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Winging It 4:

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past three and a half months, Saturday is a very big, big, holy-snikeys-is-it-big day in Cornhuskerland. Yes, Nebraska kicks off its 2003 campaign Saturday on national TV, but more importantly, there are going to be a bunch of old players walking around for something that we're told is being called the "Husker Nation Reunion."

We're told this basically means that before the game, 800 or so former Cornhusker football players will march in unison to the stadium, where they will whip the crowd into a frenzied, patriotic fervor. It is hoped by NU officials that this will be the biggest show of national pride, solidarity and might at an athletic contest since the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Munich Olympics. Also, by estimates that were calculated on the Bill McCartney Gimmick-O-Meter v2.0, the Husker Nation Reunion is expected to be worth at least seven to 10 extra points against fearsome Oklahoma A&M, Saturday's opponent. We can only hope this innovative tactic pays off.

Getting substantially less publicity, however, is a small ceremony that will honor the contemporary and historical figures who maybe didn't have as direct an influence on Cornhusker football as the Rathmans and Roziers and Rodgerses, but who are worthy of at least an asterisk in the annals of Husker History just the same. We're talking, of course, about the yearly induction ceremony into the Nebraska Hall of Almost Fame. This year's event is set for 3 p.m. Saturday in the Neil Harris Lecture Hall of Almost Fame, just outside Wymore in downtown Blue Springs, Nebraska. The emcee is UNL physics professor Dr. John Jensen, who was honored in 1995 for nearly becoming a household name in the state by being the runner-up to Dr. Tim Gay for the job of explaining football physics to HuskerVision viewers at the end of the third quarter each week.

This year's Hall of Almost Fame honorees will include:

-- Bryan "Biff" Stinson. A native of Schuyler, member of Acacia fraternity and a former high-school wrestling champion, Biff joined the Cornhusker Yell Squad in 1981 with the lone intention of watching the Cornhuskers from field level each week. Biff's claim to almost-fame came the Wednesday after the 1982 New Mexico State contest, a 68-0 victory that was chronicled by a mid-week game summary mailed out by Huskers Illustrated magazine to subscribers. In one of the photos in that specific publication, Biff can be seen in the background screaming "Go!" as tight end Jamie Williams runs along the West sideline toward the end zone. Biff also was a fixture on television in the early 1980s, appearing in a series of brief, between-play camera shots, most of which showed him yelling "Wooo" and thrusting his index finger toward the screen. Unfortunately, his career came to a tragic end in the waning seconds of NU's 1982 loss to Penn State. Biff ripped a ligament in his right knee when Nittany Lion receiver Mike McCloskey crashed into him while catching a controversial sideline pass that NU defenders claimed was out of bounds.

-- Carlos Wistrom. The youngest and least renowned of the Wistrom brothers, Carlos inherited too little of the family's trademark athletic qualities of size, strength and quickness. Despite his lack of talent and stature, he accepted a full-ride football scholarship to Nebraska in 1999, and became a holder on kickoffs when it was too windy for the ball to stay on the tee. After languishing at the bottom of the depth chart for two seasons, he transferred to the University of Missouri, where he abandoned athletics entirely, discovered the works of Walt Whitman and and earned a degree in English. In his abundant spare time, Carlos works as a barista at Java Jungle, a popular coffee shop near the MU campus. He also is required to sit at the kids table at all Wistrom family gatherings until further notice.

-- Sumeet Kadakia. A little-known vascular surgeon now practicing in San Clemente, Calif., Dr. Kadakia was an intern in the Lincoln office of Dr. Deepak Gangahar in the fall of 1994, when Tommie Frazier was a patient seeking treatment for troublesome blood clots. One evening in early December, Kadakia found himself late for an office holiday party thanks to a mountain of unfinished patient histories. In his haste, he inadvertently signed off on the entire stack of paperwork without really reading any of it. Included in that pile was a last-ditch athletic department request to get medical permission to allow the ailing Frazier to play in the upcoming Orange Bowl against Miami. And, as every Nebraskan knows, the rest is history. Sort of.

-- John "Backup"Caliendo. A walk-on, fifth-string fullback for the Cornhuskers from 1976-79 whose superlative-proof runs at the end of blowout victories served only to kill the clock and rest the starters for next week. At different points during his three-year stint of mopping up in garbage time, he was also known as John "Vanilla" Caliendo, John "Whitey" Caliendo, and John "Who Does That Guy Share His Number With" Caliendo. When told he would be inducted into the Hall this year, Caliendo, now an actuary in Omaha, replied: "Fine."

-- Greta Babushkin. A nineteenth-century dyslexic Prussian woman who, according to legend, got hungry during a lengthy evening of listening to her husband and his boorish friends sit around discussing the shortcomings of the local soccer club and decided to use whatever she had in the kitchen to create a warm meal. She placed a solid oval-shaped wad of bread dough in the center of a metal sheet and sprinkled ground beef, cabbage, onion and spices all over it, then baked it for several minutes. When it was finally done, it was a completely uneatable and unmanageable disaster, and she eventually fed it to the family dog. Six decades later, the woman's American granddaughter uncovered the odd recipe while moving her parents into a Lincoln retirement home. The granddaughter reversed its design, putting the ingredients inside the dough instead, and wound up creating one of Nebraska's most recognizable game-day delicacies.

-- Isaiah Bartholomew Hipp. The only son of 1970s Cornhusker prancer I.M. Hipp, I.B. attracted NU's interest when he ran for 2,628 yards and 29 touchdowns his junior year and led perennial loser Alameda Central High School in Oakland, Calif., to the regional crown. It was while watching I.B. race past three defenders on his way to a score that a Language Arts teacher became inspired to begin chronicling the African-American dialect known as Ebonics, which later caused national headlines for about a week or so when the Oakland School District considered adopting it as an officially recognized language. I.B. Hipp blew out his knee playing a pickup game of basketball the following spring and his present whereabouts are unknown.

-- Bob Mould. The lead singer of the 1970s band Husker Du, a three-piece punk/power-pop band from Minneapolis. Husker Du, which is actually Swedish for "Do You Remember," was one of the most influential groups of the "alternative" generation, providing inspiration for such bands such as Nirvana, the Foo Fighters and The Pixies. Although not a mainstream commercial success in their nine-year lifespan, Mould's group continues to enjoy staggering record sales in Nebraska, whose denizens are required by law to purchase as much merchandise with the word "Husker" on it as they can in their lifetimes. Later in his career, Mould formed the band Sugar, which as far as the Nebraska Hall of Almost Fame selection committee can tell has nothing to do with the Louisiana Superdome.

-- Marion "Carriage Crash"Pinkerton. The centre halfback of the 1904 Nebraska U. footballing team, Pinkerton was best known for having a herculean tolerance for pain. In fact, Pinkerton played the entire second half of the Old Gold Knights'' 46-0 victory in '04 over Grinnell with a fractured skull, leading them in rushing yards and tackles. By the end of the game, his all-white road uniform was streaked with red, inspiring Cy Sherman, a sportswriter for the Nebraska Evening Journal at the time, to begin calling the team the "Big Red" in his account of the contest. The phrase became a rallying cry with the team; the following week, in homage to their courageous teammate, the Knights ran onto the field in Boulder, Colo., still adorned in their trademark white jerseys and white pants, but with a slight modification -- a red stripe up either side. They promptly lost the game, however, and reverted their uniforms to the Old Gold and Black, claiming there were some things you just didn't mess with. Tradition being one of them.

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