Three or four years ago, BYU and the University of Nebraska announced the Cougars would be traveling to Lincoln to play a game of football. Not long after the announcement, my friend Grant issued an edict: he and I would attend the game together.
Fast forward to yesterday: Grant now lives in Colorado; that didn’t matter. His family has had season tickets for decades, and he laid claim to the best seats for the home opener against BYU.
Grant has tons of family and friends who tailgate at Nebraska games, and I had never really grasped the concept of what tailgating meant until yesterday. I saw Ford trucks with satellite dishes and big screen TVs set up to watch the early games. I heard party music played in the backs of Suburbans. (I also heard generators. Lots and lots of generators.) Every parking space I passed was stuffed with food and drink. The tailgating continued post-game as well, to wait for traffic to clear out.
And the people were so nice.
I can’t get over how nice the people were.
A couple of friends at school have been trolling me for weeks over this game. Every time a player was hurt or suspended, I’d get screenshots of the breaking news sent via text message. I endured jokes about how old BYU players are. Jokes about the honor code. And there was the #ThugMormon incident. By Thursday, I was so weary of defending my Cougs that I almost didn’t want to go to the game. How would 90,000 strangers react to my “Go Cougs” game day shirt amidst their sea of red?
Turns out, Husker fans really are so incredibly kind. Several strangers decked out in Husker gear welcomed me to Lincoln and extended wishes for a good game. Every tailgate Grant and I stopped at, strangers offered me water and food.
When the Huskers scored the first touchdown, I was surrounded by happy fans slapping high fives. The man in front of me turned to me for a high five and I showed him my shirt, smiled and shrugged, he said, “Aw man!”
And that was it.
Every time I screamed “Get him Bronson!” or “You got this Tanner!” (and boy, did he ever) or “Run, Algie!” not a single person turned to me, glared at me, or told me to get out of their section.
I’ve spent most of my time in Nebraska actively rooting against the Huskers. It’s a long, irrelevant story as to why. But after yesterday, I’ve completely changed my mind. I’m not converted to the Gospel of Nebraska football, but I can no longer in good conscience wish them failure.
Those fans deserve all the success in the world.