So, if you know me, you know that I'm no football junkie. I'm barely a football fan at all, frankly. I support "our Huskers" because my dad loved them growing up so it's kind of automatic; and my husband and his family love them, too, so I spend time yearly submerged in Husker Nation. But we don't get out and SEE games in person much. We're a "watch it on TV" set of fans, mostly.
In fact, I've only been to two live football games (other than high school and midget games, and really, those don't count) ever in my life, both Husker games: one as a kid with my mom and siblings, and it was SO fracking cold that I can't even tell you who they played, if we won, or any other pertinent information; and the other with Greg, 12 years ago, and I think "we" clobbered "them" thoroughly enough that Greg and I left before the 4th quarter to beat the traffic. Frankly, I was impressed almost-not-at-all BOTH times.
Greg always said I just didn't get it when it came to watching football live in the stadium. He was right, I didn't get it. I can take it or leave it at home on my own couch, so the idea of trekking long distances to sit on a hard seat, surrounded by potentially offensive strangers, for hours on end, to maybe watch "my" team get clobbered, lacked appeal.
So I told you all of that to tell you this: for his birthday, I bought Greg season tickets to see our newly-formed Omaha Nighthawks (one of the new teams who are part of the UFL) play some ball, live and in person. No stadium football here, this is regular outdoor pro football. And these guys are former- and just-barely-missed-out-on-NFL players. Guys like Ahman Green, Jeff Garcia, Jay Moore. Four home games will be played at the famous-and-soon-to-be-demolished Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, home to my much-unbeloved-CWS. (OK, and so now that I've been there, I like Rosenblatt a lot, but I still loathe the CWS.)
For the sake of a date with my husband, and out of curiousity, I wanted to go to one game. And I sure as heck was not going to go to the COLD ones...so I wanted to go to the first game. Greg was happy to oblige. (I think. He didn't argue, anyway.)
So last night was the big night. Our incredible friends the R family took our kids for us, despite the ridiculously busy week or three they have going on at their house, and we LOVE them for that. I left them there at 3:30 and ran home to fetch my hubby, my Nighthawks shirt and my camera. By 4:30, we were getting off the interstate and heading down 13th Street. The entire area was already abuzz with pre-game activity, with tailgating and special events for those of us who'd bought season tickets. Concerts, food, beer garden, bounce houses (Shhhh, don't tell our kids), and cheap programs and free game posters, and all of that before we even went through the gate. There was an electricity that seemed unlikely for a team who had never played a game together as of yet, and it was clear early on that our fellow Nighthawks fans are the kinds of fans that only Nebraska can produce.
The gates opened and we filed in, excited to find our seats, to see the field (converted from a baseball field to a football field in a few shorts week) and get settled in. We quickly found that A) with a little help from my friends, I'm not too bad at picking season tickets, and that B) there really are no bad seats for football in Rosenblatt. By the time we sat down, we had about 90 minutes until game time. We spent it visiting, posting pics on Facebook and texting them to friends, and with about 40 minutes left to wait, I spotted two fellow 'Hawks fans eating a fabulously yummy and unhealthy plate of something I knew I had to have. We found out it was a "Fritos Pie"...and since we had 35 minutes 'til kick-off, we had plenty of time to go get one, right?
WOW. As we walked back up into the concourse, we saw how we would spend those 35 minutes. Now, the concourse which had dozens of people milling around in it when we arrived, held THOUSANDS. Belly-to-back, the hallways were packed, 12 - 15 people across, as far as the eye could see. We'd heard it was sold out, and this showed us that it was NO silly rumor.
We got back to our seats just as we heard them announcing "our" Nighthawks, and while I admit I was swept up in the moment, I still didn't know if I could "get it". We'd already been sitting/standing for two hours, and the game was just starting!
And so it did.
And then I got it.
Roaring fans, all dressed in black and silver, came to our feet and cheered for the Nighthawks, who took on Hartford, met the challenge they brought head-on, and in the end, handed them a loss in the final seconds. A victory for this new team, and a victory for this history-making UFL crowd, who were like old souls cheering for a team they'd loved for years. The sea of black and silver was almost as moving (and it's strange for me to say that, trust me) as the sea of red that all Huskers understand and love. I have never enjoyed three hours in an uncomfortable seat, surrounded by (a few) rowdy drunk people, eating junk food and screaming my head off, more.
I think the the Nighthawks and the UFL are in Omaha for the foreseeable future. And believe it or not, I think that's a good thing.