header photo

That Guy's Wearing Red, Too!

Exploring the State of Nebraska and its unique football tradition

Pre-Game Anguish

It was the day after Christmas and I had arrived at San Francisco airport just before 9am expecting to see the usual sea of red shirts prior to a Huskers game. I guess I have been spoiled all year but I should have realized that there were at least two other airports located within 30 miles of the stadium where the game was to be played, and after all there wo be a lot of people who had reasons to travel to SanFran that had nothing to do with Nebraska’s Bowl game. (The poor misguided fools were probably on their way to visit friends and family at their homes instead of packing up the whole group and doing their visiting at the Foster Farms Bowl). In any case, I only saw one red shirt that morning at the airport and was forced to remind myself that I was not in Lincoln anymore.

“Folks in Nebraska are not expecting a lot from this game today, but I’m just glad to get out of the snow in Omaha.” This was the less than enthusiastic comment from the man I met in the rental car line, but rather than let his words erode my wildly-optimistic confidence about the Huskers’ prospects against UCLA, I put his glass-half-empty outlook down to the fact that he had spent the last 24 hours surrounded by frigid weather and 10 inches of snow (and perhaps also some out-of-town relatives that he would rather not be surrounded by).

Just as I had planned to do, in the middle of the afternoon I arrived at Levi’s Stadium by Uber car. The parking lot near the stadium was already half-full with groups of fans from both teams enjoying themselves with their favorite beverages while smoke from their various cooking operations curled into the air. The red groups seemed to slightly outnumber the blue, but all seemed to be enjoying the sunny day in good spirits despite the 54 degree temperature and a wind that made it seem colder. The gate attendant would not allow the Uber car  to enter the parking lot and thus I had to walk across to where he told me I would find the “Official Pre-Game Tailgate Party”. Unfortunately the attendant sent me to the wrong place, and I had to seek directions from another employee. Sad to say this disastrous mix-up caused me to lose some 15 precious minutes of drinking time quality journalistic research time while I found my way to the party.

This was to be the first organized tailgate event that I had ever attended, I had imagined that the crowd at such a gathering would be a mixture of colors as fans mingled with one another and talked about the game. However once inside the Great America Pavilion I quickly found that the large hall contained some 400 people who had self-segregated into red shirts at one end of the building and blue at the other. There were a number of food stations set up around the large rooms, serving a wide range of choices including chicken wings, BBQ beef and pork, tortillas, and hot dogs. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood while they enjoyed themselves, and so I quickly forgot about my Kumbaya expectations of inter-collegial brotherhood and set myself to the important task of looking for the Foster’s.

Amazing as it may sound, there was no Foster’s being served anywhere in the building! Initially I was shocked but then I realized that the sponsors must be saving their precious imported nectar for that magical moment after the game when the winners traditionally crack bottles of champagne – but instead they will crack bottles of Foster’s. What a stroke of marketing genius! I would never have thought of that idea – I guess that’s why those PR guys fly in helicopters while I scuttle around in a little Kia.

But all was not lost, despite the absence of Foster’s. I soon spotted a booth advertising Stella Artois, which I do regard to be an acceptable substitute for Australian beer in an emergency such as this. I happily crossed the floor in the Stella direction, already tasting in my mind the smooth lagery Belgian bubbles, yet I was blissfully unaware of the cruel twist of fate that awaited me. In a classic bait-and-switch manoeuver, the booth that so boldly advertised Stella Artois was in fact serving <gasp> only Bud and Bud Light. Yes dear reader, I know you’re shocked and I can still hardly believe it myself, but the pictures tell the heartbreaking story of the cruel deception played on a poor innocent abroad.

It was all I could do to stop myself from sinking to my knees and crying out the immortal final line of Tennessee Williams’ famous play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”.

“STELLA!”, I wanted to cry in anguish.

I’m afraid I’m just too upset to write further right now, but stay tuned for the rest of the story about the party and the game.

Go Back