Game #9-017: Northern Illinois at Nebraska-Omaha MavericksNovember 9, 2012 8:00 pm
When I signed up for a Season 9 Membership this year I was faced with the decision of what the heck to put for a name on my shirt. I could go with my name, but that seemed too simple. I tried to think of something clever but didn't come up with much for a while.
I seriously worried that I wouldn't be able to get my membership bought because I couldn't come up with a name. Finally, I decided to pick a name that reflected where I felt the Omaha Mavericks are going: Moving On Up.
Now a real quick aside, the school is officially known as Nebraska-Omaha and UNO. This year, the Summit League decided Omaha would be a good thing to call them and the athletic department has agreed that is fine. I like the name and have long advocated that the University should be renamed either the University of Omaha or Omaha University. When you are a dash school you really become a second thought and it seems sometimes like you are something less than other teams. The Nebraska Cornhuskers are really the Nebraska-Lincoln Cornhuskers but of course you'll never hear that referenced. No, Omaha is the understudy who has to have a funky name. So while the University hasn't changed names the Maverick teams can be known as Omaha, and thus I will begin calling them that. They've even started marketing the team as "Omaha's Team" which I heartily approve of.
So back to the t-shirt. I though "Moving On Up" was a good idea because this is Omaha's second year in the four-year process of transitioning to Division 1. Last year, the Mavericks didn't get to be in a conference and played a really odd schedule featuring many NAIA games and Division 1 games. This year Omaha is only playing two NAIA teams and everything else is Division 1. This includes a full home-and-home Summit League schedule. Exciting times in Omaha.
Well Friday night as Omaha hosted Northern Illinois the stage was set for a big part of "Moving on Up". Just like in The Jeffersons,
Omaha was moving from their "working class" home, the Sapp Fieldhouse (finished in 1950), to the brand new Ralston Arena. Now I'll be honest, I've never actually seen The Jeffersons
so maybe my feelings are similar to what they experienced. My feeling on Friday night was not so much excitement at the new arena but longings for the old one. I was happy to see what Maverick basketball was becoming, yet I was also sad that it wasn't what I knew and loved before.
I don't have children, I'm only 24 years old, but I have to imagine what I was feeling must be something like what raising children feels like. You spend so much time loving and caring for them at a stage of life, and then before too long they are growing up. I've heard mothers say how much they miss their little ones being, well, littler. While having grown children must be a blessing, I'm sure it's especially easy to miss when they were younger and couldn't really get into too big of trouble.
Well, for me, Omaha basketball moving on to the next level felt like that, or at least what I imagine that is like. I was excited about the new arena and new phase of life, but I really missed the old things. At the Sapp Fieldhouse I could show up five minutes before the game, buy a ticket and sit five rows up at center court. At the Ralston Arena I bought a $13 ticket (twice what I'd ever paid before basically) and was stuck in the corner 50 feet away from the corner of the court. At the Sapp Fieldhouse, I used to be able to grab a free printout of the roster. At the Ralston Arena, my only option was to buy a program or bring my own roster from home. At the Sapp Fieldhouse, I had my choice of fairly cheap concessions at a concessions stand you would find at a high school gym. I didn't mind that by the way; I'm much more likely to buy a cheap box of popcorn for $2 than a nice burger and fries for $6. At the Ralston Arena, I can get that $6 burger and lots of other fantastic foods. At the Sapp Fieldhouse, I would see all the old players I knew and it felt like a family of Omaha fans. At the Ralston Arena, I saw them from afar but we couldn't say hi and I didn't know anyone around us. I knew most of them weren't long time fans since the attendance was more than double what it used to be.
But growing up and moving on brings new exciting things. Empty nesters might miss having their children at home, but are excited by having the time and space to do different things and travel. Some of the things I'll enjoy about the Ralston Arena are the stunningly beautiful video boards. They are really nice. Sapp Fieldhouse had some decent boards, but nothing quite like these. There's also much more comfortable seating, restrooms, and a much better atmosphere (if the fans keep coming).
Additionally I know that if my financial situation improves I'll be even more excited about some of the features of the Ralston Arena. As the team grows in popularity the ability to secure great seats for every game and not need to worry about arriving early is a big plus (if you can afford it). Programs are much more fun to look at than a printed out roster in black and white (if you buy them). And, honestly, a $6 burger is much tastier than a $2 box of popcorn. So if I can afford the nicer food I'm sure I'd come to appreciate it too.
So this leaves me thinking about myself, something I suppose I do quite frequently. Maybe the reason I'm struggling with Omaha's new situation is that I haven't grown up as much. If I was making more money I could afford some of the luxuries of the new arena and I could afford to travel to see the team in more far-flung and exciting locations than the Division 2 schedule included. There's a lot of things in my life I know would be better if I just embraced growing up and reaped the benefits of a more grown up lifestyle and the things that come with it.
So my motto this year will be: Growing Up. My favorite basketball program is doing it on the court, and that means growing pains. We saw one last night as Omaha lost to NAIA Saint Mary 96-86, I missed that game for Bible Study (also known as growing up... priorities) so I won't be able to recap it or ever truly know what happened. It's safe to say though that these things happen as you grow up. Mistakes happen, but it's how we learn from them and where we go on to. Omaha will be playing at Texas Tech, Tulane, and Nebraska in the next week and many more matchups later in the season where losses are expected. There will be lessons learned and a lot of growing up to do.