Nebraska Football: Why We Miss Gameday at Memorial Stadium

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 08: The Nebraska Cornhuskers flag after a touchdown against the Colorado Buffaloes at Memorial Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 08: The Nebraska Cornhuskers flag after a touchdown against the Colorado Buffaloes at Memorial Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /

Gameday at Memorial won’t feel the same.

Many permanent fixtures of life have been snatched away during the COVID 19 pandemic, the magic of a gameday in Lincoln being one of them. I must confess here to my readers and fellow fans that I have only been to a singular game at Memorial Stadium. Though compared to nearly every other Cornhuskers fan I am a rank armature as far as gameday goes, my solitary experience in Lincoln was enough to put the hooks in me. It was a cold, grey Midwest morning, the slumping Cornhuskers were slated to host a rather pedestrian Michigan State team. Though the current season was a lost cause, hope hovered in Lincoln. The promised light on the horizon by the first year coach Scott Frost served as the breath of fresh air required to refire the boilers of hope within the dejected fanbase.

Following a lengthy drive from Denver and the treadmill esque qualities of the scenery on the drive, as we approached Lincoln I knew not what to expect. I had been to college football games before, I’ve followed the sport my entire life, but my friend insisted that this was different, this was Nebraska Football at Memorial Stadium. As my Mini Cooper swallowed the miles, we inched toward Lincoln. At our time of arrival a cloak of darkness had descended on the city. But above the shadowed skyline, one structure towered above the rest, Memorial Stadium. The red N’s adorned by the stadium projecting out across the pains like a lighthouse signaling arrival to a ship. It was at this moment I began to realize the words he told me. Though I had not yet reached peak understanding I was wrestling with the notion. As I shuffled my compact down the road I took in the great structure, the light façade projecting an aurora of class and accomplishment to any eye that lay upon it. As I went to sleep that night that image played in my mind like a song on repeat, I was yet to experience a college game day, I was eagerly waiting.

We awoke early. It was already cold. In spite of this, It was gameday and none of that mattered. As we headed to the stadium, I quickly realized I was out of place. I had a black jacket on, no red and this was a problem. Hurriedly we ducked into the gift shop to acquire appropriate attire and we were on our way. Upon entrance to the stadium we rendezvoused with some of my friends cohorts and we took our places. They welcomed me with open arms as a long lost friend and on that day I was. For we shared the brotherly bond of cheering on the Cornhuskers together. The game we watched was hardly a display of beautiful football but the spectacle that we witnessed was most certainly a thing of beauty. As the game progressed so did the snow.  The red of Nebraska clashed with the green of Michigan State as a blanket of white attempted to swallow the sea of red.  Following a flurry of field goals the Cornhuskers prevailed 9-6 and all was right in the world.

In retrospect the magic of a Nebraska gameday can be surmised in this way. When you are there in the stadium as I was that day nothing else matters. Reality outside the stadium slips away and exists only in terms of the score of a rivals game. During the game the struggles of the week are alleviated as you are temporarily docked in a port from life’s storms. On game day, you live and die with each snap and you are reborn every possession. Within the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium you yourself bond with your fellow 90,000 to form the 12th.

This temporary escape, salvation and belonging is what we have lost during these unprecedented times. Hopefully next September we can all meet up again in Memorial to watch the Cornhuskers play. And on that late summer day when ‘Sirius’ plays and the boys in Red storm out of the tunnel, nothing will matter but that game. Because we will be there, together on gameday, in the stadium we call home, watching the team we love.