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Dr. Saturday

Helium shortage threatens time-honored Nebraska tradition

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(Lincoln Journal Star)

Nebraska's 70-year tradition of releasing red balloons into the air after the first touchdown of every game has been put on hold because of a helium shortage.

Yes, a helium shortage.

The Lincoln Journal Star is reporting that Nebraska will release a paltry 2,000-2,500 balloons -- half of the normal haul -- into the air after the first touchdown the Big Red scores against Southern Miss in the season opener on Sept. 1, but after that fleeting moment, the tradition that has been around since the 1940s will be no more.

"That way, Big Red fans can take pictures with both their cameras and their minds while media and staff photographers commemorate the occasion with photos that just might define a historical footnote," Randy York wrote on Huskers.com.

I think we can all blame global warming on this unfortunate turn of events.

Apparently, Lincoln has become one of the hardest hit areas for helium reserves. According to the story, grocery stores and party supply companies have stopped filling helium balloons, which has caused an increase in crying children all over the state.

[Related: Penn State football team takes day off to play paintball]

What remains of Lincoln's dwindling helium supply is being saved for local hospitals, which need it to cool MRI magnets and for lab experiments. And local construction companies need it for tools.

"We want to be good stewards," Ethan Rowley, NU director of athletic marketing, told the paper. "We don't want to take away helium from hospitals and industries that need it more than we do right now."

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Don't people understand that they're messing with tradition here?

Nebraska is looking for alternative ways to keep the balloon-releasing practice alive (thank goodness). It's going to hoard one helium tank — just one — for the remaining six home games of the 2012 season and sparingly blow up a few balloons for a "Touchdown Balloon Kid of the Game" to float into the sky.

"That would allow us to keep a small measure of the tradition through the hiatus," Rowley told the Journal Star. "Whenever the helium supply is restored, we can explore the opportunity to restart our tradition, which seems to be a fan favorite and one of our most visible."

Ya know, I just bought one of those Balloon Time helium tanks for my son's birthday for like $20 (with a Hobby Lobby coupon), and the local Party City was more than eager to fill up any other balloons I might need. Since Colorado borders Nebraska, I think the Huskers might need to start crossing state lines to ensure this time-honored tradition doesn't die.

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