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That Guy's Wearing Red, Too!

Exploring the State of Nebraska and its unique football tradition

Nocturnal Capers in Nebraska City

Watch for me tonight November 6 at 9pm on Fox 42 news!

Judging by the activity in the electronic and print media, it has been quite a week in Huskerland! Last Saturday’s unexpected defeat at the hands of the unheralded Boilermakers caused quite a reaction from fans all over the country. But before we get to that subject, last night at the Endzone Bar and Grill in Nebraska City I saw yet another variation on the Nebraska shirt.

I had been the Husker Hounds in Omaha earlier in the day, seeking supplies for a family reunion of sorts that we have planned in Los Angeles for the final game of the year against Iowa, where I saw an amazingly large range of Husker-related items. Although my wife and I plan to bring all of our red shirts over to California with us so that we can watch the game at one of the local watch sites in appropriate style, I was feeling that we were lacking something. Husker Hounds of course came to the rescue with corn necklaces for the ladies, temporary cheek tattoos and various other related items.

While I was there, it happened that the owner of the store was being interviewed on video for a segment on Fox 42 television. As I understood it, reporter Laura Berry has been doing a series of light-hearted video segments about the current football season and her chat with Scott Strunc is planned to be part of the series. After she had done speaking with Scott, she asked if her videographer could get a shot of me at the counter for background footage. When I told Laura about my blog and book, she decided to interview me as well. The segment will be on Fox 42 tonight during the 9pm news. Lord only knows what I said to the camera – I’m just hoping that my Aussie accent will be distracting enough so that viewers will just listen to the strange sounds and ignore the actual words.

Speaking of strange sounds, later that evening I was walking in the main street of Nebraska City and heard the sound of bells playing Christmas music. The streets themselves were deserted – after all it was 8pm by this time – and apparently all respectable denizens of Nebraska City have retreated to their hearth and home by such an hour. It was an odd feeling to hear the music being played for what seemed to be the benefit of myself alone, but the feeling morphed into an eerie uneasiness as the cold wind blew through the streets and the bells played the hymn “Just As I Am” which is often played at funerals.

“Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

Contemplating the lyrics did not make me feel any better, and so I rushed into the nearest bar which was located conveniently close by. It looks like Dinty Moore’s started life as a lunch counter before being converted to focusing more on the beverage side of the product line. There I found a small but animated group of patrons engrossed in playing a game in which a golf ball is rolled 10 feet or so along the wooden bar until the slope of the bar causes the ball to drop to the floor and come to rest somewhere on a plastic mat behind the bar. The aim of the game is for the ball to end up in a designated target zone location on the mat, at which point the player will be rewarded from a pot of money accumulated by the various players having paid $1 per roll of the ball. As can be imagined, the longer the night goes on, the less skilled the players become thanks to the fine service from the staff, and the larger the jackpot grows. During my stay the jackpot must have grown by some $30-40 without any of the players even getting close to the winning zone as far as I could tell. But I’m glad to say that by the time I left, the mysterious music had concluded. Even more importantly I had enjoyed a good conversation with John, the official game judge, who thinks he may be able to get me in touch with Larry the Cable Guy.

However the next morning I received a flashback to the night before when I walked into the local Walmart store where many Christmas decorations are already in place. I had gone there to buy the local and Lincoln newspapers, only to find that the store does not stock newspapers of any kind. (Once again my country newspaper editor grandfather would be rolling in his grave at such news, or lack thereof.) But as I left the store I understood the problem that caused the premature decoration – how on earth are the managers supposed to find out that Thanksgiving is still three weeks in the future if there is no newspaper to inform them? The Happy New Year 2016 signs will probably be on display by the time the turkeys are being cooked.

When I did find a newspaper (at a gas station, naturally) I read a number of responses to the current 3-6 Husker situation. The Lincoln paper carried a couple of letters to the editor in which one of the writers argued that this season is better than most because the games are more interesting and exciting than normal. Every point counts this year, as opposed to previous years in which the only excitement in the game was predicting the size of the eventual Husker winning margin. The local paper on the other hand carried an opinion piece in which the author argued that the current series of events may cause Big Red fans to lose interest in the team during the coming lean years as the team rebuilds. This negative mindset of assuming several bad years to come, and lack of loyalty to the team is contrary to what I have found among the folks I have met throughout my Nebraska travels. Nevertheless in times such as this, comic relief from Larry the Cable Guy would be most welcome!

Such comic relief was at hand when I met Ray on the flight from Denver to Omaha. Ray is a Nebraska native who was on his way from his home in Oregon to visit his family in Omaha. Since he lives in Oregon, Ray had long been familiar with Coach Riley while he was at Oregon State and he made me laugh out loud when he drew a comparison with Mr. Rogers. When I asked Ray about his favorite Husker memory, he recalled the 1995 National Championship game in Arizona against Florida. Not only was Ray at the game, he jumped the fence in his jubilation after the win and ran on to the field. Not content with just being on the field, he proceeded to photo-bomb a number of the post-game TV interviews with coaches and players, jumping up and down and waving in the background while being seen by a number of his friends watching the game at home. Surely no jury in the world would convict a Nebraska fan for trespassing on the field after winning a national championship. I just hope he had not told his boss he was staying at home sick that day!

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