Local Nebraska fans feed passion for Huskers with food and fun
Hundreds of miles from home, Huskers can get lonely for red beer and runza.
And for other Huskers, too.
"Watching games by yourself is no fun," says Nebraska fan Linda Allen.
Thanks to Huskers like Allen and Johnny Joyce, displaced Nebraska fans in the Lowcountry don't have to watch their beloved football team alone.
When Nebraska takes on South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2 in Orlando, Fla., about 100 Huskers fans are expected to gather at Buccas Bar and Grill in Hanahan, the official watch site for local Big Red devotees.
There, they will partake of red beer and runza, a Midwestern delight featuring beef, pork, sauerkraut and onions. There might even be Fairbury hot dogs, the same kind sold at 81,067-seat Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
It's not easy to get a ticket at Memorial Stadium; Nebraska games have been sold out since Nov. 3, 1962, a streak of 318 straight sellouts.
But a Huskers watch party is the next best thing to being at the game, says Joyce, who lives in Goose Creek and is the watch-site coordinator for the S.C. chapter of the Nebraska Alumni Association.
"Like they say, if you are from Nebraska, you can't explain it," said Joyce, who is 60 and sells real estate in the Lowcountry. "And if you aren't from Nebraska, you can't understand it."
Indeed, love for the Big Red runs deep in the 37th state, which has a population of about 1.8 million. Unlike in South Carolina, which divides neatly (or sometimes not so neatly) between Clemson and the University of South Carolina, the University of Nebraska pretty much has the state to itself.
The closest pro franchises are in Kansas City and Denver, leaving Cornhuskers football (five national championships) and women's volleyball (three national titles) as the top two sports in the state.
"Nebraska football is part of our identity," said Joyce, who was born and raised in Nebraska before joining the Navy at age 21. "We feel like we have ownership of the program."
With an enrollment of almost 25,000 students, Nebraska spreads its alumni far and wide. There are about 175 members in the local chapter, and other watch sites in Columbia, Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach and Greenville.
"I've been a part of Nebraska groups in Charleston, Vancouver and Tulsa," said Allen, a retired teacher whose husband works at Boeing.
But you don't have to be a grad to pull for the Huskers. Neither Allen or Joyce went to college in Lincoln.
"Everyone in the state gravitates to Nebraska," Allen said. "And once a fan, always a fan. If your blood runs red, you are a Nebraska fan."
Huskers fans take pride in their sportsmanship. After Bobby Bowden's upstart Florida State team won at Memorial Stadium in 1980, Nebraska fans gave the underdog Seminoles a standing ovation.
"That happens quite frequently with Nebraska fans," Allen said. "I think it goes back to those Midwestern values and morals we were all raised with."
Being a long-distance fan is a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to the Internet, says Joyce.
"Before that, I had to depend on my sisters to send me clippings from the Lincoln Star Journal or the Omaha World-Herald," Joyce said. "Now, I can just pull up Huskermax.com on the computer."
A Lowcountry resident for 34 years, Joyce has adopted the Gamecocks as his second-favorite team behind the Huskers. Allen and her husband will attend the Husker watch party with another couple who are USC fans.
"That should be interesting," she said. "I hope we're still friends afterwards."