As Nebraska fell behind Colorado quickly in 2004, an older Husker fan and I could only shake our heads and yell towards the athletic director's skybox "You can't get rid of us this easily!" I made a vow that while I was going to continue to criticize Steve Pederson and Bill Callahan, I never was going to give up on the Huskers. And I haven't... I've continued to attend the games even when nobody else wanted to. I ate tickets in 2004 and 2005 as the Huskers stumbled and bumbled, but I was there.
But it almost ended last week. It had very little to do with Missouri's 41-6 pasting of the Huskers the week before, though it starts that day. I was on top of a ladder, helping my parents out, when suddenly the ladder fell over, sending me to the ground. Fortunately, nothing was broken...but I've been on crutches since. The doc in the emergency room told me I'd be on crutches for 3-5 days and gave me some great pain-killers that sadly, didn't dull the pain of watching the Tigers manhandle the Huskers. I figured, 3-5 days, I should be ready for Oklahoma State.
By Wednesday last week, I knew that while my hip was better, it was looking doubtful to be able to make it to the game. I put the ticket up for sale; I hated to do it, but I was having enough trouble getting around the house, let alone get to the game.
But nobody bit. Saturday morning came around, the ticket was still unsold. And finally I said, like the "Little Engine That Could", I might as well give it a try. I was getting around better, and it might take me a while, but I'm not giving up this easily. So off to Lincoln I went. It took nearly a half hour to crutch my way from my parking spot at Haymarket Park to Memorial Stadium. The crutches almost slipped me up on the wet floor of the restroom (ewww!), but I managed to keep some balance. I worked my way up the ramp, and all the way to my seat in row 86.
Was it worth it? Well, as the Huskers fell behind 38-0 at halftime, I could have questioned it. I went down at halftime to grab something to eat, seeing quite a few fans leaving early, but I returned to my seat. The players may have given up on their coaches, but no way was I giving up on the team. A lot has been said about the fans who left in the 1st and 2nd quarter, but I assure you, they were in the minority. I was surprised when the second half kicked off that the stadium was still remarkably full. There were noticable open seats in the club seating and student sections, but probably 65-70 thousand stuck around. A few left in the third quarter, and quite a few left in the fourth quarter. But let's face it, the number of fans who stayed was extremely impressive.
AJ the Huskerh8er loves to ridicule the arrogant Husker fan, and it's hard to disagree with him most of the time. Husker fans, coaches, and athletic directors frequently say and do dumb things, and he takes great delight in taking us down a few pegs. And he's usually spot on.
But the fans that stayed last Saturday deserve special kudos. We had every reason to skip out on the team...but we didn't. The Huskers may be on their way to their worst season since before Bob Devaney arrived in Lincoln, but many fans aren't giving up on the Big Red, no matter how little they've been lately.
It's been a tumultuous week, with Steve Pederson finally being put out of our misery and Tom Osborne taking over. Osborne's arrival doesn't change the dynamics of the football team. The coaching staff is intact, and Osborne's arrival doesn't automatically give players heart or fundamentals. It gives us hope for future seasons that things will be different, but doesn't offer much optimism for the rest of this season.
So tomorrow, I'll grab my crutches and repeat my slow trek back to the upper reaches of South Stadium. The weather looks fantastic, even if the Huskers chances on the field may look anything but fantastic. (Hey, coach Fran appears to be on just as big of a hot seat!) If you have tickets, hopefully I don't get in your way as I slowly maneuver my way. If you don't have tickets, head on down to Lincoln if you can. Tickets appear to be plentiful and cheap, and even if the Huskers don't win, you can at least take some solace knowing that you are not a bandwagon fan and that you didn't give up.