February 21, 2024

A day of families coming together

LINCOLN, Neb. — Sport has a way of unifying, bringing families together.

Whether it’s cheering on in front of the television at home, gathering around the radio or going to a game themselves, they bring us together.

Families spend time bonding together, savor those moments.

For families that are spread apart, an afternoon at the ballpark, a night at a stadium is a way to spend precious moments together in a fun, enjoyable way.

Bringing families together can happen in all sorts of ways, as I saw first hand this past weekend.

This past Saturday was the annual Red/White spring football game at Memorial Stadium for Nebraska.

This Saturday had been in the works for my parents and I for quite some time. Ever since the date for the Spring Game was announced several months ago, and that the Nebraska baseball team was also home against Iowa at nearby Haymarket Park, it was a perfect opportunity for an afternoon and evening together.

We hadn’t seen each other since Christmas, so it was an ideal time to catch up, have a day together to bond, celebrate my 36th birthday a couple days early.

Mom, dad and I were at the football game, with an early supper after. Then dad and I went to the baseball game later on, met up by a friend from Creston.

We weren’t the only parents and children there at Memorial Stadium.

For a good number of the 78,000-plus gathered, it was time with their fathers and mothers, sons and daughters.

Precious time bonding together in one of the great cathedrals to college football.

For myself, it was my first trip back to Memorial Stadium since Sept. 10 last season.

There’s great places to watch college football, been to several of them.

But there’s just something special about walking into Memorial Stadium on a Cornhusker gameday.

The vibe, the atmosphere of this special place — it’s difficult to put it into words what Memorial Stadium means.

It’s a place where every time I come, I know all is well with the world. That everything in life will eventually be OK.

As a born and raised Nebraskan, a child of the 1990s era, there isn’t a place I’d rather be on a football Saturday than at Memorial Stadium.

For one family, it was a day they will never forget.

During the pregame coin toss, the Hawke family came out onto the field to flip it.

There was a little surprise that they, nor the partisans gathered knew about.

Standing out there as one of the white team captains in full Huskers uniform, helmet and all, was their husband, father Staff Sergeant Matthew Hawke.

He’d just returned home after a 10-month deployment in Afghanistan.

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley told the family what they were about to do. One of the boys was brought closer to flip the coin.

As the referee told the crowd what was going on, Matthew took off his helmet.

His son beamed at what he was seeing.

The coin was flipped — the Red team won the toss and would receive.

Then the referee and the players stepped back.

The family embraced with tears a flowing.

The moment was told over the public address system to Husker Nation.

Memorial Stadium stood as one, roared like it would for a touchdown or a big play by the Blackshirts.

There weren’t too many dry eyes in Memorial Stadium as the cameras showed the family embracing on the Husker Vision screens.

This moment, seeing this family reunited after a long time apart, was amazing.

Watching the raw emotions of a father, husband, reunite with his wife and six children touched the heart and soul.

The applause waned for a few moments.

As it was announced once more, the crowd roared once again.

It made for another magical Memorial Stadium moment.

And it was one I was very thankful, fortunate to see.

I’ve seen some awesome moments in Memorial Stadium over the years first hand.

This ranks right up there with the best of them.

And it’s what sport is all about.

Bringing families together, uniting them.

Whether it’s only a few miles away, or across an ocean and then some, sport brings families together in ways that can’t be explained.

In those precious moments Saturday, whether it was Sergeant Hawke and his family, my parents and I, it was moments all will treasure, savor forever.

It’s why sport is so special — the bonds it creates with our families.

Thank you Staff Sergeant Hawke for your service to our great country. May your time home with your family be blessed.

To mom and dad, thanks for taking time out of your weekend to meet up, spend time together.

It added up to another special afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

And another poignant reminder, there truly is No Place Like Nebraska, and gameday at Memorial Stadium.

Go Huskers!

Contact the writer: rkronberg@crestonnews.com, @ryankronberg