Planting Football Fan Seeds
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Planting Football Fan Seeds

Aug 24, 2023

Has it really been twenty years?

On August 30, 2003, the Nebraska football team opened their season with a 17-7 win over Oklahoma State at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

Frank Solich had a new defensive coordinator.

Mark “Bo” Pelini’s Blackshirts held the Cowboys to 187 yards in total offense.

In section 19, row 35, sitting beside me in her long-sleeve bright red sweatshirt was my oldest daughter, Kacey.

While more enamored by the band and the sea of red fans, eight-year-old Kacey enjoyed her first taste of the Memorial Stadium gameday experience.

She had observed her daddy yelling, cheering, and saying naughty words at the television set for ten years.

This day would prove to be a bit contrasting.

Kacey’s game-day experience included parking a mile north of the stadium and holding dad’s hand while we wound our way along Tenth Street.

My blonde-haired introvert absorbed UNL students partying in the North Bottoms residents on New Hampshire, Charleston, and Y Streets.

She posed for a photo by the North Bottoms Historical Marker.

It was important for dad to take this picture, for Kacey’s grandfather and great-grandparents were North Bottoms residents for many years.

The once ancient wooden pedestrian viaduct over the BNSF railroad tracks had been replaced by a safer concrete version. At its apex, we were able to look down upon the trains traveling beneath us.

I shared with Kacey that I used to run on the old bridge during an aerobics class when I attended UNL in 1979.

She wasn’t overly impressed.

I also shared that when I was her age, there was no security fence prohibiting Cornhusker fans from walking across the tracks to get to the stadium.

Again, complete indifference.

Once in the stadium, it was lunchtime.

I don’t remember how many dollars I spent on pizza and pop, but I shared with Kacey that when I was a high school student in 1975 and 1976, I would spend two dollars on lunch prior to the Huskers entering the field. My two dollars garnered three hot dogs and a pop that filled a paper cup.

Kacey was a bit aloof with my food memories.

Her disinterest in the player warmups converted to high passion when the Marching Red invaded the green turf. The result was clapping in unison with 76,000 people.

Now I had her interest.

We enjoyed the next three hours together.

The cheers, boos, music, food, and, for the most part, the fans the surrounded us.

Our stadium adventure included postgame photos of Nebraska’s newest fan on the field.

Those photos are safely tucked away in a scrapbook.

For ten years, one of the photos hanged on my office wall at KCOW Radio.

Kacey would return to Memorial Stadium on a cold October night in 2012 to watch Nebraska defeat Michigan.

It was the only game that our family of four have attended together.

Kacey, a 2017 graduate of UNL, has returned to Memorial Stadium several times over the past nine years. She has attended games with her sister, friends, fellow UNL students, future husband, and now lifelong partner, Jason Shaneyfelt.

But it was 20 years ago today – August 30, 2003 – that her daddy planted the seeds of football fandom.