On this hallowed Husker season-opening game day, I call to mind my brother Mike. My sick brother, Mike.
Mike Grace is a doctor in Omaha who has a terrible, contagious and apparently incurable illness. This illness causes people to skip weddings and vacations, yell and jump up and down and see only red. This illness is called Huskeritis.
This illness plants people in front of TV screens when some of the biggest moments of their lives intersect with football. They can’t help themselves: No matter where in the world — or above the world, as astronaut Clayton Anderson can attest — their illness acts as a homing device to the nearest screen or Husker bar.
Mike watched Husker games in person while a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Class of 1999). He went on to belly up at Husker bars in Iowa City, Iowa, where he went to medical school; Seattle, where he had residency; and Portland, Oregon, his first official home.
When the woman who agreed to marry him despite his illness had a hospital rotation in San Diego, California, Mike’s illness placed him at a Husker bar in the city.
Aiding and abetting this infection is the Nebraska Alumni Association, which publishes game-day watch parties on its website. Click on a state or a region and find whole sick wards of Huskeritis patients.
This illness is not rare. During my recent oh-so-scientific survey on Twitter, over 100 people shared the far-flung places in the world where they’ve come down with Huskeritis.
“Family vaction in Cabo," said @JeffC.
“Bagram, Afghanistan with the Nebraska Air National Guard,” said @G--B--R, who was deployed there.
“London, England,” said @TruckinHusker.
A mountain cabin hot tub near Colorado Springs, said @pubdub.
Sasebo, Japan, said @bigjer01, adding that he had to miss part of the 1995 championship season because of boot camp and “about went crazy!”
I heard from people who watched the Huskers in places from Hua Hin, Thailand, to Key West, Florida, from one of the Renaissance art's greatest cities — Florence, Italy — to Beijing.
My old Marian classmate Rita Clark said she caught the 1995 team from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Taylor Gage, Gov. Pete Ricketts’ spokesman, caught the Huskers on a state trip to Shanghai, China.
A man whose Twitter name was Sean Kelly said he watched the Huskers during his honeymoon in Jamaica. I heard from folks who had Huskeritis in Ankara, Turkey; Bar Harbor, Maine; Taichung, Taiwan; Bangkok, Thailand; Berkeley, California; Copenhagen, Denmark; Anchorage, Alaska. The Sultanate of Oman; Tel Aviv, Israel.
Currently, World-Herald cartoonist Jeff Koterba and Fox 42 commentator Tom Becka are trying to find a way to stream Saturday's game in the Czech Republic, where they are leading a tour.
Then there’s Anderson, the astronaut. The Ashland, Nebraska, native who spent five months at the International Space Station in 2007, had his Huskeritis outbreak in outer space.
So, brother Mike, is there any hope for humanity? Is there a cure?
“The condition is chronic, subject to flare-ups, typically in late August and extending through bowl season,” the good doctor said. “It is currently being exacerbated by hype and the promise of an eight-plus win season.”
Good luck, patients.