legendary stadium, as an empty Orange Bowl will likely succumb to the wrecking ball. Some of Nebraska's greatest moments came in that stadium, winning three National Championships (1971, 1972, and 1994) and two heartbreaking misses (1983 and 1993).

Nebraska had to play Miami in the Orange Bowl on their home field 4 times, getting blown out twice (23-3 in 1989 and 22-0 in 1992). But that one victory in 1994 certainly carries a lot of great memories for Husker fans. I remember making the decision to try and get to that game. Tickets for that game were the outrageous (at that time) $42 and flights were expensive as well. But I was determined to get to that game.

New Years' Eve morning brought 4 inches of snow in Omaha, forcing me to use the snowblower to just get to the airport. The snow meant a 3 hour flight delay, but I still made it to South Florida in plenty of time to stroll along the beach that evening. Getting to the hotel (ok...it was an over-priced Spring Break dive motel), we asked the manager what the best way to get to the Orange Bowl the next day. The manager laughed at us and said that it was too dangerous and that we'd be better off staying in our room and watching it on the 19" color TV.

Yeah right. I spent all this money to watch this game on a crummy portable television set?

The Orange Bowl is an old dumpy stadium in a bad part of town. We ended up paying to park at a Dairy Queen, figuring that it probably was about as safe as we could find. We headed to the "official" tailgate party outside the stadium; nothing fancy and certainly not dangerous. Headed inside, and yes, the facilities were primitive. A Cane fan in line at the restroom yelled at the Husker fans for not using the sink as an additional toilet to get the line moving faster. We all know how the game went; when Cory Schlesinger burst into the end zone with 2:46 left, I remember hugging my father harder than I'd hugged him in years. After the game, Husker fans stayed in the stands, in part to celebrate but also out of fear as to what they would find outside after the game. Leaving the stadium, chants of "Who's House? Husker House!" echoed through the concourses where so many times, the Huskers had left dejected.

Husker fans worked their ways through the streets surrounding the Orange Bowl in packs, worried about what we might encounter. When we made it back to the car, we toasted the Huskers victory with other fans in red. We also shared a few with some Cane fans in the vicinity, who ironically were afraid that the Husker fans were going to do them harm. (Maybe the reputation of the Orange Bowl area isn't so accurate.) We finally made it back to bed sometime around 3 am, and spent the next day on the beach, where it was a balmy 81 degrees. Flew back to Omaha the next day where the temperature dropped to -10 later that night. (90 degree temperature swings are never pleasant.) But what memories of that night in South Florida. I've always felt that, in terms of location, it was hard to beat the Orange Bowl as a great destination. Returned for the 1996 and 1998 Orange Bowls, this time now in Dolphins Stadium, which while much nicer, didn't have the sight lines of the old stadium.

I've been to the Fiesta Bowl twice (1990 and 1996) and the Rose Bowl (2002), and that 1995 Orange Bowl was something I'll always remember. From the way the 1993 season ended with a wide left field goal, that team spent the next 12 months on a mission for a National Championship.

Is Nebraska on another similar mission? A couple of weeks ago, I felt a quiet optimism coming from Bill Callahan and the leaders on the team. Well...it's not so quiet anymore. In fact...it's starting to get loud. Steve Sipple of the Journal-Star reports that the team is ending their practices this preseason with cries of "National Championship". Good idea? Well, every team should enter the season with this goal. Heck, at last year's Big XII media day, a Baylor player proclaimed that the Bears were going to win it all. Which is probably the reason why turning this into a team chant is probably going to lead to a lot of ridicule, especially when the team finished the previous season unranked and on a two-game losing streak.

2 comments:

AJ said...

Mike, who would be low enough to ridicule the Huskers about unrealistic expectations?

I know I'm not.

Coach Bughead said...

Maybe a more appropriate chant would be "Bail Money".