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Photo Credit: John Peterson

Drake’s Takes: Balloon Release Ends and Softball’s Season Comes to a Close

May 27, 2022

This week’s Drake’s Takes talks about the end of the balloon release, along with the softball and women’s basketball teams.

Balloon release ends

This past week, Nebraska’s balloon release tradition ended.

Athletic director Trev Alberts announced that balloons will not be passed out this fall, citing a helium shortage and environmental concerns. 

It can come off condescending when people make comments in hindsight about how something was “always going to happen.” But with the balloon release ending, I felt it was closer to a matter of when, not if it would ever end.

In the past couple of years, many students have been in favor of the ending of the tradition, and the student government passed resolutions in favor of doing so twice since 2020. The tradition poses a significant harm to wildlife, even with balloons marked as “biodegradable” as Nebraska’s are. 

Still, it seems that the environmental impact wasn’t what finally forced the suspension. There is a national helium shortage, and Alberts said that the University of Nebraska Medical Center is in need of the resource. That’s also a very good justification for ending the release. 

With the end of a tradition will always come many people unhappy with it. I don’t want to overstate the opposition in this case, as the majority of reactions I’ve seen have been fairly indifferent, but it is still significant enough to talk about. 

I think the nature of a balloon release almost shields it from having criticism taken seriously. It’s like how people say you can’t say “bubbles” angrily. It’s hard to watch a full adult rant about getting a balloon to let go into the air and not find it at least a little funny.

But genuinely, it’s a bit sad to see the tradition go. Without considering any of the impact outside Memorial Stadium, it’s always been cool and aesthetically pleasing to watch Nebraska score and see a bunch of balloons fly high into the air. It was equally funny in the games where the Huskers failed to score for a while, seeing balloons trickle into the air as some people gave up.

Without a doubt, Nebraska will replace this tradition with a new one, as it should. The balloon release is technically just put on hold for specifically this fall, but I don’t really see it coming back. 

Surprise seasons with anticlimactic endings

Last weekend, Nebraska softball’s season came to a close in the NCAA Regional.

The postseason started off incredibly well, with the Huskers winning the conference championship, winning their first regional game and grabbing a lead midway through the next game against Oklahoma State. Things went downhill from there, as the Cowgirls won 7-4 and Nebraska exited the bracket via shutout against North Texas.

Keeping everything in mind, I think it’s still fair to say the end to the season was at least a little bit disappointing. I’m not going to say we should have expected the Huskers to reach the College World Series or even the Super Regional, but the way things played out has to be somewhat frustrating. Nebraska’s offense, which had success all year, couldn’t get anything going in the postseason, and it cost the team. It would have been nice to see the Huskers at least force a rematch with Oklahoma State (which won its first game of the Super Regional yesterday), but they got shut out by the Mean Green.

The good feelings should still outweigh any other in the end, though. Making your first regional since 2016 is a big accomplishment. Winning a conference championship is a big accomplishment.

While cross-sport comparisons are never perfect, this season is pretty reminiscent of the one women’s basketball just had. Neither team was expected to see this level of success given how they’ve done in the previous years and having lost crucial players from last season. Both ended up near the top of the conference with a wide array of successful players.

Of course, it’s also notable that both seasons ended anticlimactically. Even putting a Sweet 16 expectation on women’s basketball would have been very optimistic, but the Huskers lost handily to Gonzaga in the round of 64.

Neither situation should cause panic or outrage, especially since these are two of the more successful Nebraska programs at this moment. But it was a reminder that it is still incredibly tough to have postseason success. These two teams now have to figure out how to work through that barrier, and we’ll get to begin seeing how those plans play out when we reach the winter.

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