SALUTE TO NEBRASKA FANS
by Tim Prister - Blue & Gold Illustrated editor
Date: September 10, 2001
LINCOLN, Neb. - I could rehash Notre Dame's pathetic performance in Memorial Stadium against Nebraska Saturday evening. I could talk about the porous defensive line, the unimaginative offense and the sloppy, undisciplined play. But that's nothing that you didn't see yourself. You had to be in Memorial Stadium, however, to appreciate what remarkable fans Nebraska has. Oh, sure, they were vociferous in favor of the home team. There are lots of places that are loud. Tennessee can be loud. Penn State, when the Nittany Lions are at the top of their game, can be loud. LSU can be loud. But this is different. There is a reverence for the game. There is reverence, in particular, for Notre Dame and its tradition.
First of all, you don't get the typical reaction toward the opponent that you get elsewhere. I've been spit upon and called the most disgusting things, simply because it's obvious that I'm a member of the Notre Dame media contingent. I've heard and seen slobbering drunk fans use the most vile language directed toward 18-year-old football players. It's been so bad at times that it makes you second-guess what you do for a living. But here's what I witnessed after the game Saturday night. As the Irish players exited the field through a tunnel, every Nebraska fan in that area - and that was everyone since there was only a tiny pocket of Irish fans, and they were on the other side of the stadium - stood and cheered - no, honored - the Notre Dame team. That was incredible in itself. But the fans formed a tunnel all the way up to the Notre Dame locker room entrance. I would guess it was 40 yards long. Nebraska fans, lined up on each side, cheered, clapped, slapped the Notre Dame players on the back, tried to make them feel good even though they had just been embarrassed. I didn't know which Nebraska fan to say it to, so I finally just stopped and said to the nearest red-clad fan: "I've been covering Notre Dame football for 20 years, and I've never seen anything like this. You are the most incredible fans I've ever seen." Again, I've been in places such as Ohio State, where the players would have been told about how bad they sucked and that they should take their !$?*!?!#? butts home. I've heard slobbering drunk Pittsburgh fans say things about players' mothers that would make you cringe in disgust.
In Lincoln, however, is what college football perhaps once was. This was what college football was meant to be. Fans loving their team, respecting the other and letting go of any animosity once the game is concluded. Now granted, the Cornhuskers won by 17 points. Maybe they would have been a little ornery had the Irish pulled out a victory. Plus, Nebraska football isn't the only game in town; it's the only game in the state! But it was still special, and I don't think the fans would have been any different had the Irish won. In fact, I think their respect and admiration would have been that much greater.
So if you're a Nebraska fan reading this, God bless you. If you know a Nebraska fan, please give him a copy of this because his attitude is a dying breed in college football stadiums across the country. And if you think this is sickening babble from a lightweight sportswriter who can't take the heat, well, it was you that I was writing about with such disdain. Take a lesson from the Nebraska fans. They're the most incredible I've ever seen.