Passion burns bright at Memorial Stadium

John Schmidt

Every fall confirms it. Football is started up again and people seem to love it. I however, am not one of those people. I’ve watched football, and I, to an extent understand football. But I don’t really enjoy the sport as much as others do, which is why The Collegian had me go in the stands at the SDSU vs. Nebraska game and write out my thoughts.

My father is a loyal Vikings fan and he loves football and I grew up with it on TV. And my only experience on the turf myself was in the 7th grade for about 15 seconds, which then the coach told me I was off the team because my head didn’t fit into any helmets. 

Lincoln or bust

The other student media members and myself loaded up at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning and headed south. The van collectively is happy we’re not headed east into the rising sun. The light casts on the ground and I start to realize what I’m about to go to: a Big 10 football game in a town 11 times as big as Brookings in a stadium that holds about 90,000 people. And while I thought of the gravity of the situation, the other media members were discussing sports with a lexicon I couldn’t fathom, which got me to wonder how many people work a Nebraska football game? Media, food, tickets, security and administration are all involved in their fullest capacity to this game. They must love this stuff right? They have to be in love with it if they really spend their lives reporting and running the show of the whole thing. That’s obviously a passion. They love their jobs and game day for them isn’t just work, it’s so much more. There is deep meaning behind sports journalism, something I’ve never noticed before, a fiery hot passion to tell the masses statistics and contribute to the food about this particular event. The duration of the ride is spent chatting and regular road trip stuff.

Getting thrown into being away from it all

When we arrived in Lincoln we were instantly swarmed with red bodies. Hobo Day in Brookings is every home game for Lincoln. Tents upon tents stand in the air dawning either red or blue roofs, housing people tailgating. Getting away from everything in their lives currently. Enjoying their time with friends and family tossing bags of sand into inclined pieces of wood.

The sun, once at our eye levels, was now above our heads in the sky starting its descent into the west. To our left, past all the tailgating and sea of red is Memorial Stadium. A massive, concrete and glass structure built in 1923 to house just 31,000 people. In the past 90 years, the stadium progressed in seats up to 87,000 for the masses to sit or stand while they watch the game. There were 90,614 souls at the game Saturday but you could tell by just looking around the massive stadium that it’s much more than that. We fought traffic and crowds of people before finally unloading in the press area where I bid adieu with the writers and broadcasters. I take off to inhale the Big 10 atmosphere I just landed in. Sitting on a bench, I saw a dog with the Nebraska “N” shaved into its fur; children wearing jerseys playing football in the grass; elderly couples holding hands walking towards the stadium; fathers and mothers pushing red strollers with a red child pass by. I also saw a pack of nuns, and a republican senator campaigning by handing out water bottles. The color for passion is red, and this state, this school; these people resemble it very well.

And I couldn’t help but to start and think that this day means a lot to them almost more than those who are working it. Nebraska football has been sold out for what feels like forever, and I’m willing to bet that a majority of the people that surrounded me at the time have been to their fair share of games before.

My seats were in row 73 in the end zone. To get where I was sitting I had to walk past dozens of rows of seats making it about 150 stairs totaling in about 10 stories of height. I sat down and instantly started to cook in the hot Nebraska sun. However when I looked around I was the only one who felt miserable. Everyone else just felt normal. As if it was just another Saturday for them. An older couple sat in front of me and had no difficulty mastering the stairs. A child in a back brace climbs past my row into something higher.

I tend to be a bit of a realist when it comes to problems in life. And while I was sitting there in the hot sun I realized that football is extremely real and not just a sport my dad watches all the time. It’s a lifestyle. People devote their lives playing and talking about football. People work to make football games happen, to provide fans with amenities, and security, and clean facilities. And people, who don’t have the option to make it their lives or simply don’t want to take time out of their busy lives, come and watch a game in person or on T.V. since it helps them get away from everything, like any other form of entertainment. 

            The college students know all too well what football means to them. This will be their hay day because when they age, their destiny sits before me in the form of an elderly couple, who have probably been to myriad Nebraska games in their time together. You see this kind of stuff at SDSU all the time, however it’s a much smaller scale. The college populous drinks yells hoots and hollers all day and during the game itself in support of not only the team but also themselves. From what I gathered, watching this game is their form of cooling off, and to the people above and below wearing the uniforms and vests, it’s their livelihood. It’s so much more than someone throwing a ball around or fat guys running into each other.

  A Sporting Event as a Sort of Present

            “Go Big Red” is screamed throughout the stands. About a sixteenth of the stadium is blue. It looks like a giant red pie on top of a blue plate with a piece missing. A woman in red pukes on a section ramp, two men discuss the passing game of the players on the grass, older men yell and holler when a play doesn’t go for Nebraska. Jack the Jackrabbit hangs out with the fans, mothers and fathers tending to their children inside the stadium. A man in the bathroom says what pretty sums up my thoughts on my experience with “Lets get back to what we’re here for,” after flushing a toilet. I’m willing to infer that everyone’s problems are placed on the backburner when they walk into Memorial Stadium. Nothing else bothers them. The bulk of them seem to drop their assignments, their work stress, and their bill stress to get here. This is what passion from a fans perspective is like. Not only can you be passionate for something, you can be passionate with something. Your blood can turn fiery red the moment you walk into the stadium and go back to normal the moment you get out.

A spokesperson says “Your Nebraska Cornhuskers” for a reason I feel, and the reason surrounded me wearing red. Without fans a team is nothing. And these fans are everything and more when it comes to football. With elderly people willing to climb damn near 100 feet into the sky to barely see a game, it has to mean so much to them. The long lines of traffic, the outrageous food costs, and the heat all have nothing compared to what lies in a Nebraska, well, any football fans heart. It means so much to them. Nothing else matters when it’s game day. My experience from all of this is that football to everyone here is an escape for a bit. To dedicate your life to something else for a day or to just have a great time in the same way I have a good time, theirs however is just on a much larger scale.

All their problems can be storming their gates and while that ball soars through the air,  the collective 90,000+ fans can simply put their finger to its lips and say “Shhh. Not another word.”