One of the things I miss the most during the fall here in New York City is the unavailability of Nebraska Husker football games. I grew up watching the Husker football team play every Saturday, every fall. If the game wasn't on TV, which wasn't very often in the Osborne glory days of my youth, we listened to the game on the radio.
Often, my parents' friends would host a game-viewing party complete with game day snacks and a large freezer full of Busch and Bud Light. When I was really young, I spent most of my time playing with the other kids who had come with their parents. I didn't understand the came and throwing a ball around in the front yard was much more fun than sitting with my parents in front of the TV.
But as I got older, I started to understand the game and enjoy the game. The strategy was fun to watch, each play effecting what play would be called next. College games were more intriguing to me because although the players were much more likely to make mistakes, when they did something extraordinary it was much more rewarding.
I also started to understand and appreciate the culture around watching the college football games. The camaraderie that is found among Husker fans is unlike any other I've encountered. People all over Nebraska watch the football game on Saturdays. They dress in Husker T-shirts and sweatshirts or at least something red and white. (Heaven forbid you where the colors of the opposing team.) There are even corn heads and other crazy items fans find fun.
A game at Memorial Stadium becomes the 3rd largest city in the state. The stadium has sold out 297 consecutive times as of today. After the games, if the Huskers win, Lincoln's downtown bars are flooded with jubilant fans ready to celebrate. if we lose, the bars are full of people looking for consolation.
The moods of Nebraskans during the fall are deeply affected by the record of the team. A win leads to a good week with plenty of hope and optimism. A loss leads to a week of confusion and sadness. Even young children growing up in Nebraska understand what it means when the team loses. Touchdown is one of the first words uttered by most toddlers in the state.
Now that I am in New York City, game viewing is extremely limited. There is a bar in Midtown that plays the games every week but I'm not 21 yet and probably couldn't get in. Even if I was, who would want to go with me to watch the game? My friends here don't understand Husker football. In fact, most of them don't even understand football. NYU doesn't have a football team, we haven't in nearly a century and no way will anyone root for let alone attend a Columbia game.
Sure I can watch NFL games, they come on all the time and plenty of people are interested in how the Giants, the Jets, or the Eagles are doing. But NFL isn't the same for me. College football is something special to me.
So on days like today, when the game is on a network station, I cheer on my Huskers alone, wishing if just for today, I could be back in Nebraska surrounded by my fellow fans.