Come Saturday night, there won’t be another Nebraska fan in the world pulling harder for the big upset of Texas than my daughter, Julie. Her love for the Huskers is a thing of beauty. She has a way of filtering out all the good and the bad and hones in on, what for her, is just the wonder of Nebraska football. She flat loves it.
She clearly knows exactly how and why Nebraska will win Saturday night. It doesn’t matter that few experts give Nebraska a chance. Until the final gun goes off, no one will be able to convince her otherwise. Some might call her naïve. I did the same when she found ways to even support Bill Callahan. But, it is hard to argue with her loyalty.
Julie and I, born on the same April 10th day 32 years apart, share our Husker love. However, we won’t be gathering to watch the game. Julie doesn’t like my view of the game. Too many years of covering teams has revealed too much of the dark side in any athletic program for me. I always tell people I am so happy to have grown up in Kansas as a Nebraska fan. I’m not sure I would be if I had grown up in Nebraska. My view of the game is too real at times for Julie. We’ll talk and text each other throughout, but we will watch from each of our homes.
However, I am very proud to have shared my love of Nebraska with Julie. Since beginning my work as a photographer in 1969, I hadn’t sat in the stands for a football game until I took Julie to Lincoln in 1995. Together we watched the eventual National Champion Huskers dismantle Arizona State 77-28, and her love of all things Red was cemented.
I managed to get Julie on the sidelines for a Nebraska game a few years later. A ball rolled to a stop at her feet during warm-ups. She quickly scooped up the ball and began the long climb of awed amazement as she rose up in front of a monstrous Nebraska offensive lineman. By the time she got to the top of the helmeted monster, her head was cocked fully back with a look on her face that remains one of the best moments of my fatherhood. At a Nebraska game in Lawrence, a Husker player gave her a football used in warm-ups, one of her most prized possessions.
As hard as it has been on me to see Nebraska fall from their once lofty heights, I felt even worse for Julie. When I began going to Nebraska games, the team wasn’t good. Then Bob Devaney arrived and the glory years began with a few off years. Julie had never suffered through tough seasons until Tom Osborne’s departure. The beauty of Julie’s devotion is that she truly believes those glory years are just a few seasons away. For both our sakes, I hope they are as well.
While there is no team that can match Nebraska in her eyes, she has become a huge football and baseball fan. Outside of some curiosity over ultimate fighting and a little NASCAR (where that came from I have no idea), baseball, the Yankees and Royals, and football, Nebraska and sadly the Chiefs, are her true favorites. She goes to as many Royals games as her limited budget allows. She has her score book with her every game.
Over many years, a number of good friends, a few girlfriends, a wife and now Julie have helped as assistants for football games. If I had to rank them, Michael York was clearly the best. He had a sixth sense about gear. Before I could even ask to change lens or cameras, he was already handing me what I needed. The worst was easily my wife, Laura. She was always messing with the cameras taking pictures. Fortunately, she got awfully good doing that. I had to dump her so she could go to the other sideline to shoot on her own. That really is an ultimate compliment that I hope you all understand. However, the joy of being on the sidelines sharing these years at KU with Julie has been very special for a father that loves her very much. Her life is moving in new directions and locations. I am saddened that our games together might be coming to an end soon but am so very happy for her.
I wish I were as kind and generous as Julie. Watching her work with children in her various jobs has been amazing. The Lord truly blessed Julie with a gift for such work. She has been a blessing for various day cares, with Big Brothers and Sisters and now the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. At times, Julie childlike nature drives me insane, but I can’t imagine Julie any other way.
As the realist I have become, I know that Nebraska’s chances are slim against Texas Saturday. As hard as I will be pulling for Nebraska to win, the victory – which I do believe can come – will be made even more special because of what it will mean to my wonderful daughter. Go Big Red!