Faced with helium shortages but not ending, Nebraska Cornhusker balloon celebration

Nebraska's balloon tradition is on hold.

Nebraska’s balloon tradition is on hold.
picture: Getty Images

One of the saddest traditions in collegiate sports is being broken as Nebraska football suspended its home game custom of releasing balloons after the first Husker score. For a long time, children could barely reach their seats before releasing the plastic balls filled with red helium. Now Big Red supporters can’t get rid of the balloons fast enough as the goal went from being an inevitability to god pleasing in the first quarter, just kick a field goal so I don’t have to lug this thing around the tailgate at halftime.

I was at an Oklahoma State game years ago when the fans sarcastically let go of the balloons after the team was down 0-35 late in the first half of a game, and I have to say that was the case sweeter for being the pokes than silencing the crowd.

Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts said a helium shortage, rather than environmental concerns or a despondent offense, is what caused the program to take the air out of tradition.

“The acquisition of helium today is very challenging for some of its production, and it has been difficult to obtain,” said Alberts said during his radio show. “So we were asked by the university, the helium that we get as a university we have to use for medical purposes [University of Nebraska Medical Center] in Omaha. And so this year isn’t the first time we’re putting the red balloons in Memorial Stadium.”

Sanctions against Russia, one of the world’s top helium suppliers, for its invasion of Ukraine caused supply chain problems, and I’m sure many Republicans in my home state will find a way to blame Joe Biden for this development. Albert’s claim that the university is saving gas for UNMC patients is commendable. Sick people obviously take precedence over an aesthetically pleasing look at a soccer game; and I’m glad the school has found a line that it will not cross for its soccer team.

The thousands of pieces of garbage that are literally dumped a few times each year are a biological hazard with lasting effects, in contrast to the steaming heap of garbage that has been dumped on the field for the past decade. The student council voted to end the tradition in November, and it was treated with as much concern as that Lawsuit filed against the school by a Nebraskan in 2016 about the health hazard of balloons.

For me it’s one of those things, like the Offensive option. It should have ended years ago. I’ve been to Memorial Stadium countless times and can’t remember releasing a balloon. (I’ve been going to games for as long as I can remember, so I have to ask my dad if a young Sean has ever attended.) Just the hiatus from practice tells fans, “It’s alright, it’s coming back pretty much someday.” never before,” and it’s logic applicable to other aspects of the sport in Nebraska.

Husker traditions have fallen by the wayside since Tom Osborne retired in the late ’90s, and sad as it is for fans, what’s more depressing is clinging to the last remnants of the glory years like this guy who lived in peaked in high school. We all look like bloated ass clowns in decades-old letter jackets, and it might be time to wipe the slate clean as no one is impressed by an immaculately maintained trophy cabinet that hasn’t seen any significant additions since the Big 12 conference title did in 1999.

The sell-off streak, which currently stands at 382 games, only continues because “Generous Donors” buy tickets that would otherwise not be sold. Forget the fact that the stadium has been empty – or attendance has been scaled back – during the COVID years. It’s a charade that makes Nebraska laugh as much as Scott Frost’s worst slump in fourth quarter. How about you take the money used to shore up a dead tradition and distribute it in the form of ZERO deals?

Trust me I know how good for an off season the team has supposedly assembled. The transfer portal has been kind to Frost and could bring him more than three wins this year. Traditions without victories are just empty gestures. If Osborne had been resting on his laurels after being beaten by Miami in all those Orange Bowls, he never would have overhauled the way he recruited and won three titles in four seasons. (And no, editor, don’t include a note here about the unsavory characters Osborne overlooked; that college football Practice is not specific to Nebraska.)

Is it a leap to say that Albert’s refusal to immediately end Big Red release is evidence of a program wearily stuck in the past? Yes, absolutely, but my god, look ahead, not at the sky, because those balloons will eventually come back to earth.

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