Sports Appreciation Day!
What a novel idea. When reading the purpose of Sports Appreciation Day, thoughts of my boyhood raced through my mind and I had to reply. The Nebraska Cornhuskers football team are THE sport in our state, and cheering the Huskers through Big 8 and then Big 12 titles, as well as five national championships in football and many more in other men's and women's sports. Reading the Omaha World Herald everyday, getting every ounce of information about our team, occasionally catching stories in Sports Illustrated or preseason periodicals. On game day, my family seemed to hover around an AM radio, listening to Lyle Bremser with his inspirational accounts of what was taking place on the field. The nicknames he would dub on the players like Johnny "the jet" Rogders (I'm sure we've all heard his rendition of Johnny returning the punt against Oklahoma in The Game of the Century) and "The Tecumseh Tornado" as he referred to Tony Davis, two local kids making us all proud. His famous call "man woman and child, did that put em in the aisles!!!" as one of the boys would make a big play, often turning the outcome of the game in our favor.
My father, who really wasn't a huge sports fan, loved the Cornhuskers too. He was soft spoken most the time, but when Tom Osborne and his Huskers lost their fifth straight game to Oklahoma he wondered if we would ever win another championship. Complaints that Bob Devaney, the two time National championship head coach should start coaching the team again. The rest is history. Tommy Frazier running through most of the Florida Gator defense in a game many of the experts predicted a Florida win. Nebraska 62 Florida 24. The ole ball coach got spanked and I loved it. Of course the critical play at Penn St. when a receiver for the Nittany Lions caught a first down pass late in the game, that replays showed was well out of bounds, to set up the winning touchdown. Penn St. won the national championship that year and Nebraska, behind the young trio of future Heisman trophy winner Mike Rozier, future coach Turner Gill and first overall pick in the NFL draft Irving Fryar, finished second. In their senior year, the scoring explosion dominated everyone on their schedule but were upset by the upstart Miami Hurricanes behind Bernie Kosar and head coach Howard Schnellenberger.
On my 12th birthday my parents surprised me with tickets to a game. It was against K-State, a cellar dweller of the Big 8 conference and a team Nebraska beat for decades. It didn't matter, I was going to Lincoln and watching the Huskers play!!! Nebraska won that day by a huge score and the fans were all thrilled to the final play. How I wanted to grow big and strong and be a part of the thrill of being a player on my beloved Huskers!
Now Im almost a grandfather, and as God as my witness I've attended over 50 games in Memorial Stadium, and I have NEVER seen the Huskers lose while in attendance. I have taken my son to a couple dozen games, and he is also as big a fan as I am. As was my grandfather, my uncles, my aunts, my parents and my siblings did. I love Nebraska, I love Nebraskans, and I love my Huskers!!!!