By Randy York
Today is Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 ... another chance for Nebraska to show a new conference rival that the Huskers have the best fans in the country ... another opportunity to throw out the welcome mat for Northwestern like Big Red fans did for Michigan State last weekend. Please, don't just take my word for it. The N-Sider donates today's blog space to evidence that emerged from a Jeff Culhane interview with Hondo Carpenter of Spartannation.com. On his weekly Big Ten 101 segment on Husker Sports Nightly, Culhane said: "I know it's a rough game for Sparty, but how was your trip to Lincoln? Was it all right?" That was the start button, and Hondo, a lifelong MSU fan and Lansing-area native, took it from there. His answer was so entertaining that Hondo, in my mind at least, redefines the term vibrant to describe a media personality.
"You know, it was incredible, and I want to share this with you," Carpenter told Culhane. "I took my wife and son along with me because I was there in the mid-'90s when Oklahoma came and played Nebraska, and they sat in section 27 and row 2, and I don't remember the young's lady's name, but she's been an usher there for 25-plus years and literally within 15 seconds of being in our car and coming up and welcoming them and bringing them food, the amazing thing was as the game went on, they'd say: 'Hey, don't go there to go to the bathroom. There's an easier way.' And as Nebraska started to thoroughly kick the Michigan State can and here's my son in his jersey, let me just say this ... he's grown up around Spartan football. He knows every player by number. Mark Dantonio (Michigan State's head coach), he calls Uncle Mark. It's not a fan relationship. So he and my wife are in their green among the sea of red, and they were so incredibly gracious."
Even "the hot dog guy comes with his cannon" and he "can tell my son's down because Michigan State is losing," so he says: 'Hey, why don't you come and help me shoot hot dogs?' And at one point, the governor of Nebraska comes over and says: 'Hey, you know you guys have a great team and we had a good game, and he literally sat there for 20 minutes and made my wife and son practically want to move to Nebraska. And I just want to say I don't have any clue if Nebraska is going to win the Big Ten championship, but I've been around this for 40 years, and you've got - it's not even close - the best fans in the country, let alone the Big Ten, and there isn't even a second. And I want you to know I came home and said all that on my radio show around the state of Michigan, and I told them flat out, you know, you can argue football all you want, but you can't argue class of the folks in Nebraska, and everyone of us has a long way to go and a lot to learn. You have so much to be proud of. I just want to tell you it was an incredible experience."
Ironically, Culhane's interview with Carpenter came in the same week the Big Ten Network featured Tom Osborne on its Big Ten Icons series, and somehow, fans throughout the Big Ten, not just Michigan, heard a similar message on the essence of sportsmanship. Jackson closed the show with this comment in his own inimitable style: "In 1980, Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden wrote an open letter to the Lincoln Journal Star after a road victory in Lincoln that said, quote: 'I have never seen people with more class than I saw at Nebraska. The Nebraska fans, players, cheerleaders, band, officials ... everybody gave me living testimony of what college football should be."
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