Every now and then, just when your favorite team needs it. . .
Every now and then, just when your entire fan base needs it. . .
Every now and then, when your football-crazed, Saturday-worshipping, neurotically-charged-pile-of-emotions city and state need it. . .
A third stringer will complete a pass to a fourth stringer from 50 yards away.
A perennial backup to the backup will turn his clipboard arm into an anti-aircraft cannon and launch a deep ball that hangs beautifully, tantalizingly, high in the prairie air — long enough for rap-video-hub-cap-sized eye bulging and white-knuckled vice gripping hands to raise together towards the stars with a feverish, half-held hope.
Every now and then, just when we need it. . .
A play called “Geronimo” will take us all right over the edge of the cliff into an insane free fall.
A play will shake off the dust of 20 years ago and back-in-the-days, and the rigor mortised hands clutching onto the past will loosen, if only for an instant, to allow the present to snap into focus like dilating pupils.
A raucous, lung-exploding tumult will volcanically erupt as the improbable suddenly becomes reality and what seemed impossible is wrenched from the hands of fate and thrown at the feet of young men, as conquering heroes.
Every now and then we see a play, we get to see a play, that stops the undertow of deeply held fan-angst from pulling us out to choppy seas and allows us to rejoice in the here and now and the reckless abandon afforded to us by present tense.
That’s what happened last Saturday when Ron Kellogg, III stepped up in the pocket and threw a season — and perhaps more, depending on what school of thought you subscribe to — with all the strength he could muster, into the air and up for grabs. Somehow, be it fate or luck or a pact with Lucifer inked in blood-scrawl in the dark of night, the ball was tipped back towards the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ end zone and somehow Jordan Westerkamp, a redshirt freshman wide receiver who picked the perfect time to thrust his mustachioed face into the public eye, came down with his first career touchdown reception.
That’s what happened when Nebraska fans were granted a brief stay of execution; a reprieve from having to face the tough questions that would have a followed a tougher loss and could have turned the nose-diving fan morale into a meth-lab explosion. But it happened. And, even now, with a difficult road game coming against Michigan and a team that is more beat up than Rocky Balboa in round 12 against Ivan Drago we can allow ourselves a moment to look back on the play. To relish what happened. To bask in the moment.
For that one brief moment, we weren’t a too-demanding, hyper-critical bunch of stuck-in-the-past whack-jobs. For that one brief moment there wasn’t a loss against Minnesota that made us re-evaluate the program for the fiftyleventh time. There wasn’t a coach whose brother might have been snorting blow and smoking more than a log cabin chimney and there wasn’t a game day philosophy that needs to be rightly questioned and examined.
There was Ron Kellogg, III who had paid his dues, done his time, and done things in that all-coveted “right way” for so long that it seemed he might fade into obscurity the moment his jersey was taken off for the final time. There was RKIII suddenly sprinting down the field at Taylor Martinez pace, a hero who had just led Nebraska on a stunning last-minute drive, and whose name will live on as a perfect example of what can happen when you battle and believe and scrap and cling with your fingernails to the belief that you can always rally one final time and carpe the living shit out of the diem when your moment arrives.
We screamed. We howled at the artificial thousand watt moons that hovered above the stadium until all that was left was feral gurgling. Then we screamed some more. No one moved. Concrete stadium floor was matched with concrete limbs, refusing to move. High-fives were whiffed and hands were shaken with aftershock inducing passion. Nebraska fans were sucking the very marrow out of a very special moment. A moment that demonstrated what’s right with sports and what gives us that belief that sometimes it is okay to care a little too much about teenagers playing a game with a ball. It was beautiful.
(*Author’s note: a brief epilogue: Jordan Westerkamp immediately went from a good player with a good deal of promise to an overnight folk hero. And he was certainly aided by the fact that he has a rather spectacularly brutal mustache chilling on the roof of his upper lip. After that catch, though, he was probably the most laid man with a stache on campus since the 1970’s. I’d say more about the ‘stache being creepily glorious, but that would be facial profiling.)
(*Secondary Author’s note: to once again pay homage to the Hail Hairy ‘stache here are some Huskers that decided to pay tribute to Mr. Westerkamp.)
Wait, Carl? What’re you doing back already?