100% COTTEN: Red Carpet Treatment

Sept. 11, 2005

The Nebraska game sure wasn't much fun. Losing never is. But never in my life, well 26 years of it anyway, have I ventured into enemy territory and been treated anywhere close to as well as I was in Lincoln, Nebraska. From my where I sat that was the nicest, most sportsmanlike group I'd ever encountered.

Nebraska football has some great traditions. I wonder if the Red Carpet Treatment for opponents is one of them. It sure didn't feel like it suddenly happened that the Huskers decided they would be courteous to a visiting group. Rather it seemed as if this was inside of them. And had been.

It was their way of life.

The Wake Forest-Nebraska game was sold out at Memorial Stadium. It was the 270th straight time (an NCAA record) that all of the tickets had been gobbled up to make the gathering the third largest city in Nebraska on game day. Those folks in red sure do love their football. And their opponents, too.

I quit counting the times that the locals went out of their way to extend a hand and a warm greeting. When asked about a good spot for a bite to eat, Wesley the bellhop, an Army National Guard Reservesman just back from boot camp in Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, not only had several suggestions, but he offered to take us wherever we wanted to go. You could see in his eyes that he wasn't doing this out of duty. It was his pleasure. The ride was just a few blocks, but we tipped the kid five bucks. It seemed right.

Clent Gentry, Josh Nixon and I went in search of a good local spot for breakfast on Saturday morning. While walking down the street, an elderly gentleman approached us and asked if we were looking for a good breakfast spot. How did he know? He sent us off to Kuhl's just around the corner. Stella, the owner, seated us in a booth just like she had no doubt thousands of others before us in over 35 years of business. I couldn't finish my pancakes and eggs. And for once my per diem covered the tab - plus tip! Now that's a breakfast.

On the way back to the hotel we passed several people who could tell we "weren't from around there." Smiles and "have a great day!" flowed freely. Even from a scalper. Do they treat the Sooners this way? Something tells me they do. And mean it.

The stadium wasn't that far from The Cornhusker Hotel, so Josh and I walked to the game. Was everybody in Lincoln really this happy? They sure seemed to be, and maybe when you never lose at home it's easy to be that way. But I actually had envisioned Wake Forest winning a close game, the Husker fans leaving in disbelief that a team from a basketball conference could have actually come into Memorial Stadium and beaten their beloved Big Red - and those same fans patting us on the backs after the game for a job well-done and bidding us to come again, real soon. I honestly think that would have happened had the score been reversed.

The Cornhusker faithful cheered the Deacons as they ran onto the field, and the Nebraska band welcomed their opponents with the Wake Forest fight song. If only the Husker team had been so accommodating. But Bill Callahan's team did what it was supposed to try to do. Win. And the fans did their part, too.

Do you think they knew something we didn't?

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