I started out with plenty of hope and was looking forward to a dozen chances to hang with friends, eat some snacks, and continue cheering on the first team I ever cheered for.
To say this season has been a bumpy ride is an understatement. My favorite highlight of the year so far has been last week’s bye week. It was a blissful Saturday, completely free of disappointment and pain.
Tonight though, we’re back onboard the suffer train.
When I checked the time for kickoff yesterday, I assumed the marquee matchup of the Huskers vs Boilermakers would get the 9am slot for us West Coast fans but the Big Ten had to go and schedule it against the World Series. It was shrewd move on their part to ensure as few people as possible put their eyes on a slap fight between a Western Division doormats.
Still, when the clock strikes 4:30, I’ll tune in like I always do. Because that’s what you do when you’re a Husker fan.
You show up during good times and bad.
At least until the World Series starts.
BOLD PREDICTION TIME
Mike Riley is spared the indignity of walking home from West Lafayette as the Huskers use their bye week to their advantage and overcome their underdog status to beat Purdue 28 – 14.
Moments before Clayton Kershaw took the mound in game one of the World Series, this commercial for YouTubeTV aired on Fox. Nothing like seeing the Huskers used as punching bag by Ohio State. Again.
This time last Saturday morning I was doing the exact same thing that I’m doing right now- sitting on the couch in our TV room, drinking coffee, watching a college football game I don’t care about, and writing a half assed blog about the misery I will be enduring in a few hours.
The only indicator that this is indeed a new Saturday is the palm sweat that breaks out whenever I think about what’s in store for the evening. The stakes for my two favorite teams have been ratcheted up a little higher. The Dodgers are one step closer to the World Series and the Huskers have the potential to pull off an upset against Ohio State, or have their season get even worse.
At least there was a little breathing room between the Huskers and the Dodgers last Saturday night. Thanks to the magic of living in the future I was able to stream most of the first half of the Wisconsin game. For the first four plays the offense was rolling on a gravy train with biscuit wheels and all was right with the world.
My reflexive yell scared the bejeesus out of the fella we’ve sat next to for the past four seasons. As a Dodger fan, I’ve been through thick and thin with Don but it always surprises him when Crazy Husker Fan Todd makes an appearance at the ballpark. Adding to my personal hell was the fact that his wife is as big an Iowa fan as he is a Dodger fan so she was having a mighty good time at the Huskers’ expense.
If you’re keeping score at home, the stress eating stopped when the baseball game started. The playoffs make me way too nervous to eat anything other than my rally towel.
After Stanley Morgan Jr. took a terrific 80 yard reception to the end zone, it was time for Dodger baseball so I tucked my iPad under my seat and felt good about Huskers only being down 10-7 at halftime.
Somehow that halftime score became 17-10 but I was feeling really good when Aaron Williams tied it up with a pick six of his own. The Dodgers were on the board and the Huskers were setting the table for an upset.
Then the Badgers remembered their playbook was full of unstoppable running plays and spent the remainder of the game shoving the ball down the Blackshirts’ throat. Meanwhile, the Dodgers methodically hung up six runs over two innings with a lone double as the biggest hit. If there was a baseball equivalent of three yards and a cloud of dust, the Dodgers were doing it.
I learned last Saturday night that there’s no weirder purgatory of a feeling than screaming your head off for one team while feeling completely miserable about the other.
Will tonight be any different?
It will either be really good, really craptastic, or somewhere in the middle. Whatever I gain by not having to deal with the trash Ohio State fans who overtake our shared watch site, I lose by having to deal with obnoxious Cubs fans who always swarm Dodger Stadium.
At least the Dodgers added a new churro sundae served in a helmet to the menu for this weekend. If I shovel one of these down between kickoff and first pitch I’ll be ready for anything tonight.
Go Huskers. Let’s go Dodgers.
One of these years they’ll both win on the same night.
In what has been a semi-regular tradition since 2008, the Huskers will be playing at the exact same time the Los Angeles Dodgers are battling in the playoffs.
If you want a portal into what personal hell looks like, this is it. No sports fan should ever have to deal the the anguish and suspense of their two favorite teams playing simultaneously.
After a spending late night at Dodger Stadium, I woke up at the crack of noon today and have been pacing around the house until it’s time to make the four mile drive back to the ballpark.
By this point, my wife and I have the crossing of team streams down to a semi-exact science. We’ll be in our seats in time for kickoff and I’ll proceed to spend the next hour screaming into a rally towel as I watch the game unfold a few plays behind real-time on my iPad. Once the it’s time for Dodger baseball, I do my best to put the Husker game in the hands of the Football Gods but that never works and I devolve into stress eating garlic fries.
Out of all the times my two worlds have collided, neither the Huskers or the Dodgers have managed to both win. Tonight’s as good as a night as any for that to change.
The Dodgers will be going up against Dbacks pitcher Robbie Ray who is 3-0 against the Boys in Blue this season and has posted a 0.92 ERA in his three starts at Dodger Stadium in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Huskers are trying to avoid making it five losses in a row to those goddamn Badgers including back-to-back heartbreakers. Well, here’s the deal nobody is talking about.
Those goddamn Badgers aren’t that good. They had to rely on Northwestern’s screw ups to win last week and their signature victory was against a BYU team that is 1-5 and all kinds of shitty. As long as Tanner Lee doesn’t score more points for the Badgers than his own offense, the Huskers should win tonight.
Nothing sucks the joy out of a football Saturday like an 11am kickoff, especially when it follows a loss that is still confusing a week later.
While I couldn’t seem to find the time to write about the Oregon game this week, I had time to watch it (the second half at least) three times and still feel like I don’t understand what exactly happened in Eugene.
Last week’s still-drunk-from-the-night-before prediction was that Bob Diaco would go all Rocky on the Duck defense somehow came kinda true except for the part where Bobby D. let the defense get a little too roughed up before flipping the Eye of the Tiger switch.
Pitching a shut out against the Ducks in the final 30 minutes was something nobody saw coming but then again a 42-14 halftime score walked a big chunk of the crowd from our watch site. By the time the Huskers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, there were maybe a dozen of us left and we were surrounded by 200+ Ohio State fans, including this absolute peach of a lady who couldn’t stand it that the Husker game was left to play on a single TV.
The Huskers may have lost on the field but we won in life by sending this Ohio State fan into a fit of blind rage. pic.twitter.com/IPqeClXYAr
1. Many folks seemed relieved and/or content that the Huskers weren’t embarrassed in Eugene. (I have to admit I’m kind of in that same boat.) With that final drive getting stomped out on the first play, there was no time to build up a glimmer of hope before the rug was pulled out from under the Big Red and almost coming back from being down 42-14 is the kind of effort that doesn’t require you to change out of your Husker shirt in the parking lot before continuing with the rest of your day.
However, is the standard of “at least we weren’t embarrassed” one we want to settle on? That’s the exact same standard my lovely wife has for me when we attend a social function with her friends. When you think about it, that’s a pretty low standard. Chew with your mouth closed, keep your fly up, and don’t tell any obnoxious jokes at the dinner table… basically as long as I’m not Homer Simpson I’m golden. Myself and the Huskers should probably try to do better one of these years.
2. Tanner’s Lee’s final stats: 19/41, 252 yards, 3 TD, 4INT, -19 rushing. With a line like that, Tanner left the field looking an immobile Tommy Armstrong on a bad day. For all the YOLOBombs Tommy chucked, he was only (miraculously) picked off four times just once in his career. With Tanner’s total lack of mobility, the offense basically gives up an extra runner out of the backfield so his passes better be to the right team.
3. Will DPE ever take one to the house again? When Oregon punted the ball away with 2:25 left in the 4th quarter the stage was set for DPE to tie it up. Instead he called for a fair catch when there was nothing but open field in front of him. Here’s hoping he finds a way to get his groove back before he graduates.
4. Why couldn’t have Stanley Morgan Jr. also have been Tommy’s roommate? Heading into the third game of the season he’s nearly at 50% of his final numbers from 2016 and has already eclipsed his touchdown total.
So… about today’s game…
With Les Miles in the booth, we had to make a drinking game. Play along at your own risk.
Northern Illinois, huh?
Well, one thing the Huskies have in common with the Huskers is the last time both teams were ranked in the two major polls to end a season was 2012. While that was a crowning achievement for the Huskies, the Huskers, meanwhile, haven’t been able to climb back to what was once a tragically low standard.
NIU’s coach, Rod Carey, took the Huskie helm for the 2012 Orange Bowl as their former coach Dave Doeren parlayed that dream season into a dream job (if you want to call it that) at NC State.
Even if the Huskies are good enough to give the Huskers fits today, you can rest easy knowing the Huskers have a secret weapon lurking on the NIU sideline. Senior kicker Christian Hagan is an Omaha native who grew up a Husker fan. If this game comes down to a last second field goal, there’s no way he can drive a stake through the heart of Husker Nation, right?
But it won’t matter because the Huskers are going to win 49 – 17
PS: Can we at least see some proof of life that Devine Ozibo is still alive.
For a while there this summer, it didn’t seem like we’d make it by the way each day seemed like it was dragging on forever. Well, we’re finally here and I’ve been bouncing off the walls since waking up at 6am.
Unlike Game Day Eves of season’s past, I slept like a rock. There was insomnia induced by a “What’s Santa Bringing?” level of suspense. With the departure so many of the players we’ve cheered on over the last four years, the 2017 edition of the Huskers feels like a brand new team.
When you’re not quite sure of what to expect, it’s hard to get too worked up. But make no mistake, the excitement is there, especially when it comes to finding out what kind of havoc the new look Blackshirts are going to wreak under Bob Diaco.
The returning faces will help lessen the strangeness of seeing Tanner Lee under center (btw, how is DPE already a senior?) but this team is going to need a little seasoning and breaking in like a fresh pair of underpants.
And the Arkansas State Red Wolves are a great place to start. If the Red Wolves aren’t a team that’s been on your radar, they’re the defending Sun Belt champions, going 8-5 last season and finishing the year with a 31 – 20 Cure Bowl (whatever that one is) win over Scott Frost’s UCF Knights.
The last time the Huskers played the Red Wolves was back in 2012, a day where Taylor Martinez completed 13 of 14 (!) passes and Ameer Abdullah ran for 167 yards in a 42 – 13 win that came a week after a frustrating loss to UCLA in Pasadena.
Gus Malzahn coached the Red Wolves that day in his lone season at the helm in Jonesboro. He took over for Hugh Freeze who bounced to Ole Miss after his only year as head coach. In 2013, Brian Harsin took the reigns from Gus for a season before replacing Chris Petersen of at Boise State.
In other words, what the Red Wolves have lacked in coaching stability, they’ve more than made up for it coaching talent. Current head coach Blake Anderson enters his fourth season with a 25 – 15 record. Rumor has it he qualifies for a statue if he makes it through year five.
In the only other meeting between the Huskers and Red Wolves in 2009, Zac Lee (remember him?) went 27/35 for 340 in leading the good guys to 38 – 9 victory.
It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers the new Lee puts up. As long as he’s tossing those “nice balls” that Mike Riley’s been fond of, a pedestrian final line will be just fine.
There’s no need for the Huskers to get flashy. Use the Red Wolves to work out the kinks and save the really good stuff for next week in Eugene.
And that’s when the season can really begin.
Until then, enjoy this the one. Eat too much. Have some laughs. Text those friends you haven’t heard from since the end of last season. Get pumped about Bob Diaco. Start penciling Tanner Lee into your 2018 fantasy team.
With the Spring Game kicking off in less than 24 hours, it’s about time we dusted the cobwebs off this site.
Did you miss us?
When we left off, hopes were running high that the Huskers would leave Nashville with a victory in the Music City Bowl. That didn’t exactly happen and we’ll just leave it at that.
In the meantime, the Big Red Fury World Headquarters relocated from its Hollywood adjacent location to the hills of Northeast Los Angeles, not far from the Rose Bowl. My wife and I bought a house that included a daggum fort in the backyard. And if that wasn’t enough, it came equipped with a TV, a bar, and a Kegerator.
The previous owner, a retired Naval Aviator built this fort with his bare hands and now that it was in my care, the first order of business was getting it set up as a proper Husker hangout.
Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend I was back in Lincoln for a buddy’s wedding and on a mission to bring home some Husker collectibles.
As the luck would have it, I stumbled into a Husker store in the Haymarket that was so brand new its owner was still getting settled in.
Vintage Red Sports Gallery is nestled into the ground floor in one of the Haymarket’s many new buildings and is the creation of JC Wickstrom. It’s half vintage Husker store, half Husker museum, and 100% incredible.
Wickstrom has been obsessively and methodically collecting Husker memorabilia since he was a kid and his collection in the museum section of his store rivals anything you might see in that stadium across the road. In fact, it was so impressive that I went back for a second look instead of making a pilgrimage to Memorial Stadium before heading to the airport. On both visits, Wickstrom was available to play tour guide and his stories were as fascinating as everything he has on display.
Here are some of the many highlights.
If you ever feel the need to chill among Husker artifacts, Vintage Red Sports Gallery is your spot.
Everywhere you look you’ll see a piece of Husker history. Wickstrom plans to use the museum space to host signings and special events during football season.
The pink #12 jersey was game worn by Bobby Reynolds. According to Wickstrom, an equipment manager kept it as a souvenir and his young son would often wear it when dad was gone. One day, the jersey picked up a little dirt during a backyard football game and the son tossed it in the wash, thinking dad would be none the wiser. Unfortunately, he didn’t account for the possibility of the red numbers bleeding onto the white of the jersey. Whoops. Also, it should be noted that I forgot to ask Wickstrom if the kid survived.
You’re going to need to stop in and ask Wickstrom about how he came into possession of the ORIGINAL Memorial Stadium horseshoe. It was totally legal but still required years of waiting and an Ocean’s Eleven amount of planning to pull it off.
The 1996 Fiesta Bowl case.
NBD. Just Tommie Frazier’s Fiesta Bowl cleats complete with Fiesta Bowl dirt.
Lawrence Phillips’ and Mike Minter’s Fiesta Bowl jerseys.
This case is filled with items Mike Rozier had laying around at his mom’s house. Seriously.
The Turner Gill case. Look close and you’ll see the ‘G’ doesn’t match. Back in the day players got one home jersey and one away jersey and that was it.
This glass from the 1940 Rose Bowl is the only one known to exist.
TO’s Orange Bowl headset. Frankie’s practice jersey.
Ameer Abdullah’s Holiday Bowl uniform.
Yep. Looks legit.
Speaking of bowl games, here are the programs from every Husker bowl game.
When I asked Wickstrom if I could shoot some photos, his only stipulation was that I had to include his all-time favorite player, Derek Brown.
Vintage Red owner JC Wickstrom shows off one of his latest finds.
The retail side of Vintage Red is loaded with one-of-a-kind items.
Sometimes you wonder how you got somewhere. I have a feeling both Tennessee and Nebraska are wondering how they got to the Music City Bowl.
Tennessee was ranked #9 in preseason polls and picked to win the SEC East at SEC Media Days. I think people started to second guess those predictions when Tennessee went into OT in their season opener against App State. They failed to meet those high expectations and finished behind Florida in the SEC East. The Vols finished conference play with a 4-4 record and against top 25 teams they were 2-2.
The Huskers were on the other side of things. Coming off a 2015 season with a record of 6-7, they weren’t ranked or expected to do much at all. At one point this season they were ranked #7 and on a seven game win streak. They played well with the Badgers and lost in OT, which was a heart breaker. The season kind of fell apart due to injuries after that but my point is that they weren’t ever supposed to be ranked #7 at any point. Neither of these teams were supposed to have either of these seasons. Which, I think is why we all love college football.
Now that I have set the scene, let’s let loose and get delusional like only true fans can do.
Nebraska vs. Tennessee is one of those games that I should probably watch at home by myself because I have already talked myself into a Husker win, and talking yourself into that before the game starts usually leads to a bunch of cuss words being yelled at a TV.
Tennessee was pretty banged up earlier in the season but looks to be mostly healed up and their starters are ready to go. The bad news is that the Huskers can’t say the same. Recently the Huskers have lost QB1, an irreplaceable mustached WR, a safety that can’t bother to attend class, a redshirt freshman WR, and a few recruits. I would like to share something with you. You gotta be down to get up. Any seasoned gambler would know this is the part where you say “I’m due.”
And the Huskers are due.
Tennessee is definitely beatable. Everybody thought they were going to bust out some impressive run this year and talked them up until they went into OT with Appetizer State. They were pretty consistent in the first few games with come from behind wins that every gambler will remember, with that Tennessee – Florida game being especially brutal. But, then there is the bad Tennessee who lost to Vanderbilt in their last game. They are kind of like the Huskers in the way that you just don’t know which team is going to show up.
The Tennessee QB, Josh Dobbs, has thrown for 2,655 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. You might think that sounds like trouble when you look at Ryker Fyfe who has thrown for 315 yards and 2 touchdowns. No, no, no. What that tells me is that Ryker is fresh. Josh Dobbs sounds like he is probably tired and worn out. Ryker is just getting going, Dobbs is ready to retire. I like our odds in the QB category.
Jalen Hurd, Tennessee’s best RB got the hell out of there and flat out left the team midway through the season when a game against Nebraska started to look possible. So they don’t even have their best RB. Again, I like that. I would talk about the Tennessee WRs but that would mean that I don’t have any faith in our defense and it’s not called Lockdown U for nothing, folks. So I’m not going to talk about wide receivers that aren’t even going to touch the ball, that would be a waste of my time. I’m also not that concerned about the Tennessee defense considering UK scored 36 on them and then Mizzou scored 37 actual points. And they lost to VANDERBILT. Even Mizzou beat Vanderbilt! That tells me that their defense is actually nonexistent at times.
To be honest, now I’m even more convinced of a 10 win season. Huskers by two touchdowns. #GBR
For real time hot takes from Leslie, follow her on Twitter- @lesmicek
Shortly after it was announced that the Huskers would resume their bowl game dominance over the Tennessee Volunteers in Nashville’s Music City Bowl, the bowl’s official Twitter account revealed which team it’s pulling for in a tweet that boasted not one but four exclamation marks.
But let’s go back to the errant tweet for a closer look.
Aside from the fact that there are “social media professionals” who are as bad at using Twitter as your grandma, the tweet itself contains quite the loaded statement.
“At least my team will be in our Bowl game this year!!! go vols!
Based on the capitalization of ‘Bowl’ and ‘vols’ in lowercase, it’s clear this was a rather hastily composed thought that was sent via Facebook. (Seriously, who still connects their accounts like this?)
Then there’s the juicy bitterness of “At least my team will be in our bowl game…”
If that doesn’t scream college-football-fan-who-had-his-or-her-season-wrecked then I don’t know what does.
Let’s breakdown the hell the Volunteers have put their fans through this season.
After a 5-0 start that featured back-to-back wins over #19 Florida (a 28 point 4th quarter comeback that cost me a five team parlay) and #25 Georgia (a 20 point 4th quarter comeback that ended with a ridiculous Hail Mary) the wheels completely fell off Tennessee’s wagon. Over the next three Saturdays, the Volunteers tumbled from #9 all the way out of the top 25.
First there was a double-overtime loss to #8 Texas A&M (remember when they were ranked?) followed by a 49-10 dismantling by Alabama. This three week stretch of doom was capped with a 24-21 loss to South Carolina. (Does anyone even know who their coach is these days?)
Tennessee picked themselves up off the mat and crawled back into the top 25 thanks to a nice little win streak with victories over SEC softies Kentucky and Mizzou and pulled out a 55-0 squeaker against FCS juggernaut Tennessee Tech.
Then came their season finale against Vanderbilt. The Commodores sailed away with a 45-34 upset victory, just their sixth win over the Volunteers since 1965.
And they play each other every year.
There’s not even a way to put a loss like that into context for the Huskers. If you combined the historical ineptitude of Kansas with our growing hatred for Iowa, you’d only be scratching the surface of what the Tennessee – Vanderbilt rivalry is like. It certainly doesn’t help that Vandy has won three out of the last five games either.
If you go to the Music City Bowl and someone asks if they can take your picture for the Twitter, offer them a hug. There’s a good chance their team has put them through much, much worse than how the Huskers have tortured us this season.
OK, probably not. But get a load of the ways the Huskers doubled up the Terrapins.
Time of Possession
If this recap is already dripping with all the excitement of an owner’s manual for an alarm clock, it’s because there isn’t much to work with on this one.
Outside of oohing and aahing like it was the 4th of July every time Ryker Fyfe completed one of his 23 passes, this was by far the most non-exciting game of the season. Even the vanilla Fresno State game had the newness of a season opener going for it and a 22 point 4th quarter to make sure everyone paid attention to end.
Not that there’s ever anything wrong with boring when the Huskers leave the field with a win AND hold their opponent to 11 yards rushing. The seniors got a great sendoff, a touching tribute was paid Sam Foltz, and the newest Husker Jack Johnson had the best day ever.
Jack wanted to be a "real Nebraska football player."
We appreciate the help getting the win today Jack.
Had we known back in August that Ryker would be starting this one we certainly would have dialed down the offensive output a smidge.
NUMBERS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH
3: It was a career Senior Day for Terrell Newby as he found the end zone three times, setting a personal single game record. One more and he would have entered Al Bundy territory.
175: The yardage Terrell Newby needs to hit 1,000 on the ground for the season. Still not outside the realm of possibility.
.705: The Huskers are batting over .700 on 4th down, going 12 for 17 on the year so far.
9, 10, 11: As a college coach Mike Riley has hit the 9 win mark four times and got to 10 once back in 2006. He’s never had an 11 win season.
60/40: The run/pass split is currently a dead even 60/40. Last season it was 52/48. This isn’t by any means a sexy statistic but keep in in your back pocket if Uncle Run the Ball Guy goes on a rant about the Huskers running less this season over Thanksgiving dinner. You’ll show him who’s boss.
6: This one is really going down the rabbit hole of extreme randomness but did you know that six different Huskers attempted a pass back in 2006? Zac Taylor, Joe Ganz, Dan Titchener, Maurice Purify, Marlon Lucky, and Jake Wesch? Maybe you could win a bet with Uncle Run the Ball Guy with that useless nugget.
Oh the things you find skimming through seasons of stats when you’re trying to avoid writing about a boring game.
In case you were lucky enough to miss last night’s debacle, here’s a recap of all you need to know.
Where do we even begin? This was such a vicious, unbridled ass kicking it should have come with a trigger warning.
Without subjecting myself to the digital paper cuts of verifying exactly where this loss ranks among historical beat downs, these are the first pummelings that come to mind that no amount of therapy has been able to erase.
Texas Tech, 2004 – Remember how we were tricked into thinking this game could be chalked up to the growing pains of installing the West Coast Offense and not the harbinger of doom that Bill Callahan was a lousy coach?
Colorado, 2001 – The go-to game when it’s time to point to the one that ruined it all.
Miami, 2002 – Proved the previous game wasn’t a fluke.
Miami, 1992 – The shutout that led to a dynasty.
Arizona State, 1996 – The shutout that ended a dynasty.
Missouri, 2008 – Remember how we were tricked into believing that these meltdowns would stop when Bo Pelini had “his” players and not the harbinger of doom that Pelini was a lousy coach?
Wisconsin, 2014 – OK we get it now. Please make it stop.
Laser Tag, 1987 – Out of all the savage and merciless beat downs I’ve ever endured, this one hits the closest to home and is the most analogous to what transpired last night in Columbus. This one bubbled up while listening to Big Red Overreaction on the way home. Thanks, Damon Benning.
Buckle up, kids. It’s story time.
The scene, Grand Island, NE. 1987. Fifth grade. The martial arts fad inspired by the Karate Kid had finally died out and what had been a downtown dojo was transformed into a futuristic Laser Tag arena. No longer would we be subjected to playing in dingy basements. (Playgrounds and parks were off-limits after a kid in California was shot by a police officer who thought he had a real gun.) We finally had a real Laser Tag arena that was worthy of the booming metropolis that was Nebraska’s third largest city.
My friends and I played there every chance we could. The arena boasted pro-level equipment, a maze of unfinished plywood, and more black lights than an above average bong store.
It wasn’t long before the management invited us to join a league that was forming. We knew right away that this was destined to be our first step on the path towards becoming professional Laser Tag players. There was no professional league yet but there would be. Laser Tag was the sport of the future and we weren’t going to waste this opportunity.
In the two weeks leading up to our first match, we put ourselves though boot camp. We had conditioning workouts at recess and strategy sessions after school. Down in our basement we built a replica of the arena out of refrigerator boxes that we dragged home from an appliance store so we could practice close quarters combat in secret. We were so driven and obsessed we should have planned a bank robbery instead. We probably would have gotten away with it.
Our debut match was on a school night which made it that much more special. After enduring the longest day ever, my mom dropped the four of us Lazer Boltz (the still crummy team name I had to think up on the spot when we signed up for the league) off outside the arena.
We were still on the curb when our competition pulled up.
In their own cars.
Not only were they high school kids, they were the kind of of long haired metal heads you avoided at the pool and ran from at the mall. The deep end and arcade was their turf and we were grateful to be occasional guests.
Now we were about to be locked in a pitch black room with them and would be trapped in there until victors emerged.
Still, we liked our chances. While these kids were busy smoking cigarettes and listening to records backwards, we were training. In an egalitarian and utopian sport such as Laser Tag, it didn’t matter that we were each outweighed by 100lbs.
Until it did matter.
The Lazer Boltz started out strong but we were soon over matched when our foes realized that no referee in the arena meant that an abstract concept such as “rules” didn’t need to exist. They systematically chased us down like a pack of raptors and wrestled us into full nelsons and executed us at point blank range.
The yellow belt I earned in that very room six months earlier would prove to be no match for brute size and strength but at least I knew how to take a punch.
The Lazer Boltz disbanded after our first and only match. My mom flew off the handle on the guy who ran the place when she returned to find a quartet of sniveling kids on the curb. Turned out we were the only actual children in the league and were invited to only to help boost the numbers.
None of us ever returned. The arena went out of business a few months later.
By this point, Husker Nation should know how to take a gut punch and roll with it. A team can practice hard and do everything right but sometimes it’s going to walk into a buzz saw from which there will be no escape. All you can do is take your lumps, move on, and get better.
Last night, Ohio State was that buzz saw and the Huskers were humiliated on the national stage. It’s wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time. Shit happens and sometimes that shit is a scoreboard that reads 62-3.
In my preview of the game, I said that Tommy Armstrong Jr. could cement his legacy at Nebraska by leading the Huskers to victory. Instead, he cemented it by walking back onto the field in medical scrubs 58 minutes after he was strapped to a spinal board and taken to the hospital with his future hanging in the balance. In a night marked by defeat, this was the bigger victory.