Official Husker Locker Blog
2008 Nov 24
50 Husker Fans, 50 States - Arkansas
OK, folks, our next state in the series is on the western edge of SEC country - Arkansas. This entry comes from pas250, Pete Schafer, who lends some terrific insights about the similarities - and striking differences - between Nebraska and Arkansas fans. Plus, he weighs in on the SEC vs. Big 12 debate!
We think you'll love his passion for Husker football! Enjoy!
PS: Pay special attention the best memory answer. It's a darn good one.
Q: First, where in Arkansas do you live and what is your general profession?
A: My family and I reside in the small college town of Conway, Arkansas, which is approximately 30 minutes west of Little Rock. It is a wonderful little town that has maintained the quaint old-time, small town feel and qualities that have been lost in most parts of the country today.
How did you become a Husker fan? Was it one specific event? Was it family? Friends? Did you grow up in Nebraska?
Saying you are a “fan”, to me at least, implies that you have a choice. That you chose to support the Huskers and that you could walk away from it at any time and start cheering for another team. Being born in Nebraska, at least in my family, you don’t “become” a Husker fan, you are a Husker because it’s in your DNA at birth. That may sound hokey in light of today’s sporting popular culture. Where kids flip-flop their loyalty based on the jersey their favorite rap star wears in their most recent video. Any male over the age of 35 knows what I am talking about.
I blame my unmitigated Husker fanaticism on my father. He was one of the first in our neighborhood to build a Husker Room in our basement in the mid 1960’s. His “GO BIG RED” toilet seat was the greatest birthday gift I ever gave him. Not until his grandchildren came along many years later was I able to recreate that same level of excitement from something I gave him. He named our family dog Jet, after Husker great Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers. It always prompted the obligatory explanation to those meeting our dog for the first time because he was a very small runt of a dog…hardly worthy of such an impressive name implying great speed and swiftness. True Husker fans “got it” and loved it.
You mentioned having four generations of Husker fans. Talk about that a little bit. Just how far back does the lineage go?
I was born in Omaha and my family lived in the Omaha, Blair and Gretna areas for four generations. My extended families were farmers who owned much of the land which is now full of housing developments and part of the urban sprawl of those communities. We moved to Waterloo, Nebraska in 1971 and I remained there until I graduated and moved to Lincoln to attend UNL.
Everyone in my family was huge Husker fans. It was always funny at family reunions to see how everyone went out of their way to be so over the top nice to my third cousin on my father’s side…he had 12 season tickets to the Huskers. My cousin, while a smart man, couldn’t have known what an incredibly wise investment he was making back in the early 1960s when he bought his tickets. He’s kept them all these years and due to his advanced age isn’t able to attend the games any longer. He usually gives them out to family members and business associates. Since he has no children, everyone is tripping over themselves, sucking up to him in hopes he will remember them in his last will and testament and reward them for their “kindness” with just a few of those tickets!
You said you've lived all over the country. Where, other than Arkansas, have you lived? How hard was it to seek out news about Nebraska sports in all those places? What areas were most like Nebraska? Which areas were least like it?
After college, I have moved around the country quite a bit including stops in New York City, San Francisco, New Jersey, Iowa, Florida, Tennessee and now Arkansas. Being a college football fanatic, New York was the most difficult place to live because it is a pro sports town and it was almost impossible staying up to date on all things Husker. This was before ESPN became as huge as it is today where you can get scores and updates 24/7. There was, and I believe still remains, a large New Yorkers for Nebraska group and we got together for Husker games and “Taste of Nebraska” parties on a regular basis. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me to be in a city of over 10 million people, where sometimes you feel so lost, to come together on those football Saturdays to watch the games. Even though I had never met any of them previously, because we shared such a unique bond in our passion for not just the Huskers, but the entire state of Nebraska, I felt as though I had known them my entire life.
The other states were all fine places to live, but while more interested in college football than New York was, they all seemed to be too new to the party and lacked the historical perspective to truly appreciate the beauty of the game. Of course, I lived in those other states during the 80’s and 90’s when the Huskers were dominating college football so everyone was very respectful of Nebraska and our football legacy. The only state that was disrespectful was Florida, because, everyone there was either a Miami Hurricane fan or a Florida State Seminole fan and they were having a great deal of success themselves at that particular time…especially against the Huskers. In spite of the fact that they didn’t all bow down and kiss my NU ring, it made for a lot of fun smack talking, something I could never find in the other states.
Arkansas is the state that most reminds me of Nebraska, which is why I live here and love it so much. Aside from the strong mid-southern accents of its natives, there are similarities in population, family values, physical landscape, etc. Little Rock reminds me exactly of Omaha and Fayetteville, while not the state capital, is eerily similar to Lincoln. This state is all about its Razorbacks and they eat sleep and breathe college football. Their program is in a similar position to that of Nebraska where they both have new coaches and are in rebuilding mode. Of course they didn’t have the Callahan years to suffer through, but to hear them tell it, the Houston Nutt years were just as bad. I don’t know if Nutt would have been worse than Callahan was, but I don’t think he would have understood the Nebraska Way and would have ended up fired too.
Is the Arkansas fan base similar to Nebraska? Is it oriented more toward basketball or football? Talk a little about the recent stories about Houston Nutt leaving the program and Bobby Petrino joining it? How did fans take that in Arkansas? Similar to how fans took events here in Nebraska when Bill Callahan was fired?
The Razorback fan base is very similar to Nebraska in their passion for their team. However, I find them to be unrealistically critical of their team. They want so badly to be relevant in college football, but they mirror the attitude of most of the general sporting population these days…instant gratification. They see what Alabama has been able to do in just two years with Nick Saban and they expect the same thing to happen at Arkansas.
The sad part is, Houston Nutt had put them on the college football map the past couple of years with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. They had Mitch Mustain on board and were ready roll. But the fans just kept nit picking and nit picking at every little thing they could and they drove Mustain to USC, Jones left early for the NFL, and eventually Nutt went to Mississippi. There was an article in Sports Illustrated last year that talked about all the crazy stuff that went on in this state with a few of their overzealous boosters and the football program.
All I ever heard on talk radio while Nutt was here was how terrible of a coach he was and how they needed to fire him. Then when he resigned and went to Mississippi, all you heard was crying about what a betrayal it was for him to commit such blasphemy. Nutt had the last laugh bringing his ol’ Miss team in to Arkansas this year and beating the Razorbacks. People here were/are so livid over this turn of events that you can’t even mention Nutt’s name in a public setting anymore.
Although I say they support their team, they seldom sell out their home games. I was able to purchase season tickets last year for my son and I and it wasn’t difficult. It is all based on how much you want to donate to the university. I sat in the stands and did the “pig sooey” call and loved the experience of college football, however, it was nothing compared to attending a game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. A lot of booing and heckling of both teams on every play. I haven’t been to a game at Memorial Stadium in about 10 years unfortunately, but I don’t recall experiencing any unsportsmanlike conduct from the NU fans.
Is there a constant debate between who's better, the SEC or the Big 12? Wasn't that debate tempered a little bit in Arkansas this year when Texas beat them so badly?
Yes, there is CONSTANT debate about how the SEC is the greatest conference in the history of mankind!! It reminds me of when I lived in New York City and how New Yorkers don’t acknowledge anything west of the Hudson River. It’s just like that here with regards to the SEC…they really don’t think there is any other decent football being played anywhere else. When people first learn that I am from Nebraska I see the “Hulkification” morphing process begin…their eyes and skin start turning green, uncontrollable drooling, etc. They just can’t wait to get into the “SEC is better than the Big 12” debate.
The hatred here for the Longhorns runs so deep that it is difficult to put into words. It goes back to the days that they were both in the Southwest Conference. They blame Texas for breaking up the SWC. Although they say that Arkansas got the better end of the breakup because they joined the SEC and Texas the Big 12. Since they don’t consider their program an elite program in the SEC yet, the fact that Texas so soundly defeated the Razorbacks does little to dampen their conviction that the SEC is still better. Their argument is usually based solely on the fact that the SEC has won the national championship the past two years. So, their historical reference is extremely short sighted. Which again, is the same as it is in our society today…what have you done lately?
How do you seek out fellow Husker fans in Arkansas? Is there a place where you watch the games? Do you listen to certain games on the Internet, the radio?
Primarily I always keep an eye open for anything people have that denotes them as being Husker fans, ie: flags outside their homes, clothing, license plates or stickers on their cars, etc. It’s a great icebreaker when you see someone out wearing a husker shirt or hat or something. We just had a baby a couple of years ago, so I’ve been staying home a lot and watching the games from the comfort of my own sofa. I’ll start seeking out Husker groups when the baby is a bit older and we have a life again.
No local radio stations carry the Husker games so the only way I am able to get the games is on the internet.
Any other Husker sports you admire along with football?
I follow all Nebraska sports, but not as passionately as I do the football team.
What's your best Husker memory? It can be from a game, a tailgate, whatever.
I don’t really have a singular moment that is a favorite memory. Honestly, my entire childhood is my best Husker memory. Growing up, football Saturdays at our house meant you better want to listen to the Husker game or you better find someplace else to be for about five hours. My father always had every radio in the house, garage, car, boat, duck blind, etc., wherever he was, tuned into KFAB and Lyell Bremser’s call of the game, pre-game and post-game shows. Even if the Huskers were playing on TV, he always turned the volume down on the TV and listened to Bremser’s play-by-play while watching the game on TV. When Bremser retired and Kent Pavelka assumed the announcing responsibilities it was one of the most sanguine days in my father’s life. My father had a general electric transistor radio that went everywhere with him if he was forced to leave the house during a game. That transistor spent many afternoons with my father and I pheasant hunting, on the lake fishing, blue rock shooting, cutting firewood, raking leaves in the yard, etc. When my father passed away from cancer several years ago, that transistor radio was the only thing among his personal effects that I really wanted due to the intimate role it had played in my childhood memories. Unfortunately, my mother had already give it to the church with most of my father’s other personal effects. I hope whoever ended up with that radio enjoys it as much as my father and I did…but I doubt it.
I remember as a child, never doing anything on game days that meant I couldn’t at least listen to the game. If my mother insisted that I run errands with her, I made sure she had the radio in her car tuned into the game before I would leave the house. In those days it was easy to stay tuned to the game as almost every business establishment would have the game playing over their store intercom. I remember standing in Center Ace Hardware in Omaha as Jarvis Redwine scored a touchdown against Missouri and hearing a cacophony of cheers go up from the other patrons, feeling as if we were actually at the game!
Feel free to add whatever else you like that you think people might be interested in.
The only other thing I would like to add is how blessed and lucky I feel to have grown up in Nebraska during the time I did. It was a rare and unique time and given the way the sports world is today I doubt it will ever be repeated.
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