We live in an age when we can easily follow any Nebraska game as it happens — all it takes is the click of a computer mouse, the twist of a radio dial, or the push of a TV button. But even back in the day when none of that technology was available, determined fans could follow the game in real time.
When unbeaten Notre Dame came to Lincoln in 1922 for a sold-out Thanksgiving Day showdown with the Huskers, what was a ticketless fan to do? Radio was not yet an option, as commercial AM broadcasting in the state was in its very infancy. But there was a way, even if it meant actually getting off the sofa and venturing out of the house.
As the two items at right describe it, a system was in place that involved a phone line, a megaphone and one or more presumably leather-lunged newspaper employees. During the game, the outcome of each play was relayed by phone from Nebraska Field to the offices of the Lincoln State Journal. The play description then was barked out by megaphone to the crowd gathered outside the newspapers Ninth Street window.
Perhaps to protect ticket sales, this service ordinarily was used only for road games. In those cases, the play descriptions came to the newspaper via teletype or telegraph instead of telephone, but the crowd outside got the same megaphone delivery. Even if there was no Man, woman and child! or Whoah, Nellie!, it was exciting, it was a party, and everyone was invited.
NU fans werent the only ones to follow games this way. In Ann Arbor, for example, a similar but more elaborate system let Michigan partisans listen to road games in the comfort of an auditorium. As the plays were shouted out, a lighted board tracked the movement of the ball (a little like todays online live stats graphics). Admission: 25 cents.
In Lincoln, the service was free to anyone within earshot of the megaphone, and there was a choice of providers. The Journal and Star were separate newspapers waging a pitched battle, and the Star threw play-by-play parties of its own. If one paper suffered a technical glitch, the other was quick to rub it in, as the Journal ad at left illustrates. (It appeared the day after the 1922 game at Syracuse.)
The play-by-play information also was put to use for the paying reader in the next days paper. The game coverage would include a lengthy narrative mentioning every play, and there might also be a drive chart, like the one at right, which also accounted for the balls every movement.
— J. Hudson, March 15, 2010
NOTE: Like all U.S. newspaper content published before 1923, the four items shown here are in the public domain.