Iowa-Nebraska rivalry is ripe for fans' trash talk

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 23, 2011
Greg Galles is a hardcore Iowa Hawkeyes fan. Jessica Wilson Galles loves her Nebraska Cornhuskers. One of the topics the Omaha couple discussed in premarital counseling before their July wedding was what they would do each year when Iowa and Nebraska play their annual football game. Their counselor - and Jessica swears she's not joking - recommended that they go separate ways that day. That means Greg and Jessica will go to different parties when the game is in Lincoln, and Greg will leave Jessica at home when he goes to Iowa City to watch the game in person. They have another agreement, too. ''We won't talk about it afterward,'' Jessica said. ''No taunting allowed.'' Greg and Jessica's bliss will be tested Friday when the Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) visit the Huskers (8-3, 4-3) for the start of what figures to be a natural rivalry between two teams from states separated by the Missouri River. The rivalry is more about the fans now. The teams have met 42 times but share no recent history. They played almost every year between 1930-46 and not again until 1979. There were six meetings between then and 2000. The Hawkeyes have only two native Nebraskans on their roster; the Huskers have no Iowans, though injured tight end Ben Cotton went to high school in Ames, Iowa. Nebraska safety Austin Cassidy said the series has the potential to become a big rivalry, bigger than previous annual games against Colorado, Kansas State and Kansas. That will be especially true, he said, if the game decides the Legends Division title on a regular basis. As it is, the game will give bragging rights to Iowa or Nebraska fans, especially those who have to mix with each other in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. ''There's a lot of trash talk, and it's been going on forever,'' said Wendy Bettin, who owns Maloney's Irish Pub, a Hawkeyes bar in Omaha. ''It's been a rivalry since the beginning, and it'll be nice to have some closure on who is the better team.'' Bettin said she expects 100 people, Huskers and Hawkeyes fans alike, to crowd into her bar for Friday's game, and she's hiring a couple security guards. ''We do have some people who get kind of heated in their discussions,'' she said, ''and I just want to make sure, whoever wins or whoever loses, nothing gets out of hand.'' Larry Ross, longtime owner of the Seneca Street Saloon in Webster City, Iowa, said a few Nebraska fans pop into his establishment from time to time, but most of his patrons don't like the Big Red. Last week, customers watching TV relished the way Michigan hammered Nebraska and the way Iowa handled Purdue. ''A lot of Iowa fans say Nebraska isn't going to just come over here to the Big Ten and think they're the best team out there,'' Ross said. ''Iowa fans say Nebraska is just going to be another team - sort of what they are.'' Ross said a lot of folks in Iowa have nothing against Nebraska's players and coaches. It's the Nebraska fans incessantly reminding them about the Huskers' 5-0 edge in national championships that wears thin. ''There's no doubt,'' Ross said, ''that the people here think Nebraska fans are snobbish.'' Huskers fans in eastern Iowa can take refuge at Beef O'Brady's sports bar in Cedar Rapids, about 30 miles from the Hawkeyes' campus. Transplanted Nebraskan Dave Behmer, co-owner of Beef O'Brady's, said patrons have been calling to ask about tailgating in his parking lot before kickoff Friday. ''It would have been more fun if it would have been for the Legends lead,'' Behmer said, ''but there is a lot of bantering about this game.'' Greg Galles, the 39-year-old attorney, went to law school at Iowa and is president of the Omaha area's Nile Kinnick I-Club chapter. His parents grew up in Iowa and moved to Omaha. He has been going to Hawkeyes games since the 1970s. He said he was ''brutally teased'' by classmates loyal to the Huskers when he wore an Iowa jacket to grade school during Hayden Fry's heyday in the 1980s. Not that he would cheer for Nebraska anyway, but the experience really soured him on the Big Red culture. While fans in eastern and central Iowa might look at Minnesota and Wisconsin as the Hawkeyes' chief rivals, Galles said, their supporters in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska have been beyond excited about this game since Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Greg said the fan bases are more alike than they probably would care to admit. ''They're very passionate, they'll travel to road games and bowl games and the stadium is always full,'' he said. ''Maybe the best indication is the number of Husker fans I live and work with who say they like the fact the Iowa game is the day after Thanksgiving.'' His wife, who works for an Omaha insurance company, said she and Greg have fun with their different allegiances and can joke about it almost any time except game time. ''He takes the game very seriously, and I'm very lighthearted,'' she said. She'll humor Greg by wearing Hawkeyes gear on Saturdays until the Nebraska game starts. Then she puts on the scarlet and cream. She said she's thought about buying a Huskers shirt for Greg but figured it would be a waste of money. Their dog, Sophie, wears either a Huskers or Hawkeyes neckerchief, depending on which team is playing on TV at the time. Jessica said she and Greg each filled out a questionnaire during their marriage preparation, and it indicated they were a good match. Of course, the questionnaire didn't ask about their preference of college football teams. ''It's just one contention between us,'' Jessica said, laughing. ''He's a Hawkeye fan, I'm a Husker fan.''
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