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Winging It 2:

Perhaps the greatest thing about this country -- aside from the fact that any random weightlifting Austrian millionaire off the street can run for public office -- is our ability to continuously repackage the same old bullcrap and pass it off as something new to the consuming public every so often. Taco Bell is particularly good at this. All of their menu items have always included the same four basic ingredients: (1) lettuce, cheese and tomato; (2) a taco shell, (3) refried beans; and (4) sour cream. But about every six weeks or so, they rearrange the order of those four items and give the newly-combobulated foodstuff a different name that sort of sounds Mexican but really isn't, like "Beef Chinchilla" or "Grande Carbo" or "Cameron Diaz." Then they launch a six-week marketing campaign around the new item, and voila, the phoenix-like cycle of life begins again.

This sort of thing is currently happening in Nebraska, too. It's my duty to report that Runzas are no longer called Runzas; they are now officially known as "Ovenstuff'd Sandwiches." This clever marketing ploy is designed to conjure up sepia-toned images of the warmth and safety of your German grandmother's kitchen on a Sunday morning as you eagerly wait for her to serve up a golden-brown batch of ovenstuff'd love. What you actually get is the same greasy gut bomb on a plastic tray you always got before, plus some attitude from the 16-year-old behind the counter, to boot. Can't you see she was talking on her cell phone and couldn't be bothered?

This brings me to the latest T-shirt offering from the Husker Junk, Etc. store down on P Street, which is famous for printing up those hoo hoo ha ha ha ha stop it you're killing me Cornhusker shirts. A popular seller this year is one that reads: "New House! New Rules! We Win!," which is quite dumbfounding, given that every Nebraskan alive actually wants the OLD rules back. You know, nine wins, 400 yards on the ground every week, bowl games in January not December, basic self-esteem, and so on. Some fans want that so bad that they've fooled themselves into believing that everything old can be new again. And given all this confusion, it can be tough to wade through all these rules about being a Husker fan to which the T-shirt alluded.

Luckily, I am here to help. In no particular order, here are some rules that you will find handy on Saturdays.

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RULE 80: If you're planning to bring a sign about Nebraska's quarterback to the game, it's advised that you look up the correct spelling of his first name in the press guide beforehand. That's one J, one A, two M's, another A, and then an L, there, Plato.

RULE 991: The statute of limitations on whining about last season expires at 2:29 p.m. CST on Aug. 30. The official period for whining about this season, however, opens at 2:31 p.m. CST the same day.

RULE 457: A man wearing a Cornhead is approximately one-fourth of a man.

RULE 43: If a player is having a really good game, but he hasn't been in consideration for the Heisman Trophy, it is customary for TV announcers to refer to him as one of the most underrated players in the nation.

RULE 1,009: Any sunshine-pumping pollyanna who asserts that Nebraska was just a few plays away from going 10-3 last year must also concede that if it wasn't for a couple punt returns by Groce, and Phil Bland stumbling onto an interception in the fog, NU was 4-9 last year.

RULE 1,010: Any soul-sucking curmudgeon who claims that Nebraska was just a few plays away from going 4-9 last year must also concede that if it wasn't for Nathan Vasher robbing Mark LeFlore, a white boy making a miraculous catch in Stillwater and a momentum-killing personal foul against the left guard the day after Thanksgiving, NU was 10-3 last year.

RULE 1,888: The more Midwestern the school, the more the crowd resembles a geriatrist's waiting room on a Tuesday afternoon.

RULE 23: Ned Beatty has it all wrong in "Rudy." The greatest sight your eyes can ever see is watching the Colorado Buffaloes find new grand and glorious ways to disappoint their fans each year. Unless it's the Kansas State Wildcats. Or the Texas Longhorns. Yeah, Texas. That's it.

RULE 853: The percentage of interesting sports-talk radio hosts around the country is usually around 2 percent, give or take a percentage point.

RULE 1,444: A man who pronounces Brett Favre's name "fav-ruh" is not worthy of your respect.

RULE 12: When in doubt, cuss the coaches. Eventually, there's a daisy chain of logic that can prove without a shadow of a doubt that if they were just competent for a change, everything wouldn't be all their fault all the time.

RULE 14: For some reason, walk-ons are more likely to respond to fan mail than Heisman candidates.

RULE 10: Oddly, both of the following sentences are true: Nebraskans are never happier than on Saturday. Nebraskans are never sadder than on Saturday.

RULE 82: Mental note: Former Big 12 athlete Jamaal Tinsley spells his first name with three A's. Current Big 12 athlete Jammal Lord does not.

RULE 94: If you find yourself in possession of a pair of scalped tickets in the UNL student section, it is customary to pass the dutchie from the left-hand side.

RULE 919: The importance of having a winning football program in Nebraska cannot be stressed enough. If you don't believe this is true, go on -- stress it as much as you can. It still won't be enough.

RULE 606: If you have a passionate opinion about the team, post it online. This will give your views an air of authority and legitimacy that only the Internet can confer.

RULE 286: There is no humilation in your team going to the Independence Bowl after a long, hard season. Really, there's not. In fact, there is no humiliation in watching your team in the Independence Bowl after a long, hard season, either. There is abundant humiliation, however, in watching your team play in the Independence Bowl while sucking down a sixer of Nattie Light on your couch, alone in the dark while wearing nothing but a wifebeater and a pair of dirty boxers. For God's sake, get it together, man, things weren't THAT bad last year.

RULE 76: When accepting a $40,000 cash bonus for leading your team to its worst outing in more than four decades, it is considered good-mannered to at least release a perfunctory expression of regret to the media before buying that new boat.

RULE 986: Things were a lot better in the days before Colorado learned it was actually within the rules of the game to cover Nebraska's tight ends.

RULE 29: When you get down to the old nitty-gritty, there are actually just three angles to take on a sports story: Someone's looking for respect, someone's looking to gain redemption, or someone's looking to get revenge.

RULE 83: Mental note: Malcolm Jamal Warner, who sometimes played Theo Huxtable on TV, spells his first name with two m's. Jammal Lord, who sometimes plays a quarterback on Saturdays, does too.

RULE 16: The reason that Husker home crowds are increasingly comatose is directly related to the school's choice brand of carbonated beverages. There is no such thing as a Rum and Pepsi.

RULE 52: Never trust a white man who refers to running with the football as "toting the rock."

RULE 502: If you see a small man in a bar wearing a 1995 championship ring with someone else's name on it, he is a smug, overpaid poser. He is also unrespectable.

RULE 503: If you see a large man in a bar wearing a 1995 championship ring with his own name on it, he is a former Nebraska football player and a national champion. He is also unmesswithable.

RULE 504: If you see a tall man in a bar wearing a ring that looks just like his wife Nancy's, then he is Tom Osborne. He is also very lost.

RULE 748: In descending order of size and quickness: scatback, flyweight, waterbug, speedback.

RULE 128: The Aquafina bottled water that costs $2.50 at the stadium all comes from the basement faucet of a small ranch house in Tecumseh. In case you were wondering.

RULE 17: "Adversity" is one of the most misused word in sports. Nebraska did not overcome adversity when it rallied from 17 points down to beat Texas A&M last October; they just stopped fumbling every other play. "Adversity" also shouldn't be used to describe situations in which teams scratch together a few wins following a star player's injury. Cripes, falling behind and getting injured isn't adversity -- it's just what normally happens in football.

RULE 403: Burnt orange is, quite literally, the only color in the sports spectrum that does not look good with black.

RULE 1,023: You can move the word "only" through the sentence "I wish Terry Bowden would shut up" and still get your desired effect. To wit: Only I wish Terry Bowden would shut up. I only wish Terry Bowden would shut up. I wish only Terry Bowden would shut up. I wish Terry Bowden only would shut up. I wish Terry Bowden would only shut up. I wish Terry Bowden would shut up only.

RULE 6: Anybody who brags that they stand and yell the whole game actually does neither.

RULE 918: There is no greater friend of a tailgater in the presence of a bike cop than a really good koozie that covers the whole can.

RULE 222: Please, try to be patient. In the near future, thanks to technological advances, nine-win seasons will come in pill form.

RULE 83: One last time: It's Jay-Ay-Em, Em-Ay-El.

RULE 2,519: It is physically impossible to look cool while standing in the Husker Nation Pavilion.

RULE 2,520: It is possible to look cool, however, by wearing a 2002 gusseted replica jersey nowadays. But only in that ironic-kitsch-appreciation-subculture sort of way.

RULE 2,521: Hey, by the way. The 2003 replica jerseys cost $64.95, but in case you haven't noticed, they're exactly like the 2001 replica jerseys over there on the clearance rack. So go on, grab that No. 7 shirt for $21.95. Now pretend you're Joe Dailey instead of Eric Crouch. There, you just saved 43 bucks -- plenty of money for some delicious ovenstuff'd sandwiches.

Deface the Nation.
Vote to replace "Husker Nation" at THE POND,
Home of Nebraska's RED CLAD LOON.