Road trips can teach you a lot about yourself.
The road can heal you in ways that staying stationary rarely can; blurring, water-color scenery passing by, landscape seeping into the cracks in your heart. The people you meet, fellow bumper cars on this great American journey may renew hope or confirm belief, tonic to calm your churning mind. The road can be what you need it to be. It’s a blacktop jack of all trades, an odometer full of time to reflect.
Humans have long turned to the trials of miles that a long journey can present, staring far ahead so that we can better understand what is right here in front of us. Whether it was sandals on a dirt road, step by step in pilgrimage, the humming vibrato of an engine tearing down a highway, or the cloud-jostling view out a window from 30,000 feet in the air, humans have long took to travel with lofty goals in mind.
The Nebraska Cornhusker Men’s Basketball team are just finishing up one such trip.
After last night’s game against Clemson, a narrow and painful loss, the Huskers have now been on the losing end of three straight games. Typically, any three game skid is going to feel pretty lousy. Typically, if you struggle to close out games and the youth on your team is more glaring than a bad fake ID, you feel antsy about the prospect of Big Ten basketball looming around the corner. This road trip was anything but typical.
It was a road trip like the ones I wrote about above.
It was a coming of age, hope springs eternal, renewed belief in that fabled “process” that Sam Hinkie from the 76ers turned into a hashtag punchline kind of trip.
Yes, the Huskers went 1-3 in their last four games. At times they had all the dysfunctionality, the manic wildness, of an-inexplicably-popular Seann William Scott character in 2000s dorm poster favorite, Road Trip. But there was definitely something more at play, here, than just some tough losses.
The Huskers are starting to feel like something different. It’s a subtle shift, measured in reverberations, not on the Richter scale. They lost, yes, but they looked cohesive. They looked athletic. They went chest to chest with the fabled UCLA Bruins and their incoming class of freshman who had more stars next to their name than the Andromeda galaxy. They certainly didn’t appear to be afraid. In fact, they looked very, very hungry.
While they may not know exactly who they are this season, this formative road trip seemed to give us a glimpse at the transformative period we can only hope we’re about to see happen.
In spite of tough end results, we have seen Glynn Watson Jr. have a brilliant stretch of games where he appears to be emerging as a legitimate offensive weapon, to complement the gritty play of Ed Morrow in the paint. And Tai Webster? How can you not like the battle-tested, 4th year player out of New Zealand? He’s endured constant pressure as the former program savior, offensive struggles, coming off the bench for a number of years, but has emerged looking tougher, finishing better, and seemingly ready to fulfill the promise that we so desperately believed he had.
Where they go from here? Will they be able to muster some outside shooting from their struggling Australian three point specialist who has suddenly seemed pretty unspecial from behind the arc? Will they be able to keep Watson, Webster, and Morrow progressing? They have a game against Tim Miles’ former protegé and his South Dakota squad that will give them a chance to right the ship and that is, mercifully, at home but then their bitter rivals from 50 miles to the North and the East are looming.
The Huskers find themselves in the final act of this opportunity for growth. As with all good road trips, you eventually will find yourself at home once again. Weary, perhaps, but with a new understanding of where you’ve come from and — more importantly — where you’re going.
I can’t wait to see the next chapter.