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2009 May 14

50 HUSKER FANS, 50 STATES: In California, The Son of Husker Broadcaster Remembers


By HuskerLocker

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We return to a beloved feature here at Husker Locker with a great story.

David Blackwell, known as DBlackwell on the site, now enjoys the Huskers from afar in Walnut Creek, Calif. But he enjoyed an up-close look at the memories and Huskers that make most of us tingle.

He's the son of Dave Blackwell, the former KMTV sportscaster who used to join Lyle Bremser and Jack Payne on those Husker radio broadcasts all those years ago. The elder Blackwell was there for the Game of the Century, Tagge's leap into the end zone for NU's first national title and a lot of other memorable games. And just like father, the son was there, too, to see it through the wide eyes of a boy who grew up in a time when Husker legends loomed largest in the landscape.

Q: First, tell us your "history" as a Husker fan. How did you become a fan? Family? Friends? Did you attend UNL? How long have you been a fan? How you passed on your fandom to other members of your family?

A: We moved to Omaha right after I was born in 1964. My father was a sportscaster with KMTV, and was also the color analyst with Lyell Bremser through about 1972 (we moved to Utah in 1973). After my Dad died in 2005, a great Husker fan send me a box of cassettes of game broadcasts by Lyell, Jack Payne, and my Dad, including the Game of the Century, which still gives me chills.

We had season tickets, so while Dad was in the booth, my Mom and I would sit in the stands. Growing up, everyone I knew was a Husker fan, and I couldn't imagine supporting any other team. As a kid, I had the full gear: red cowboy hat with a white "N", red sports coat, red shirt, red pants. It was quite a look.

I'm trying to indoctrinate my four kids into Husker football (they are all under 6), and they already love Hail Varsity (they call it the "Boom Boom Song"). My wife is a Bay Area native, so she doesn't yet get it, and probably won't.

You live in Walnut Creek, California, which is close to the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area. How easy is it to find Husker fans in the area? How do you get your Husker fix for games? TV? A watch site? The Internet? Radio? How about San Jose and Sacramento? Are those areas chock full of Husker transplants, too?

We moved to Walnut Creek from SF a few months ago, so I don't know about the extent of the local fan base. While in SF, I often went to the Final Final, which generates a huge turnout for games, and is the best SF spot for a Husker fan to watch a game. There are some decent sports bars in Walnut Creek, so I'll scout them out this fall. If I can't get the game on TV, I'll listen to it on the web radio and follow it on the internet.

I get my daily fix through HuskerPedia run by David Max, who I have met and is a great guy. I open it every day, and read almost every story, including yours.

Do folks around the area like to follow Bay Area players, like current Huskers Zac Lee, Dejon Gomes and Roy Helu and former Huskers Maurice Purify and Sam Keller? Is there some recoginition in the area that Nebraska likes players from the area and recruits pretty actively out there? San Francisco Community College has been fairly well known since the days of OJ Simpson...do fans follow that JUCO closely at all?

I have some friends that have gone to SFCC games, which produces some good players. It's a pretty international fan base, but they apparently draw well. As discussed below, though, the interest in college football and tracking high school players is pretty weak here. I've mentioned Helu to others around here, and I get a blank stare. There are some very good high school teams in the area (e.g., De La Salle), but I haven't seen locals become fans of the colleges where those players end up.

What sports fan base, if any, out there compares to Nebraska? The 49ers? The Giants? The As? The Raiders? If they don't compare, how are they different from Nebraska? What about Stanford and Cal? How would you describe interest for those programs out there? Is it more about basketball?

There is no local sports fan base that compares. College football here is weak, even though Cal produces some pretty good teams. Stanford fans don't have a clue about football. Football in the PAC 10 will never generate the fervor that it does in the Big 12 or SEC. Currently, the pro sports franchises here are floundering, but there will always be diehard fans of the Niners, Raiders, Giants, and A's, although attendance is suffering for some of those teams. These teams have been here for awhile, so they have established pretty good roots, despite mismanagement and poor performance. In the current economy, attendance will be interesting to watch.

Bill Callahan was the head coach of Oakland before Nebraska. What's the general impression of him out there? Just another guy caught in the wake of Al Davis? A beneficiary of Jon Gruden's coaching skills? The guy who got the Raiders to the Super Bowl?

When Callahan was hired, I was telling a colleague (former Raider player from the 70's) about how good he would be. My colleague smirked and shook his head, which should have told me something. I think people see Callahan as the beneficiary of Gruden's team building, but that team is so screwed up that there are a myriad of reasons why Callahan and everyone following him has failed. Speaking of Callahan, I naively thought that the hiring of Steve Pederson was a great step forward for the Husker program due to his passion and prior success. It just shows how wrong we can be.

What other Husker sports, besides football, do you like to follow from afar? How do you get news on those teams?

Honestly, I only follow two sports with passion: Husker football and Utah Jazz basketball. These bonds were created in part because of my Dad's association with both teams, so I got to know players and management growing up. As I get older, I get more jaded about sports in general, and don't have the time or the energy to follow other teams to the extent I follow the Huskers and Jazz. I would like to see Husker baseball rebound and Husker basketball get to the NCAA Tourney some day, but I don't live and die with their performances.

Do you get back for many sporting events? How often or how rarely?

I rarely get back. When I was in law school in Utah in the late 80's, ten of us drove a Winnebago from Salt Lake to Lincoln for the Utah-Husker game. I took my friends to Misty's and a few watering holes, and we sat in the Utah section during the game. It was a blast and great to be back at Memorial. I'll try to join David Max this year to a game, hopefully OU. If my Dad ever gets the Bremser Award for the NU Football Hall Of Fame, I would definitely come out for that. I also went to the Rose Bowl against Miami, which was painful, and saw NU play Cal in Berkeley in 1998, where a huge swath of the stadium was red. That was pretty fun, although the offense struggled.

What's your favorite Husker memory? If you have more than one, let's hear them!

The Winnebago trip was pretty wild. As a kid, Johnny Rodgers had dinner at our house in Omaha, which was great. I also met Devaney, Tagge, and others as a kid, which was always a thrill. I remember watching the Schlesinger Orange Bowl against Miami with my Dad in SLC; when NU finally closed out that game and won its first National Championship in years, it was absolutely joyous.

Want to own a DVD copy of the 1971 Game of the Century with the Bremser/Blackwell/Payne play-by-play? Click here!

Now then...hey you - yeah you! We want to hear your Husker fan stories -no matter where you live. Email me at sam@ne.statepaper.com and let us know if you, or someone you know, would be interested in being a part of this series!

One other thing:

Tags: 50 husker fans, 50 states, game of the century

Comments (1)

Profile image for skerhead66

I used to listen to your Dad, and loved the color he brought to the games. Back then, you had to use your imagination when the sportscasters would describe the action on the field, no such thing as internet or webcasts. Anyway, I appreciate your input, envy your history, and look forward to meeting you someday. I have relatives in Walnut Creek, and I live in Reno. Check out my post in the 50fans/50 states from Reno.

– Feb 26, 2010 at 12:45 pm

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