There are certain things you just don’t see often in life. One of those things is another team carrying a trophy off the football field at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska after defeating the Cornhuskers.
That’s exactly what happened on Black Friday. What made that scene different was the fact that it was a group of Iowa Hawkeye football players carrying that trophy. It was the 13th time in history that the Hawkeyes had bested the Huskers in 44 tries and the first win in the three-year history of Nebraska’s participation as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
Earlier in the week, a local Omaha sports talk radio show asked a question on Facebook in regard to who Nebraska’s Black Friday rivalry game should be played against — Iowa or Wisconsin. A surprisingly large number of Nebraska fans, for whatever reason, chose Wisconsin.
The fact that this is even a question and Wisconsin is a valid answer baffles me. I’ve lived in Omaha for over a decade. As I carry on about my business throughout the Omaha-Council Bluffs, Iowa metro (which happens to the the largest metro to sit literally on the border of any two Big Ten states), I see people every day wearing Husker red. I also see, more than any other team, college or pro, Iowa Hawkeye fans.
Wisconsin? The only sign of Wisconsin I’ve seen around these parts was at a local Wal-Mart. I was rooting through some Husker gear when I came across a lunchbox that had “Huskers” painted onto one side and the Wisconsin “W” misprinted on the other. I suppose this is a simple and common factory mishap, considering the two teams have the same colors and same uniforms sans the helmet. Outside of the uniform similarities, the only other Wisconsin/Nebraska connection I can make out is Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin’s athletic director and former coach — who happens to be a Nebraska alum.
That’s it? That’s what constitutes a rival? I don’t think so.
Where I come from, some kid who sits behind you and flicks your ears, looking for a fight is a rival. Someone who constantly roots for you to fail and celebrates your failures like their own victories is a rival. Someone who comes into your back yard and steals the finest vegetables from your garden is a rival. And finally, someone who beats you, whether it’s once or every time, at the one thing you are supposed to be better than they are at — that’s a rival. To make matters worse, after they beat you, they just walk next door to their own house, close the door, shoot you a quick middle finger from the window and laugh as they close the blinds.
That’s what Iowa has been doing to Nebraska for decades and continued to do on Saturday. The Iowa Hawkeyes are your rival, Nebraska. There’s no avoiding or denying it.
The fact that you don’t think so and continue to think you are above Iowa only strengthens it. The fact that Iowa smack-talk infuriates you like it does only legitimizes it.
The fact that you don’t have another true, natural rivalry decides it.
It’s rare that any store in eastern Nebraska sells only Husker garb. Most, whether jewelry stores, sporting goods stores, arts and crafts stores or department stores sell both Husker and Hawkeye merchandise. There is a reason for this. Iowa fans roll deep in eastern Nebraska. Their numbers are strong, right here in your back yard, and they grow stronger by the day.
Hawkeye fans aren’t afraid of the Husker mystique. They sport their colors proudly in the face of you — in the back yard of the self-proclaimed greatest fans in college football — without fear, seemingly waiting for you to react.
And you do. You react by noticing. You sneer. You scowl. You stare, wondering how they have the gall to walk around Henry Doorly Zoo or the Old Market, sporting that black and gold trash. It angers you, even if only for a moment.
You don’t feel that way about Wisconsin. The last time you felt that way, it was Oklahoma.
Oklahoma has moved on. Penn State screwed you 30 years ago. Mizzou has bigger fish to fry. Colorado is a bottom feeder in the PAC 12. Wisconsin only acknowledges your existence during the week you play them.
But Iowa — Iowa is a different animal. Iowa is sitting in your front yard, throwing rocks at your house 365 days a year. They watch you through your window and laugh as you celebrate accomplishments from 20 years ago.
For the last two years, you shoved them away and celebrated victory and supremacy. But this year, you walked outside and got stomped out in your own front yard. And now, for another calendar year, you have to look at those black and gold-clad fans in your back yard and keep your mouth shut when they walk by and whisper one word in your ear: SCOREBOARD.
Iowa is your rival, Nebraska. It’s been a long time coming. It’s time to own it.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON DECEMBER 1, 2013
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