Faith and Football in the Cornhusker State

Photo courtesy of Gordon Thiessen

I was born and raised in Nebraska. Although I now live in Texas, I still root hard for the Cornhuskers, especially the football team (and I teach my daughters to do the same). This article for Religion and Politics takes a look at the ways in which football and religion are intertwined in my home state. You can read the intro below. Click here if you want to read the rest.

My childhood was oriented around Nebraska Cornhusker football. A pastor’s kid growing up in McCook, a town of 8,000 in southwest Nebraska, I came of age during the Cornhuskers’ string of championship runs in the 1990s. I was more likely to skip church on Sunday than miss the Saturday radio or television broadcast of the Cornhusker game. Occasionally I scored tickets to see the action in person. I have vivid memories of the four-hour pilgrimage east to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, where I joined fellow Huskers as we sang hymns like “Dear Old Nebraska U,” chanted “Husker Power!” and participated in the call-and-response liturgy of “throwing the bones” (crossing our arms into an X) after a spectacular defensive play.  
Not everyone in Nebraska roots for Cornhusker football, but nothing else unites the state quite as much. Even for dissenters, the power of the Big Red cannot be avoided. Fall weddings must be planned around football games; trips out in public on game day must be taken with the assumption that the radio broadcast will be piped through the speakers of whatever establishment you are visiting. It is no wonder that scholars have found Cornhusker fans useful when exploring the “sports-as-religion” thesis.