Talk to anyone from the state of Nebraska and they’re bound to have a horror story about attending a game at Folsom Field. Without fail, Cornhuskers fans can bemoan a trip to Boulder, explaining in explicit detail what they were subjected to when they tried to watch their beloved team play on the road at CU.
They’ve been called names, which almost always included some colorful language. They’ve been threatened with bodily harm, in the stands, parking lots and restrooms. They’ve had drinks spilled on them and food hurled at them. And they’ve generally been treated in a shabby manner.
At least that’s what they say.
Fair or not, that perception has become reality. It’s now conventional wisdom that Nebraska fans get treated poorly when they come to Colorado for a football game.
The powers that be at CU could easily brush this off, dismissing it as a few bad apples on both sides, and they’d pretty much be right. But instead, they’re taking a different approach; they’re trying to get out in front of it and nip bad behavior, however isolated it might be, in the bud.
“Yes, it’s Nebraska and we know that history and tradition,” athletic director Rick George said on Tuesday during a press conference leading up to this Saturday’s showdown in Boulder. “But I think it’s important that we have civility.”
He wants CU fans to understand that as important as it is to beat Nebraska, something former head coach Bill McCartney reiterated this week when he talked about his disdain for all things red, it’s just a football game.
“There is enough negativity in our country,” George added. “When Nebraska fans come here, we ought to be respectful.”
It’s a great notion, one that every Colorado fan should heed on Saturday. But it’s only the beginning.
In reality, the best way to get under the skin of Cornhuskers fans is to kill them with kindness. Use the same tactic they’ve been applying for years when visiting fans travel to Lincoln.
Say hello, welcoming those decked out in red to the Centennial State. Downplay CU’s chances, talking about how good Nebraska is this year and how Scott Frost is destined to lead the program back to prominence. And admire their allegiance, praising the support people show for the Cornhuskers.
It’s all a bunch of nonsense. It’s all sandbagging. But it works. Multiple trips to Lincoln for CU-Nebraska games have proven this fact.
When the Buffaloes lose, it stings even more. The niceness is like salt in the wounds, making it impossible to lash out in frustration.
And when the Buffs win, there’s no reason to gloat. They’ve removed the fun of rubbing it in by predicting a CU victory before kickoff.
It’s actually a stroke of genius on their part, as Huskers fans have created a win-win scenario for every home game. Colorado can use the same Jedi mind trick on Saturday.
If the Cornhuskers lose in Boulder, don’t give their fans a reason to lash out; don’t give them something to complain about. Make them fret about their team’s performance; make them stew about the loss. Don’t let them deflect by focusing on how they were treated in the stands.
And if the Cornhuskers win, remove some of the joy by creating a situation where it was a foregone conclusion. Of course, Nebraska came out on top; they’re a top-25 team on the rise, while Colorado is just beginning yet another rebuilding project. The outcome was predictable.
As painful as it may be to go down that route, it’s better than the alternatives. No one likes a sour loser, which is how it comes across when CU fans heckle the Huskers when they roll out of Folsom with a victory. And no one likes a bad winner, which is how it looks when those decked out in black and gold rub it in when they send Nebraska home with a loss.
It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. The “Go Big Red” crowd will be up to their normal antics, trying to get a rise out of everyone they come in contact with on Saturday.
They’ll be dressed from head to toe in red, except for the silly yellow hats that look like an ear of corn. They’ll act like Folsom Field is their home stadium, releasing balloons when the Cornhuskers score for the first time and trying to get the wave going when things are going Nebraska’s way. And they’ll talk a little trash, breaking out their tired jokes about smoking weed and hugging trees.
It’ll be tempting to remind them that Nebraska hasn’t played a meaningful game in nearly two decades. It’ll be hard not to ask them where they parked their combine. And it won’t be easy to forget some of the insults they’ve hurled at Colorado fans over the years, including the unforgettably inappropriate sign at the border when Sal Aunese passed away.
But take the high road. Don’t stoop to their level.
We’re lucky to live in a great place. Take a look around before and after the game; Boulder is a 10.
We’re lucky to have attended and/or root for a great university. From engineering and the arts to business and law, CU has produced some unbelievably talented and accomplished graduates.
And we’re lucky to have all sorts of entertainment options throughout the year. Picturesque Saturdays at Folsom are just part of a menu that includes the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and more.
That’s victory enough. That’s a blowout win.
Civility? No problem. The only people who should be unhappy on Saturday, no matter what the final score turns out to be, are the folks who have to spend hours on Interstate 80 after the game.