Expatriate Huskers fans all set to paint town red

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 22, 2011 - 8:34 AM
hide

Ashley LeClaire of St. Louis Park keeps the Huskers faith.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

No matter how the outside world might judge him, Steve Bruce is convinced of one thing: He isn't crazy. If he were, then how do you explain the hundreds of people he knows who are similarly obsessed with University of Nebraska football?

Bruce, a Nebraska native now living in Rosemount, cheerfully admits he's changed his phone number to HUS-KERS. He once drove nearly to Albert Lea to pick up a radio broadcast of a Cornhuskers game. He bought four season tickets for Gophers football -- and made an additional contribution to the U athletic program -- just to guarantee good seats for Saturday's game at TCF Bank Stadium, when the Huskers play the Gophers for the first time as a member of the Big Ten.

But Bruce also knows Ashley LeClaire, who has broken up with boyfriends who don't understand her devotion to her home-state team. And Brad Carlin, who celebrates both of his religions -- he's a Methodist on Sundays, a Big Red disciple on Saturdays -- through music. Not to mention the guy who got questioned by a police officer because he kept moving his car back and forth on a hilltop to hear a game on a barely audible Omaha radio station.

About 300 Huskers loyalists turn the Joe Senser's sports bar in Bloomington into Little Lincoln every Saturday, for game-watching parties that include Carlin's pep band. This week, with the Huskers coming to them, their magnificent obsession will be on full display in Dinkytown.

"You would not believe the number of people who told me they bought season tickets just for this game," said Bruce, who works in marketing for a global-technology firm. "The things I've done might sound crazy, but there are lots of like-minded people who have done things that are just as crazy. It's great comparing stories with everyone else, because even if they don't go to the same extreme, there's that shared passion for Nebraska football."

Booster club active

Many of them are part of Minnesotans for Nebraska, a booster club Bruce revived in 1989. An official affiliate of the university's alumni association, it counted more than 1,000 members in its last official census a few years ago.

The group has organized game-watching parties at all four Senser's locations for about 19 years. This weekend, in addition to those gatherings, it will host parties Friday night at the Mall of America; Saturday morning in Roseville, with buses to the game; and Saturday at Campus Pizza.

Most Saturdays, LeClaire watches from her lucky chair at the Bloomington Senser's. She will be at the stadium Saturday, but she still will follow another superstition: no eating until halftime, so as not to upset her nervous stomach.

A native Nebraskan whose parents indoctrinated her from birth, LeClaire doesn't go home for holidays so she can save her time off for trips to Huskers games. At her St. Louis Park apartment, she flies a Nebraska flag from the balcony and has fully outfitted the place with Big Red paraphernalia. Her roommate, from Iowa, has agreed to confine her Hawkeyes gear to her bedroom.

Fans form community

Though Nebraska's entry into the Big Ten means all of its games are now televised locally, attendance at the game-watching parties has not dropped off. Several fans said the Huskers inspire such fierce, enduring loyalty because they are the state's only big-time team, and their long record of success is a source of immense pride for all Nebraskans. To be a Big Red fan is to be part of a unique community, and sharing the love is part of the fun.

"Most of my friends are people I met at Senser's," LeClaire said. "The first time I walked in there, it was standing-room-only, and everyone was wearing red. It was like walking into heaven."

Staying tuned in

For that, she has Bruce to thank. When he moved to the Twin Cities in 1988, he looked in vain for a radio station carrying the Huskers. There weren't any, so he contacted the University of Nebraska, got a list of Twin Cities-area alumni and made hundreds of phone calls to gauge interest in funding a local broadcast.

Bruce easily covered the $500-per-game cost to buy time on a station, as scores of fans sent $20 or $25. They did so for 17 years, until most of the games were televised. The game-watching parties he organized outgrew two smaller bars before landing at Senser's, where Carlin heads the pep band that has played there since the parties began.

The group ranges from eight to 12 musicians and includes tuba, trombone, trumpet, drums, alto sax and piccolo. This weekend, it will perform at the Friday night and Saturday morning parties, then attend the game. Carlin, a professor of biostatistics at the U, will store the instruments in his campus office; after the game, the band will play outside the stadium.

Being there in the flesh will beat the time he took his kids to a Halloween party on a game day. Carlin spent the entire afternoon walking sideways, so he could pick up the Huskers' radio broadcast.

"People were wondering why I was always facing the left wall," Carlin said. "It was pretty silly. But that's typical of a Nebraska fan's devotion."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close