What Not To Wear – Nebraska Football Edition

Okay…I’m going to talk about something that will be considered trivial by the vast majority* of my readers.  I’ll completely understand if you want to read something a little more meaningful like this or this.

English: Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska...

I see a red sea, and they want to paint it black. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*Of course, the last time I wrote about a niche subject like this, it ended up being one of my most read pieces.

There is a growing controversy among Nebraska football fans.  It started during last week’s win over Southern Mississippi and has been growing stronger throughout the week.  Lines are being drawn.  Names are being called.  Generations are being divided.

What could possibly cause such a rift within the “Greatest Fans In College Football”?  A quarterback controversy?  Debate over a decision to go for it on 4th down?  Yet another rehash of the “Should Solich have been fired” debate?

Nope.  This one is about fashion.

Specifically, the shirt color a Nebraska football fan should wear to Saturday’s game against UCLA.

For the majority of Nebraska fans, the default answer is “red”*.  The fans in Memorial Stadium has long been known as the “Sea of Red”.  When the fans are in red, it creates a dramatic effect for opposing players.

*Yes, technically it is “scarlet”, but don’t be THAT guy.  Nobody calls it the Sea of Scarlet.

But the students have been leading a charge to have fans wear black to the UCLA game.  The Huskers, for the first time, will be wearing alternative black jerseys and helmets with black trimmings.  In their mind, an blacked out stadium would create a very intimidating atmosphere.

I can’t say for sure where the black out movement started, other than to say it was with the students.  My guess is the Iron N student group played a part.  During the Southern Miss game, a student was shown on the HuskerVision screens holding a sign that read “Next week, wear black”.  The cameraman lingered on the sign, giving the crowd ample opportunity to see it.

From there, it picked up momentum on message boards and social media.  All week, there have been Facebook posts and tweets asking fans – both regular and famous to participate.

Even Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez got involved:

As the buzz has picked up, members of the Nebraska media have taken notice – and provided a disclaimer:

Maybe I’m just cynical (and I’m not trying to put words in Callahan’s mouth), but when I saw that I heard “no, you don’t have to wear black if you don’t want to”.  Score one for those who believe Nebraska doesn’t need gimmicks like black outs, rally towels, and the like.

So now the battle lines have been drawn.

The people in red are the “grey-hairs”, the traditionalists, the people averse to change.  They dislike the alternative jerseys solely on principle.  If somebody tells you to sit down on Saturday, you can bet they are wearing red.  To hear the other side, fans wearing red on Saturday are hypocrites for not supporting the team, when the team has asked for their support.

Those wearing black?  Young bucks who think they know everything, but actually know very little.  Sheep who follow the herd instead of sticking to their beliefs.  They don’t know, don’t appreciate, or don’t care about maintaining Nebraska’s traditions.  They are part time fans who spend the game staring at their phone.  They bought the black replica jersey because it’s cool, and think Nebraska should wear black more often.  To hear the red wearers – why should they listen to the students, who are so passionate about the team that they struggle to fill up their section for several games in the last few years?

Here’s my prediction:  at 11 am on Saturday, the southeast corner of the stadium (i.e. the student sections) will be almost completely black.  There will be pockets of black t-shirts and jerseys throughout the stadium, but there will be higher concentrations in the newer seating area (the high altitude levels of east and the top rows of north).

As for the rest of the stadium, the majority will be in red.  The strongest concentration will be in the west as well as the lower rows of north and east.

*   *   *

What will I be wearing when I take my seat on Saturday?

I don’t know yet.  I’m torn, and have gone back and forth all week.

On one hand, I always try to do my part to create the Sea of Red.  I own Husker gear in black, grey, and white, but only the red stuff makes its way into the Stadium on Saturdays.  Admittedly, I’m not wild about the black alternative uniforms, but me wearing red would be more about respecting the tradition than any sort of personal protest.

I might be more apt to wear black if the University had authorized it, promoted it, or even acknowledged it.  Without the athletic department’s backing, the whole thing seems like some “wouldn’t it be cool…” idea that will ultimately fizzle out.  I’m not a big fan of gimmicks and stunts.  I think those sorts of things are beneath a program of Nebraska’s stature and reputation.

On the other hand, I can see where the blackout folks are coming from.  I get that turning Memorial Stadium black should be a way to get mentioned on ESPN or Fox Sports, which never hurts when recruiting high school kids.  And let’s face it:  in college sports, it always comes back to recruiting.

Plus, with it being an 11 am kickoff, the jolt from seeing the stadium in black could add a boost of energy to the crowd.  Due to a short window at the tailgate/bar, morning games tend to be much more subdued, so any little spark could help the crowd provide some home field advantage.

Even now, I still don’t know what color I’m going to wear.  I’m leaning towards black, but I very well may throw on my favorite red shirt.  At the end of the day, the color of shirt I wear doesn’t matter.  It won’t define who I am as a person or as a Nebraska fan.  Come kickoff, I will be supporting the team fully, cheering loudly, and trying to help the team win – and I would do the same thing in red, black, or pink with lime green polka dots.

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