Months ago, when The Association first approached me about going to Nebraska, I thought it would be an interesting test for the Buckeyes. By the time I got off the plane in Omaha, I was just hoping for survival.
A lot had changed in a few months.
While my colleagues for the weekend were setting up the Buckeye Bash at the Rococo Theatre downtown, I ventured out into Lincoln to see if I could find some fellow Buckeyes. I wound through the leafy and attractive NU campus and past the towering stadium, 3/4 the size of Ohio Stadium, but still an impressive facility. Past the stadium, a parking lot held a few Nebraska tailgates, and then a footbridge crossed over some railroad tracks and into a neighborhood.
On the other side was another planet. Tailgates were set up on lawns, in convenience store parking lots, garages and back alleys. Every house had a big red N on it somewhere, and it smelled delicious. I ventured down an alley, lured by what looked like an Ohio State tailgate. But I was deceived, the Huskers’ red looking for all the world like OSU’s scarlet. I would see someone approaching and be ready to blurt out “O-H!” when I would spot an N on the front of the jersey.
It is hard to know your enemy when they wear the same colors.
But I soon discovered that Nebraskans aren’t much of an enemy. Every where I went, people said hello and offered a welcome. I began to feel a preemptive guilt over how they will most likely be treated when they get to Columbus.
So I ventured on, deeper into Lincoln, not lingering too long as to avoid becoming entangled in a friendly tailgate full of similarly colored fans to the ones I sought. I was on a deadline, I had to get back to shoot the Buckeye Bash. Finally, I came to a large dirt lot, and stood on an embankment trying to pick out a spot of scarlet in a sea of red. I was chatting with a guy who I guess must have been a security guard when some Nebraska fans spotted my cameras. They beckoned. I went.
A while later, after promising to send the resulting picture they won’t remember me taking, but armed with directions to the baseball stadium, I set out again, cutting through a neighborhood adorned with big red Ns.
Finally, from under an overpass, I spotted the familiar Block O fluttering in the constant Nebraska breeze. I had found my fans.
So I hung out with some fellow Buckeyes for a while, in more familiar confines, a big-arse parking lot. Their neighbor Nebraska fans were all friendly and inviting, and I found myself on the roof of a double-decker-homemade-bus-thingy that was blasting hip hop, pointing my camera toward a tent that held a casket that had been converted into a cooler and kegerator.
It was getting time to get back, since I wasn’t really sure how far I had strayed from home base, the Rococo. Back over the railroad tracks on a different bridge toward the stadium, with was now across an Interstate. As I glanced downward as I crossed the bridge, I saw a lot similar to the one that is in front of the ‘Shoe- lots of tents, lots of money. I lingered, partly because it would have been cool to take a picture of a train passing the party. Then I spotted a single Buckeye, visible only by the name on the back of his shirt, a real-life Where’s Waldo.
After spotting my needle in a haystack, I headed back toward downtown, as best I could. None of the roads seemed to be the one I wanted, so I kept heading what I guess must have been west. The crowed began to thicken, and suddenly I found myself at a gas station with a full fledged tailgate in the parking lot. I had to investigate.
The people under the tent next to the garage doors were typical Nebraska fans. They tried to feed me, gave me something to drink (and tried to give me something stronger) and invited me in. I couldn’t linger, so I climbed into the back of their truck and took a picture.
Recognizing the area, I thanked the gas station crowd and headed toward the Rococo.
The bash was a lot of fun, rubbing elbows with some devoted fans and famous faces. E. G. Gee came and told some jokes that he thought were funny, and Archie Griffin signed autographs and posed for pictures. The cheerleaders came, Brutus ran amok and a good time was had by all.
And then it was time to find out what the Buckeyes were made of. I headed toward the stadium.
Tune in tomorrow for the second installment. Until then, you can;
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