Dawg fans, having a hard time getting fired up for our matchup against Nebraska in two days? Yes, I know there's absolutely nothing interesting about the 2013 Nebraska Cornhusker squad. Yes, I know we thumped them last year. Yes, I know that we've already played in a far more important game in the same stadium this season.
Despite all of this, those of us who were in attendance at the 2008 College World Series finals (downindixie and leedawg, feel free to chime in) will never have a difficult time building up the desire to beat the snot out of Nebraska.
I first traveled to Omaha for the College World Series in 2004. It was one of the most fun trips of my life as a sports fan to that date, and the people were about as nice as you possibly could imagine. We went out and beat Arizona in our opening game, and, with a matchup against Texas looming, had numerous Nebraska fans wish us well against the hated Longhorns on Sunday. We ended up losing twice to Texas, but I left Nebraska with nothing but a positive view of Omaha and Nebraska as a whole.
In 2008, we were a national seed (#8) and playing great baseball in Gordon Beckham's senior season. I hadn't made it in 2006, so I was dying to get back. We won our opening game against 1-seed Miami and took the second game against Stanford. I flew back home with only one win in the next two standing between us and the CWS finals. It only took one game, as we beat Stanford again, and my entire family decided to drive back out to Omaha for the finals. I spent a large part of the trip telling them how great it was and how much we'd enjoy Nebraska. We were playing the one team that nobody thought belonged in the CWS to begin with, Fresno State. Who believed that a team barely surviving on a hot streak that got into the tournament as a 4-seed (regional, not national) would have a chance the way Georgia was playing? Everything was setting up perfectly.
We got out there and once the first game of the finals started, I immediately realized we were going to be facing a hostile crowd. I had attended Fresno State's opening game of the series against Rice and remembered there being only 100 or so Fresno fans in attendance. Somehow, in just over a week, they had multiplied to number closer to 15-20,000. It was as if the entire Valley had decided to up and drive to Omaha to support their Bulldogs. Then, as I looked closer, I realized all those red shirts cheering for Fresno didn't have bulldogs on them at all; they had a big red "N". The Nebraska fans, whose team hadn't even been good enough make it out of a regional that they hosted, had adopted the underdog en masse (note: I find automatically rooting for the underdog to be mentally lazy and distasteful. Someone who has no ties to either team otherwise should want to reward excellence and pull for the best team to win, not the team that farted around the most all season.). Nevertheless, the Dawgs won game one and the brand new Fresno fans had to go home toting a loss.
We came out in game two and put up five runs in the first three innings. The party was about to get cranked up. Unfortunately, the wheels came off in the bottom of the third and we gave up 15 runs in three innings, too big a hole to climb out of. We had blown our pitching advantage after Fresno had been playing extra games all week. The Nebraska/Fresno fans were elated for their team.
Game three was an utter disaster. We hit warning track shot after warning track shot (thanks, Damon Evans, for the awesome Nike bats!) and Steve Detwiler hit two home runs and accounted for five total runs in a 6-1 victory for Nebrask...I mean, Fresno State. As I looked around the stadium, I saw a bunch of heartbroken Georgia fans, a small smattering of family from Fresno who were truly elated, and then a bunch of lame bandwagon Nebraskans who couldn't have been more excited that a team that barely managed to even make the NCAA tournament had tarnished the prestige of Rosenblatt Stadium. As disappointing as the loss was, having to face a wildly hostile crowd in a supposedly neutral site for no reason other than the fact that we didn't suck near as badly as Fresno State did during the course of the season (seriously, they set a record by losing 31 games and winning the national title) might have been the worst part of all. I drove all the way back to Florida with a bad taste in my mouth and haven't been back to Nebraska since. While I'd love to see the new downtown stadium, I won't go unless Georgia is playing now and I'll likely stay in Iowa (Council Bluffs is right across the river) this time out of spite.
For that, Cornhuskers, I hope we beat your team by 40, I hope Bo Pelini is named coach for life, and I hope winter never ends in Lincoln and all of your grass in Memorial Stadium dies a slow, painful death.