Nebraska is renowned for having excellent fans who support their Cornhuskers to the end. The sellout streak at Memorial Stadium will reach 340 by the end of the 2014 season. But there has always been a divide among Husker fans in the stadium. There are those fans who want games to be raucous events, and some who would prefer to go, sit, and quietly watch the game. Typically, that latter group is labeled “blue hairs”, as they tend to be some of the older fans who have had season tickets for decades. Over the years*, the blue hairs have been telling fans to sit down, shut up, and generally do things that one might consider counter to having a loud, intimidating environment for opposing teams.
*I’ve heard the residents of West Stadium referred to as “blue hairs” since the early 1990s. Which means that some of the folks who used to complain about blue hairs can now be considered blue hairs themselves.
The latest example comes to us from the Lincoln Journal Star’s Letters to the Editor page where Charley Ackerman writes to voice his displeasure with the loud volume coming from the new million dollar sound system – it is too loud for him to converse with those in his section. Charley also is displeased by the quantity of “hip-hop hogwash”* being played from the speakers.
*Seriously, “hip-hop hogwash” might be the greatest combination of letters in the history of the English language. I cannot adequately express how much I love that phrase. Hip-hop hogwash. Hip-hop hogwash. Hip-hop hogwash. It never gets old!
Predictably, Charley’s letter has been met with rolled eyes, Internet mockery, and suggestions that he and his fellow blue hairs stay home. But I don’t think we need to get to that extreme. Besides, it’s worth noting that the blue hairs – especially those in the West stadium – are often big and long-time donors, whose money is not easily replaced by young alums repaying student loans.
But on the other side, there are fans who think Nebraska is too traditional, too stuck in their ways, too willing to cater to the old farts who have sat in the same seats since LBJ was in office. They would like to see Nebraska move onto the cutting edge – or at least keep up with other teams that are doing new and exciting things.
So how do we reconcile the wants and needs of these two very diverse sects of the same group? Simple, we take a page from my hometown church.
The church I grew up in does two services. The early service is the traditional one with the full scripture readings, old hymns, and beautiful old sanctuary. The early service at Resurrection Lutheran is almost exactly the same today as it was in 1985, and there is a loyal and devoted crowd (my silver-haired mom included) who would not have it any other way. It is familiar, it is classic, it is timeless.
The late service is the contemporary one. It’s held in the fellowship hall and has a small band that leads newer, upbeat songs while overhead screens display scripture and images. The contemporary service has a more laid-back, fun vibe to it and it also draws a loyal crowd.
Since Nebraska Football is often referred to as the “state religion”, let’s apply these same concepts to the Game Day Experience:
Games with 11 am kickoffs will be the “traditional service”. The Tunnel Walk will be played, with “Sirius” as the background music. Speaking of music, most of the in-stadium music will be provided by the Cornhusker Marching Band. To appease our friend Charley, the speakers will be at a reasonable volume, and no hip-hop hogwash will be played during the traditional service. (Athletic Department staff will consult with Tom Osborne to see what kind of music he enjoys). There will be no smoke when Nebraska comes out of the tunnel, no fireworks after scores, and nobody will put up a net when a PAT or field goal is kicked – just throw the ball back down to the field, please. The large HuskerVision screen in the south end zone will display graphics so it resembles the old First Federal Lincoln scoreboard. Halftime refreshments will consist of non-alcoholic grape juice and a thin, stale wafer.
Nebraska will always wear their iconic uniforms (red jerseys, white pants, and the white helmet with the sans-serif N), and the congregation will be asked to wear red. Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck will be asked to limit the number of passes called, and encouraged to run at least three fullback dives as well as an option to the short side of the field. Prolonged standing is allowed, but will be strongly discouraged. The wave may occur, but expect it to take several attempts to really get going. Don’t bother trying to connect to the in-stadium WiFi, because it will be turned off. But you can tune into Kent Pavelka and Gary Saddlemeyer’s call on KFAB.
Games with 7 pm kickoffs will be the “contemporary service”. The stadium speakers are cranked up so the residents of Crete can hear what is going on. Instead of a marching band, Nebraska employs a full-time DJ who spins “hip hop, but no hogwash”. The big screens and ribbon boards are alive with replays, stats, cat videos, and tweets from @FauxPelini scrolling continuously. The Tunnel Walk is completely revamped with smoke, lasers, strobe lights, and a new song that gets everybody amped up. Every game, Nebraska comes out in a new and exciting alternate uniform and helmet, raising the bar for other schools. Beer vendors will be everywhere in the stadium.
To encourage fans to stand up, the benches in the first 50 rows will be removed. Depending on the opponent, fans will be asked to wear black, red, or white shirts. Students will wave towels all game long while performing more organized cheers and chants than a major league soccer team. The opening offensive play of the second half will be decided by a Twitter poll with #DeepBall being a perennial favorite. Before the fourth quarter, the entire stadium rocks as the DJ plays the song that puts Wisconsin’s “Jump Around” to shame.
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There. Hopefully this will keep all of Nebraska’s passionate fans excited about coming to games in Lincoln. More importantly, it will help make sure that folks like Charley can complain about other more pressing issues, like Beck’s play calling, the price of a slice of pizza, or the number of steps up to his seats in section 34.