The four Omaha-area friends spotted a winning Big Red score scrolling across an ESPN broadcast, and “Go Cornell!” became a rallying cry that eventually brought them to Ithaca.
Cody Bonertz remembers exclaiming “Cornell is winning!” as the update scrolled across the screen on a college football Saturday about three years ago. “Go Cornell!” His friends turned to look at him, wondering if he had a bet on the game. No, just optimism for an underdog program that hasn’t been a football powerhouse since the ’70s.
The friends started cheering “Go Cornell!” any time they saw the Big Red was playing, and before long they were ending phone calls not with “Goodbye,” but with “Go Cornell.”
Eventually, heading to the northeast to catch a Cornell game in person seemed only natural. So the quartet made a hotel reservation, bought game tickets, and hit the road — but not before one of them said, “Hey, I have four kilts. Should I bring them along?”
Bonertz and his friends Luke Sutherland, Keith Green, and Brett Highfill set off from Nebraska at 5am Thursday, spent the night in Salamanca in Western New York along the way, enjoyed some live music at the Range in Downtown Ithaca on Friday night, grabbed a slice of pizza at Casablanca on the Ithaca Commons, caught some Zs at the Best Western, and showed up outside Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field bright and early to tailgate.
They quickly made friends among Kite Hill’s regular denizens, cheered on the Big Red Marching Band, posed for photos with Touchdown, the Big Red Bear, and let their afternoon unfold.
Despite some promising play, the Big Red fell to Bucknell by a 26-18 score, dropping to 1-4 on the season, but it didn’t dampen these Nebraskans’ spirits. “We came for football and adventure,” said Green, and they certainly got it.
After the football game, the foursome popped down the hill for the VFW’s Veterans Day Parade fundraiser, then returned to campus for Cornell Hockey’s exhibition game against the visiting Gryphons of the University of Guelph. Were they the first kilted fans in Lynah Rink? We wouldn’t be surprised. Later Saturday, they hit Agava for some beers and live music by Vee Da Bee, then went off in search of late-night eats.
Was the trip worth it, despite the football loss? “The pizza is pretty decent and the tailgating is a blast,” says Bonertz. They’ll be back next fall. We’ll tell all the pikers on the hill.