By Dennis L. Morgan
MANHATTAN, Kan. — So this is how it’s going to be. Nebraska’ Big 12 Farewell Tour began Thursday night under the national spotlight on ESPN. I and many of my publisher colleagues in the Nebraska Press Association traveled to the game as part of a football package which was put together months ago. I was unaware at the time that this would be a farewell tour of sorts for the Big Red as when the trip was booked we were still in the Big 12. It was only afterwards that it was announced that Nebraska would join the Big 10 in 2011. So how was our reception in Manhattan? Not as bad as one might think.
Sure, the students were rowdy, some of their signs were downright funny. The funniest was actually a purple t-shirt which had an arrow on it and said, “Here’s Your Big Ten.” But, the fans weren’t mean-spirited at all. All were gracious, if they had an opinion, they pretty much kept it to themselves in the section we were sitting. Several said, and I agreed, its sad to see tradition fall by the wayside. The Huskers and Kansas State have played for nearly 100 years. The same goes for Kansas and Missouri. As for Colorado? Those looney left-wing nuts were never much of a rival and it was only Bill McCartney’s spewing of hate towards Nebraska which made their fans care about the game. For a man who professed to be a Christian, his actions were as un-Christian as any I’ve witnessed through the years.
But this isn’t about McCartney or a bunch of Ralphie Buffaloes. No, it’s about farewell, saying goodbye to what once was and, in a matter of months, moving on to a new era.
Coach Bo Pelini’s Huskers were better than Kansas State in every facet of the game. There wasn’t a single player on the K-State squad which could have started for the Huskers. That’s not to say they won’t have a good season. Coach Bill Snyder is a talented coach. To accomplish what he did in Manhattan was a miracle. Can he do it again? I don’t think so in the climate that is college football today.
Just a few more observations from my visit to Manhattan:
• Every section has one — No matter what school you cheer on, if you go to a game you are bound to find an obnoxious fan in every section. So it was where we sat, in the balcony Thursday night. It was a Nebraska fan who wouldn’t shut up, preferring to bad mouth everything Kansas State did. It was no surprise in that his mouth had been disconnected from his brain by too many aluminum cans filled with barley pops. That’s why I hate college games played at night. Too much time for fans to drink before the game and lose control of their minds.
Then there was the mama who wanted to be the daughter. A couple of rows in front of us and a couple of seats over was a gal who appeared to be in her late 30s. Her hair, propped up by what surely was a can of hair spray, made her looked like she had been freshly-squeezed. With her husband and daughter at her side, she did everything she could to get noticed by anyone who would want to look. She, a Husker fan, told the guy sitting behind her that she was going to stand the entire game and he would have to deal with it. Poor fan etiquette can be found anywhere.
• Travel by bus — The best way to travel to a game is by bus. Let someone else do the driving so you can sit back and relax. However, beware of those windows because you can see clearly into the adjoining buses. Through no fault of our own, we were parked by the Nebraska Marching Band buses. After the game, while we’re waiting for everyone to get on our bus, several of us noticed the band members boarding their buses. Then we got an eyeful — band members took off their band uniforms to change into street clothes. Let’s just say, college students aren’t’ bashful about changing in front of each other, nor do they care about windows.
• A nice place to visit — On this day, it was one of those picture postcard days for the City of Manhattan. Visiting downtown Manhattan that afternoon, the city was clean and full of purple pride. I will miss Manhattan because the people are, in many ways, much like Nebraskans. The same things which make Nebraskans good people, can be found in the people in and around Manhattan. I look forward to someday returning there.
This week marks homecoming at Elgin Public and Pope John Central Catholic schools. The two schools will have separate homecoming royalty, but will celebrate much of homecoming week together. From my observations, the sports co-op has been positive for both schools, the athletes and the fans.
As I write this, on Sunday night, I’m stuffed from the fine food served at the annual ham and turkey dinner held at the Elgin United Methodist Church. I have yet to be disappointed by the food served there. These events are symbolic of what makes living in a rural community so much better than in a large urban environment. People working together for a common cause with plenty of good fellowship on display.