A year ago, I sat before my keyboard, completely ignorant of this obsession that seems to simmer year-round and come to a boil around Labor Day.
Being an out-of-towner, I had heard the stories, but had no idea of the magnitude of this fanaticism. Then again, I am a guy who once thought the letters GBR were an abbreviation for that country flying the Union Jack.
Not proud. Just stating a fact.
Today I stand before you humbled, impressed — and ready for a second bite at the apple, bratwurst or what ever else you so graciously offer each Saturday from your various asphalt perches.
Like Scott Frost and the cast of coaches and players he directs, I’m going to be better in Year 2. Last year’s experiences were educational.
A year of tailgating adventures took me from the North Bottoms to the Memorial Loop — and many points in between. I visited Greek Row, Haymarket Park and the roof of a parking garage that overlooks the Huskers' practice field.
Tailgating, I’ve learned, has less to do with the logistics than it does the newfound friends inhabiting each space. I'll never stop marveling at the unconditional acceptance — the offering of food, drink and camaraderie — to a total stranger with the gall to approach with a question or two.
I made some great friends, ate some amazing food, including a tasty little treat known as Pirate’s Booty, and imbibed everything from Natty Light to a mind-blowing favorite called the Paradigm Shift (fitting, I know).
One of my quests this year is to find my way to the Governor’s Mansion, where I hear Pete Ricketts will be throwing a weekly bash.
I'll be waiting for the invite, sir. After all, I am a property tax-paying Nebraskans with a newly signed mortgage.
At the risk of ticking off 56% of the readership, the governor adheres to a shade of red that I embraced in moderate doses. However, the GBR mentality, which entails a more intense shade of crimson, might take me some time, I'm finding.
One of the things I inherited from the previous owners of my tiny old house is a dilapidated park bench in a backyard that was overgrown with tree limbs and weeds.
After clearing the debris, I decided getting rid of the bench would be more work than I wanted. So I opted for a little sandpaper and paint.
The original thought was to paint it white and then I asked myself why. A pop of color might make a statement.
A trip to the Home Labyrinth to check out colors made me partial to one color. Red. Maybe it was subliminal. I want to believe it was mere coincidence.
So I went to the counter to get a gallon mixed and the fella asked me if I wanted Husker Red.
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Nooooo. I once wore a red sweater to work and Steven Sipple and Parker Gabriel — mainstays on our star-studded Husker reporting team — spent the next three months calling me Herbie. I wasn’t ready for that at home, too.
Just red will do, I said.
I shouldn’t be surprised Husker Red is the store’s most popular color. The man proudly told me it is computer-generated to perfectly match the home jerseys of the local team.
So not wanting to cause a stir or a riot in the paint department, I agreed. As he was mixing the paint, he tried to engage me in football conversation — “You think Adrian can win the Heisman this year?” — and I repeated that I was just painting a bench.
No problem, he said, as he went back to mixing my paint.
A few minutes later, he told me there were some accessories — adhesive Ns and Husker logos that might be a nice touch to my bench after the Husker Red was applied.
I seriously thought he was effing with me as I denied my allegiance for the third time, grabbed my paint and ran for the checkout stand — wanting badly to tell him I was changing the color of my bench to burnt orange. Not really, but I was tempted to say it.
Like I said, this devotion to red — Husker Red — is going to take some time.
So while I may not be ready to recite the Gospel according to Dr. Tom, Scott or even bleepin’ Bo, I am well aware that the tailgating is better when the Huskers are winning and the fan base is energized.
Last year began with a kind of excitement I'd never seen. What was supposed to be Frost's first game as head coach — a hot day in early September with 10 hours of partying and a primetime kickoff — gave us a kickoff and little else, unless you had a rain gauge.
That night epitomized a rebuilding season that yielded just four wins and forced the faithful to add a new word to its vocabulary: Patience. Trust the Frosess.
Optimism is running rampant again. The Huskers are ranked in the AP preseason poll and I’m excited to again experience the ebbs and flows of a football season — one bratwurst at a time.
If you have a tailgate party with a story worth telling, drop me a note. I’m always interested in meeting new friends and telling a good story.
Hopefully, my Husker Red paint-stained hands will have faded by then.