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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 07/01/2011 1:05 AM
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Hello Nebraska Football!

By Tony Gerdeman

Congratulations on your joining of the Big Ten Conference! You will find things here to be of the utmost excellence (provided you realize the term “utmost excellence” is relative and also mixed in with a bit of “some most mediocrity”). But other than that, it's pretty cool here.

Clearly, you'll find things more to your liking here. In fact, you'll even notice that some teams in the Big Ten actually play defense--which makes things a little more interesting at times. You may not be used to it initially, but since you already know what defense is, you'll catch on quickly enough.

And if you don't catch on initially, don't get too nervous because you'll still get to play teams like Michigan and Illinois, who think defense is a place to hide their offensive players who can't catch or block. They should help make your transition a smoother one. We affectionately call them our welcoming committee. Consider Michigan's 3-3-5 defense our version of a neighbor's casserole that gets brought to your doorstep while you're unloading your leather recliner.

I know being the new guy on the block can bring about a certain amount of stress, but I want to alleviate a portion of your stress by letting you know everything there is to know about your new neighbors. Hopefully by getting an idea of what the neighborhood looks like, you'll know who to latch on to (Joe Paterno's wife makes the BEST cookies), and who to never let borrow your hedge trimmers (Rich Rodriguez has a knack for ruining everything he comes into contact with).

For instance, that orange house on the corner with the tattered blue shutters is Illinois. It actually didn't look too bad a few years ago, but the upkeep has been terrible. Ron Zook is the kind of guy who thinks home improvement begins and ends with a paint job and a new mailbox (which his C- kid made in shop class). I wouldn't get too attached to him, because I don't think he's going to be in the neighborhood much longer. His house was on the market last year but there were no takers.

The house next to Illinois—the one with the old Carr in the yard making things look even worse than they already are—is Michigan. Rich Rodriguez came to the neighborhood shooting fireworks off every night, which just made his brood of coon dogs howl even more than they normally do. You'll see him outside a lot because he spends most of his days during the summer on his porch, completely ignoring what's going on inside his own house. And his house is a complete mess, by the way. I've heard people say his last one was actually pretty nice, so I have no idea what happened to this one, but it's about two notches above a meth lab. Also, he has this crazy workout dude who lives in a trailer in the backyard. I've never seen him, but I hear he sits in his trailer and watches old tapes of “The World's Strongest Man” competitions.

Now behind Michigan—but just barely—is Indiana. We don't really talk about Indiana much. They're quiet and they don't bother anybody. But they're good people. They're the type of neighbor where if you need a cup of sugar, they'll invite you into their kitchen and bake you a cake—and then let you take the sugar, the cake and the oven home with you. They're just tremendous hosts. They really seem to appreciate the attention, but there's just so little to do there that we really don't visit much.

Right next to Indiana is Purdue. They're related to Indiana somehow. Somebody is married to somebody's sister or something. I've never really cared to ask. You just never know what you're going to get with those folks, but I still like going over there every now and again because they have this giant toy train like the dad on Silver Spoons had! But other than that, the place is pretty drab. I didn't even know you could put wood paneling on a ceiling.

The next street over is Notre Dame. We don't really talk to them because they're not part of our neighborhood, but we see their kids using our neighborhood park all the time. You wouldn't think a merry-go-round would need instructions, but we actually had to add a sign that said “Do not enter moving merry-go-round head first”. Those are some special, special folks over there. And of course their family thinks they're just perfect.

Now coming back this way, do you see that purple house? That's Northwestern. It's a nice little house, and they have a pretty substantial library. If you'll notice, they've tried to pattern their landscaping after Notre Dame's a bit, but on a smaller scale obviously. They're pretty hoity-toity at times, but don't be fooled—they can throw down when they want to if you aren't careful. The key to getting along with them is to just beat the ever-loving crap out of them once a year and they'll bend to your every whim. But you REALLY have to pound the snot out of them. I'm talking absolutely no mercy. When they're down and crying for their family, you bring the family out on the sidewalk and smack them around too. And if you do it well enough, when it's all over they'll get up, dust themselves off, shake your hand and then thank you for the family whooping.

Across the street from Michigan right there is Michigan State. That house has gotten a lot quieter over the past few years, but they still have their moments. I've gone over a few times for barbecues, and the parties always start out great, but the later the day gets, the more things just fall apart. Either the keg will be empty and all they have left in the fridge is Smirnoff Ice, or the karaoke will be stuck on Debbie Gibson songs. It's just never pretty for the last hour or so of every party. If you leave soon after you eat, you'll think it was a terrific party; but if you stick around til the horrible bloody end, you'll have a whole new appreciation for the good fortune you have in your own life.

The maroon and gold house next to Michigan State is Minnesota. Tim Brewster is the name of the guy who lives there. When he moved in, he made some crazy changes to the house in order to increase its curb appeal because I think he was planning on flipping it. But here he is like four years later and he's pretty much put everything back the way it was—except not as well. What used to be a sizable two-car garage is now barely large enough for a motorcycle with a sidecar. And for some reason there are no longer any stairs in the house, so he has no way to reach the upper levels. Brewster is a bit of a character, as well. If you happen into him down at the store and he starts talking to you, just keep nodding until he stops. There's really no way to interrupt him because he'll be too busy trying to sell you his house. Eventually he'll stop and move on to the next person who got caught being recognized by him.

On the other side of Minnesota is Wisconsin. Absolutely everybody in that family plays softball. Even their two-year old is in a league (though he had to move up to the seven-year old league since he weighs 72 pounds). The house is pretty plain on the outside, but everything on the inside is actually fairly nice. The main thing I'll warn you about, however, is that they are terrible hosts. They don't make you feel welcome at all. It's still fun to visit, though, because a little hostility is good for the soul. Especially when you get to pay them back when they visit you.

If you look over a bit, you can see a house that looks a lot like yours. That's Iowa. They have their ups and downs, but when they're up, they seem to forget that they've ever had any downs. They'll come over and talk about how great everything is going, and when you say something like, “Didn't your entire family get arrested for grifting a nursing home?”, they'll just brush it aside and say it was a misunderstanding. Meanwhile, they'll be nervously tousling with the pearl necklace that they purloined from somebody's grandma a few years back. Other than the obvious, however, they're okay people I guess. The house is nice enough, but for some reason the HOA has voted them house of the year three times in the last decade. I guess they figure if Iowa can actually get the lawn mowed in timely fashion for an entire year, it's a cause for celebration.

Oh, and we can't forget the house way at the other end of the street. That's Penn State. Joe Paterno is the name of the guy who owns that house. And I'll just warn you right now—he does NOT want you on his lawn. He's also a stickler for proper driving etiquette, and if he doesn't like they way you didn't signal before turning, he'll chase you down and let you know about it. He's just a crazy old coot, but he's fun to have around because he tells the best stories when he's had a bit of cider. Now I will say that when you visit Penn State, you have to be very careful because his kids do have a tendency of packaging their own bodily wastes with the intention of throwing it on their guests—especially at night. But it's nothing that a parka can't handle. And a visor. And maybe a baseball bat.

Finally, do you see that big beautiful white house way up on the hill all by its lonesome? That's Ohio State. Absolutely nobody is allowed up there. And most don't even bother trying. But if you're really good over these next few years, maybe we'll let your coach come over for a few drinks and see what he thinks.

After all, it IS the house he grew up in. Who knows, he might even decide to move back in.

Anyway, welcome to the neighborhood. I'm sure you'll fit right in as long as you know your place.

All the best!

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