It’s one of the first questions I get when I meet people here in Manhattan.
“Did you go to K-State?”
No, I didn’t. Sorry, I am not a Wildcat. I am a very proud Husker.
I was born and raised in Nebraska and, like everyone who grew up in there, I was surrounded by Husker football from the time I can remember.
My first memory of people screaming during sporting events is my dad screaming at our television during a Husker football game in the mid-‘90s, when the team won three national championships and rarely let him down.
My parents have pictures from when they took my brother and me to an autograph day when I was around 3 years old. . . and I’m still jealous that legendary head coach Tom Osborne held my brother while my dad held me.
Just like many Manhattanites with the Wildcats, the Huskers are part of who I am. I’m used to seeing red Ns everywhere I go, whether it’s Lincoln, my hometown 75 miles away or my great-grandmother’s town a five-hour drive away.
THE ENTIRE state is painted red from border to border. In a place with a single major university and no pro franchises, one team dominates pretty quickly.
That’s why it was such a culture shock when I moved here in August and found everything covered in purple. I started to wonder if that’s how people feel when they come to Nebraska. Why is everything red?
My conclusion: Yes. That is exactly how people feel when they come to Nebraska.
But I’ve found that I haven’t left Husker fans behind entirely.
My family came to visit me a few weeks ago, and, as always, we wore red on game day. That evening we went to dinner in our Husker gear, and a man in the restaurant offered to buy the four of us a round of drinks.
My dad went to thank him and the man explained that he had been a Husker fan since the 1970s, despite living in Kansas since he was born. When Nebraska played Oklahoma, all of his friends cheered for the Sooners while he cheered for the Huskers.
Before he left, the man stopped and told my brother to wear his Husker hat everywhere, no matter what people said.
I appreciated the enthusiasm, and it was nice to know that I’m not alone. Occasionally I see Husker license plates on the front of cars or Husker flags flying behind trucks as they drive past.
IT’S COMFORTING to see these things so soon after my move. Although to be perfectly honest. . . I don’t even like football that much. Something about seeing the Husker logo changes me.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked football as much as I have since I got to Manhattan. It took me a while to realize that it’s because I’m using it as a connection to home.
Talking about the Huskers is something familiar. When the team comes up in conversations, I forget that I’m in a place that’s still somewhat new to me. It’s not so hard to be away from family and friends when I have at least that small thread still tying me to them.
When I get a chance to talk about something I’ve known since I was a toddler, it gets a lot easier to adjust to my new surroundings.
And I am adjusting. Manhattan is a really welcoming town with welcoming people, and, if nothing else, I can take comfort in the familiar scenes of huge crowds of people wearing the same color ready to cheer on their team.
At the same time, that scene seems a little off. If I venture out on game day, even though it’s been two months, I still feel like something’s wrong. I’ve come to expect it, but the purple catches me off guard.
As much as I love Manhattan, I’m still a Husker at heart.