December 23, 2011

Nebraskans Shouldn’t Surprise Anyone - by Curt Tomasevicz

As I compete in my 8th year of bobsledding, I think that it’s time that I address some of the bullying that I’ve experienced along the way. (Of course, I am speaking half-heartedly because I know all the jokes are done in fun).

It’s a lose/lose situation for me. When I am at home with friends and family, I hear all the jokes that go along with four guys wearing spandex. Everyone has a “Cool Runnings” reference and I’ve heard them all. When I’m with the bobsled team, I am teased about my flat-land, bobsled-less, farm community background. I am referred to as corn-fed and people ask how old I was before I actually saw a bobsled or even a hill bigger than a bump on the ground. They always ask how I even got into bobsledding with the sport’s lack of popularity in Nebraska (as with almost all winter Olympic sports). As I answer them, I am more surprised by their question than they are by my answer.

Nebraskans can accomplish anything. In the past year, I’ve found and met an enormous variety of people that have their roots in Corn Country with some atypical occupations. Most people would claim that many of our most popular celebrities are our great sports stars who get their start at the University of Nebraska.

But even outside of the athletic world, Nebraska has a lot to offer. Last year, I had the privilege of meeting Clayton Anderson, an astronaut from Ashland who has spent almost six months in space. Hearing his stories about traveling 17,500 mph make a bobsled seem as exciting as a walk down the street.

Teresa Scanlan was named Miss America last spring stating that her “All-American roots” are first nature to a Nebraskan. She grew up in Gering, NE and is proud of her life there (even if there isn’t as much corn production as the rest of the state).

Commander Mike Fisher is the head of the USS Nebraska nuclear submarine. Mike uses the Nebraskan way of life to keep his naval troops motivated, working hard, and humble.

Dan Whitney, probably better known as Larry the Cable Guy, hails from the small town of Pawnee City along the Missouri River. As his job requires a huge level of creativity, it’s evident that Larry’s background has an influence on his routine's jokes.

I could continue with a thousand successful Heartlanders who use their talents all over the country and the world. There are authors and scientists, even actors and rock stars. And their stories never seem to completely surprise us. I may still be harassed by my friends about calling a sled my work office, but when I’m asked by other bobsledders about the chances of another Olympic gold medalist coming from Nebraska, I say with confidence that no one should be surprised what the 1.7 million people in the state can do.

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