(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
The custom-made red-white-and-black helmet and the fog machine that wraps players in a ghostly gray-white haze made their debut at the Bison football scrimmage Aug. 24.
Families and businesses -- avid Bison fans -- have given money to purchase the helmet and fogger that will be owned and maintained by the McCook Football League.
"It's pretty awesome," said McCook Head Football Coach Jeff Gross this morning. "It really adds to the game-time atmosphere at Weiland Field."
"It looks lifelike," Gross said. "It's not a cartoonish thing."
The Bison helmet may be the first inflatable tunnel-helmet in Nebraska, Gross said, but many, many high schools in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida have inflatables through which their players run. The McCook helmet will be used only at varsity games, not JV, freshmen or eighth grade games, Gross said.
Gross said sophomore and freshman parents will be responsible for inflating and deflating the helmet at each home game.
Gross admits that the helmet may be intimidating to opponents, but emphasized this morning that it was intended for the enjoyment of McCook's football players and fans. "No, we don't NEED it," he said. "But it adds to the atmosphere for the kids."Gross continued, "No, it won't help us win a game, but it will help keep the kids excited about playing Bison football." Especially the little boys sitting in the stands, dreaming about playing Bison football, he said.
Gross sees Bison football as more than "just a game." The drama of the UNL Husker "Tunnel Vision" song by the Alan Parsons Project as the boys run onto the field ... the "yak-yak-yak" clip from "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne when the Bison kick off ... the new Weiland Field Bison and MHS graphics by artist Kevin Darling, the father of MHS graduate and Bison football player, Talon Darling ... the new Fiberglass Bison on the east end .... the new Weiland Field locker rooms and concession stand ... the home field advantage of Weiland Field itself.
And now the Bison helmet. "They're all part of the Bison atmosphere," Gross said. "It's a complete entertainment package."
Major donors to the helmet project include: Wagner Ford-Mercury-Toyota and Wagner Chevrolet/the Chris Wagner family; Southwest Implement Inc.; McDonald's Restaurant/Richard and Jane Stull; Stockman's Feed and Supply; the Cherry Family; in memory of Earnie Hackenkamp; Dr. John Haugen Orthodontics; McCook Radio Group; Community Hospital of McCook; Deveny Motors and Affordable Plumb-ing/the Jerry Reitz family.