UNL is empty as I walk through it early in the morning. The overcast sky dulls the stadium’s shadow. The sun is smothered and wind blows garbage around empty parking lots, sidewalks, concrete corners in the university maze. Red beer cups flounder down an overpass, and greasy napkins mingle with cardboard signs. Tongues of red licorice are flattened onto the sidewalk. A cap drowns in the mud.
Yesterday began with an earthquake in the morning, shaking me from my bed. Rain poured throughout the day over throngs of fans, and fireworks boomed like tanks around me. The streets were full. The streets were alive. Today, they are empty. I feel like I’ve walked onto the set of a zombie movie filmed in faded tones. There are no fans around the next morning. There is only the left-behind collage of plastic and paper and half-eaten food, and of course the alcohol.
Somewhere in the detriment is a cross, a necklace that fell from a fan. Or maybe it was torn, or fell from a pocket. It’s just another post-game testament to football’s force here. The stadium rises like a temple; didn’t some messiah once point to a football stadium and declare that not one brick will be left standing? Didn’t some messiah once bless a team to win the next game? The stadium looks unused, run-down after rain and the mass of fans. Nothing could keep them away.
I wonder where the heroes have all gone to. I grew up witnessing people ruin sports for me through doping scandals, gambling, dog-fighting, domestic violence. I learned the consequences of commodifying people, the exploitative measures taken to earn a profit, the cost of products sold. Who cleans up the mess? Who loses a parking lot in exchange for more playing space? Whose funding gets cut? There must have been heroes here and there, some legendary folks who made the sport an art and not a business. But for me, they departed a generation ago and live only in history, and it is just an empty stadium surrounded by trash right now. Trash, and one small piece of jewelry that I leave where I found it. It’s not mine to move. It’s not mine to rearrange. I leave it as it is.