An Old Friend Moves Farther Away: Big Red Wrap-Up Belongs on NET
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

An Old Friend Moves Farther Away: Big Red Wrap-Up Belongs on NET

September 22, 2016

UPDATE, 9.24.16: The link in the story below originally directed to this page describing some of the show’s history. We noticed today that the original link now directs to a different page. We have made no changes to this story beyond this update.
This isn’t about me. It’s merely a way to make a point.

The Nebraska football team is in San Antonio, Texas, for the 2000 Alamo Bowl game against Northwestern on Dec. 30, a Saturday. This happens on Friday afternoon.

I’m in the main building of the Alamo, the entry area, in the midst of a crowd of folks, many of them fans, looking at the exhibits. I’ve been to San Antonio a couple of times for Husker football games. And I’ve visited the Alamo multiple times, going more than once per trip.

I’m fascinated by the Alamo, and not because the Fess Parker-Buddy Ebsen movie “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier” was among my favorites as a youngster. I could probably still sing the theme song from the television series that was the basis of the movie, in fact.

Davy was born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free.

Anyway, a lady works her way through the Alamo crowd toward me, saying: “You’re the guy I’ve seen on TV.” I look around, wondering if David Letterman is in town to watch the Huskers and Wildcats. But the lady has picked me out. “You’re the guy I’ve seen on TV,” she repeats.

Turns out she’s from Sidney, Nebraska, and is there with a group of western Nebraskans who have come to San Antonio for the game. She has seen me on “Big Red Wrap-Up,” on which I have typically made a guest appearance once each football season, through the kindness of NET.

As I said, though, this isn’t about me. It’s about “Big Red Wrap-Up.” The program’s influence on the state is such that a Husker fan from Sidney could recognize me in a crowd 900 miles from Lincoln, or nearly 1,000 miles from Sidney, based on an undistinguished, once-a-year appearance.

“Big Red Wrap-Up” is must-see TV for Nebraska fans. Of that I’m convinced. And I would have described it that way long before the unexpected encounter in the Alamo.

The NET website says: “‘Big Red Wrap-Up’ is the only statewide interactive sports series, reaching viewers live on television, online and through social media.”

That’s what bothered me Tuesday night, as I watched the post-Oregon show on NET2. My concern was that not everyone gets NET2, which means some fans tuned in to NET at 7 p.m. expecting to see the show and were disappointed to learn they would have to wait for Thursday night’s replay.

Those fans wouldn’t see it live, and wouldn’t be able to interact.

My recollection, which goes back to Don Gill, Nebraska assistant John Melton, and a pair of Huskers on what was then called “Cornhusker Football,” is that the show was always on Tuesday nights, wrapping up the previous game with lots of highlights and some witty exchange.

It became habit, like the comfort of regular visits with an old friend.

The show, which became “Big Red Play-by-Play” in 1991 and “Big Red Wrap-Up” in 1995 according to the website, has remained that way, an accepted part of the Husker experience for many fans, like the “Tunnel Walk” or Blackshirts “throwing the bones” or Nebraska’s running backs being referred to as “I-backs,” even though “I-formation” no longer describes the Huskers’ primary offensive alignment.

I was thinking about all this Tuesday night while watching Kevin Kugler, Blake Lawrence, Damon Benning, Clete Blakeman and Sean Callahan, live from the Durham Museum in Omaha – and yes, I still miss Adrian Fiala and Jim Carmichael being involved in the production.

A large crowd was on-hand, unlike the regular studio shows, interacting in person instead of by phone or now by e-mail and text message. That’s part of the show’s old-friend appeal.

The lady and I chat briefly in the Alamo that Friday afternoon in 2000, probably speculating on what will happen on Saturday night at the Alamodome.

“Hey, this is a guy on TV,” she yells as she heads back to those she’s with.

I hope she’s able to get NET2 for the live version. I’m pretty sure she’s still watching.

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