One for the thumb (and damn does it feel good). Watching the Hawkeyes defeat the Fuskers for the fifth time in a row, I have a confession to make: I revel—like am literally euphoric—in the Huskers’ comeuppance.
I grew up in Des Moines during the Huskers’ heyday (no, not the Mike Riley era, young Husker fans). I am talking about the 90s when Tom Osborne and the Huskers were college football royalty. As the Huskers dominated college football, these fans internalized that smug sense of entitlement. From anointing themselves “college football’s greatest fans” (see the signs dotting Memorial Stadium) to crowing about their sellout streak dating to the 1960s (a little misleading once your read this article), Nebraska fans’ self righteousness has always irked. It was somewhat understandable when the Huskers were college football kingpins. Now? It is an ugly cologne of desperation and insecurity.
When Husker fans aren’t flashing their 1997 National Champion t-shirts, these fans -- and the Nebraska media -- are quick with the Hawkeye condescension. The Hawkeye-laced jibes: mocking Iowa’s 8-4 formula, dismissing the Hawks as a non-rival rival, and lampooning KF’s stodgy offensive philosophy (okay, some things are true). Now pushing 40, the Hawkeye digs are more tired--and trite--than anything. When Nebraska fans lob their same ol’ verbal grenades, I don’t get insulted (in fact, if Nebraska fans want a timeshare in Delusionallville, I am happy to oblige). But this game matters--and matters a lot--to me. And I suspect other central and western Iowans, who have listened to Nebraska fans chirp for the better part of two plus decades, feel the same damn way.
Not to be creepy but it is borderline erotic to expose the Huskers as Big Ten hucksters five years in a row. During this right-hand winning streak, I will occasionally hate read the Omaha World Herald. I view it as Hawkeye patriotism, the equivalent of knowing thy enemy. Reading the OWH, it's almost like Nebraska and its sycophants are stuck in a perpetual dance: venerating Husker history (did you know Nebraska has won five national titles??) while begrudgingly accepting Nebraska’s current struggles. The takeaway, at least from this Hawkeye homer: We may have just lost to Purdue but we are NEBRASKA. You know who we are (just ignore the coaching churn that would make Tennessee proud).
Here’s the truth: Nebraska’s five championship rings are something to be proud of. And, sure, there was once an aura about the Huskers when they barnstormed their way through the Big 12 and played name that score against overmatched foes (also directly relevant: Texas smacked that Nebraska ass damn near every year). But over the past twenty years, those championship rings have become scratched, if not downright tarnished. Currently, Nebraska is a Big Ten afterthought, scratching for relevance in a division and conference where it expected to win titles on the regular. And over the past three years, the Huskers have a standing bowling invitation at Val Lanes. So, Nebraska fans, let’s propose a little deal: If you stop gaslighting us with Nebraska’s unmatched history (actually, it has been matched and surpassed by Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame), we will stop mocking you. (Ed. Note: I will not. -- RB) Your history is great and all... but when you are 5-7 this year (and 4-8 the year before and then 4-8 before that), the only history that matters is your continued scuffling in the Big Ten West.
So as Iowa wraps up another Black Friday victory--one that warms my cold, dead soul, let Nebraska fans continue to chirp: about Iowa’s inferiority as a program, about the non-rivalry rivalry, about Keith Duncan’s finger pointing (for the record, I like a kicker with a little swag). For five straight years, we Iowa fans have had the last laugh, err kiss.