There's a surreal calmness to downtown Lincoln once the football is kicked off.
You might see a car or two going down P Street or a few pedestrian stragglers who move hurriedly toward the party for which they're late. The counters at the fast-food restaurants — likely bustling just an hour or two earlier — are desolate and seemingly unstaffed.
And yet, just a few blocks to the north, the ever-present buzz, accompanied by sporadic fits of wild excitement, and the public-address system remind us that all is as it should be, that the hustle and bustle of life has merely been put on hold for a while as Nebraska football takes center stage.
And then there was Saturday, which was surreal for its own reasons.
On a day that was originally scheduled to be a respite from football — a day filled with concerts and movies, honey-dos and, yes, those countless fall weddings — there was indeed a game to be played. Blame it on the rain.
The season-opening storm that caused the cancellation of the Akron game brought an anonymous opponent to town for a late-morning start on a day when the plans might have called for the gutters to be cleaned or the winter wardrobe to be pulled from storage.
Whatever the reason, you had to look hard to find the pregame excitement that's usually a staple to a Husker Saturday.
Late-morning starts are usually tough, a tailgater's worst nightmare. But Saturday was different. You had to hold your head in precisely the right direction to catch the faint smell of bacon sizzling. The tailgating haunts that are normally filled to capacity four to five hours before kickoff were sparsely dotted with trucks, tents and the necessary satellite dishes.
Interlude: The most exciting moment of the early morning came as the Husker team buses, accompanied by an entourage of Lincoln Police Department cruisers, sped along 10th Street about a half-mile south of Memorial Stadium.
Meanwhile, a vehicle was moving slowly in the center lane as the entourage approached. The cruisers' lights flashed and the sirens were deafening, but the driver held her position until one of the police cruisers sped up, pulled to the left of the slower vehicle and gradually nudged her into the right lane as the buses zoomed past to complete the trip to the stadium.
The sporadic crowd cheered the buses, while mocking the driver of the slower vehicle.
For a few die-hard tailgaters, Saturday was business as usual. To them, a gameday — no matter the time or the opponent — is an opportunity for fun and fellowship. My favorite folks from North Platte were in their usual spot, while others were in full tailgate mode.
"It’s still Nebraska football," said Omaha's Bruce Froendt, as he enjoyed a just-made omelette. "The social aspect and getting people together and having fun matter. We love going to the game and watching the Huskers do well."
Froendt understands. His excitement doesn't have to be manufactured.
Still, there are some days when making a buck isn't as easy as others.
Andrew Scarpa can attest to that. The secondary-ticket market has more than its share of volatility, and he knew that selling the seven tickets he had in his hand Saturday would be a challenge.
"It’s always hit-or-miss," said the Omaha resident who pocketed about $900 before last week's victory against Minnesota by selling a couple dozen tickets. "That was great, but people are hard to read. Sometimes they don’t want to pay $5 a ticket. Sometimes they want to pay $60 a ticket. It doesn’t make sense to me. You have to read the market and see what it is."
But selling tickets for a game that proved to be the first win of the Scott Frost era is a far easier sell than unloading those to a game against Bethune-Cookman, one of the few college football teams that had a corresponding opening in its schedule and was willing to make a trip to Lincoln.
"It’s nice weather, so hopefully I'm going to make some sales, but I’m not expecting it," Scarpa said. "If I do sell them, it’s going to be 20 bucks a ticket. It’s that type of day."
And as he said that, he looked around and pointed to the number of people within earshot who were also trying to unload dozens of tickets.
"It’s an easy ticket today," Scarpa said. "There are so many tickets in the air."
It's economics 101 — supply and demand. Too much supply equals no demand.