I once heard Paris Hilton talk about cargo pants and say that people in the midwest wear them because they have to...because they all work on farms. I found it to be amusing that she was so out of touch with reality. I mean, I am technically a midwesterner. I don't wear cargo pants because I work on a farm, I wear them because they have pockets that hang further away from my tailgate belly. My tailgate belly and child-bearing hips could, at any time, crush my iphone 5 if it were in the regular top pockets. And then I wouldn't have Siri. So who would I talk to when I had a question?
The reality is, there is a midwest like the one Paris thinks she knows. And it's in Nebraksa. The residents of Lincoln, or "city-folk," seem as if they were plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting, with perhaps a bit more flannel. They’re fresh off the farm. Seemingly happy in the little place that they’ve dug out for themselves, their level of politeness was downright uncomfortable, and they were genuinely happy to have us come to their town, as if they hoped that during our visit we’d share what the world is like outside of Lincoln, or show them some new piece of technology, like a laserdisc player…or indoor plumbing. Walking around the city on gameday, multiple tailgates in multiple areas wanted to provide us with beers for our walk. Prior to the game, members of our group were offered tickets, for free. And when we said we had tickets, they offered to swap our tickets with theirs so we could perhaps have better seats, and then we could go and sell our own to get some money. This is not a joke. This is not an exaggeration. That’s what the guy said.
They barely booed when we took the field. They were almost silent in victory outside the stadium after the game. A Nebraska fan and his wife stopped me on my slow dejected walk to the car and said that “it wasn’t fair” because he came all the way to Lincoln to see Denard and Denard got knocked out in the first half. I’m guessing when he said he came all the way to Lincoln, that it was less than 50 miles away…but a good three days journey by stagecoach.
In short, it was like another planet. Columbus folk know that there’s things going on outside of their inbred infested hell hole, they’re just too stupid to put together a plan to get out and see the rest of the world. Nebraska fans, and I say this with all due respect to a fanbase that treated me so well, seem to ignore the fact that the outside world exists. It’s a different kind of dumb. Safer for us as travelling fans, but very strange to experience.
Nothing comes in, nothing goes out. Ever heard of a Runza? They sell them in the stands like hot dogs. It’s a baked bread pocket with meat, onions and cabbage in it. They’re everywhere in Lincoln, and you’ve never heard of them. They have a microbrew lineup, but it is universally served as the microbrew lineup in all of the bars. They have several restaurant chains that are only chains within the greater Lincoln-Omaha area. They even stole the Tilted Kilt concept and rebranded it as their own. It’s like a parallel universe.
And I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy myself, or that the food or the beer or the people weren’t good. It was just, well, weird. Maybe I was in the wrong part of town. Maybe I’m so bitter over the rest of the places I’ve travelled to in the Big Ten and the asshats that have engaged me and my cohorts in every possible rude way you can think of. I guess i'm just taken back by the fact that we had a game at 8pm in hostile territory and had no incidents. None. So, thank you Nebraska? I think that's what I'm supposed to say. Just stop touching me when you thank me for visiting.
There was also a game. It was painful most of the way, obviously more so once we lost Denard. Russell Bellomy wasn't ready for this. You can chalk it up to receivers dropping balls, or nervousness, or not being able to find a rhythm. Doesn't matter. The contingency plan for a fallen Denard was not in place. And the blame for that is on the staff. If there's one thing we know about Denard, it's that he gets knocked out of games with some regularity. This season it hasn't happened much, and I think we got comfortable with him. Comfortable enough to push the Devin Gardner experiment to a point where he hadn't taken a snap at QB in weeks. He couldn't come in when Bellomy fell flat. He hadn't practiced.
I'm not sure if Denard is really going to play this weekend. But I am certain he will be knocked out of a game again at some point down the road. I'm sure that Bellomy will be better when he next appears, and I'm sure that Devin will be ready to jump in too. But that's too little, too late. Our defense performed admirably, and was taken to its limits. They kept it within reach. That game was winnable, and would have had us firmly in the driver's seat for a trip to Indy. Now we need help to get there, and that help will mean nothing if we slip up again. We left ourselves with no room for error because we were not prepared.