Many local angles part of big game
The eyes of sports-minded America will be focused on the Cornhusker kingdom Saturday night when the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame invade Memorial Stadium in Lincoln to battle the Big Red of Nebraska.
For football fans -- which includes a multitude of Nebraskans and Irish fans nationwide -- Saturday's nationally televised game will be the ultimate in anticipated drama.
Nebraska, with five national championships to its credit, and Notre Dame, with even more titles, are among the most acclaimed football programs in the history of the game. That -- to a great degree -- is why tickets to Saturday night's contest are so coveted. Here in McCook, tickets are selling for $150 and up, and on eBay better seats are going for $400 and higher.
Still, a number of McCook area fans will be in the crowd for the second meeting in two years between the storied football programs. Some of them, including a number of season ticket holders, will make a weekend of it, stopping off in Aurora tonight for the McCook Bison's game with Aurora, before heading on to Lincoln for the Saturday night clash.
While watching the action on Tom Osborne Field in Memorial Stadium, the Southwest Nebraskans will be straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of two area youth who are on the Cornhusker squad: linebacker Gabe Fries of Benkelman, who wears No. 51 on defense, and split end Ryan Ommert of Cambridge, who wears No. 23 on the offensive unit.
The fans from this area will also be trying to make out the faces of Southwest Nebraskans in the Cornhusker Marching Band, including Audrey Bartholomew of Benkelman and Jarod Richardson of Grant.
Also of special interest will be a pre-game parachute jump by the U.S. Army's Golden Knights team, with an added member this time, McCook native Ben Nelson, a former governor and now a U.S. Senator. Nelson, 60, is making his first parachute jump, tethered to an Army jumper, to promote recruitment efforts.
Since Bob Devaney turned around the Cornhusker football program with a nine-win season in 1962, Big Red has become a statewide phenomena, skyrocketing in popularity as the result of national championships in 1970, 1971, 1994, 1995 and 1997. What will 2001-2002 bring? Saturday night's game between the Big Red and the Fighting Irish will go a long way toward answering the question: Does Nebraska have the potential to contend for another national title?
Whatever the result, it will be a thrill to watch ... whether on television or in person. And if you do watch the pre-game show on ESPN, or the contest itself on ABC -- keep your eyes peeled. You may just catch a glimpse of a Southwest Nebraska fan on national television.