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Husker Nation,

Hello again! Michael Decker here. It is great to contact you all again, as I realize now that we haven’t reconnected since my retirement. And to be sure, some of you may have already had that reunion through Fox 42 News, as they have broadcasted my stance on the balloon tradition. What you read was true. I am opposed to keeping it. However, in order to clarify this argument, I need to write you this letter to make up for what Fox 42 left out and provide more reasoning for my argument. Hopefully, such efforts will squelch all potential confusion.

When a balloon is released into the air, it does one of two things. Either it gets caught in wires or it pops from high altitude, floating down to the ground. Now, obviously, there is no control over where this happens, and to be clear, no one releasing his or her balloon has an idea of where it will land. But they do land. They land in rivers, crops and lakes, all the way to New York. And while advocates for the balloons claim this is harmless and claim these pieces are perfectly biodegradable, my research suggests otherwise.

The biodegradation they cite is the ideal scenario. More often than not, these pieces are not small, and they do not land in perfect conditions. In fact, 81 percent of the balloons stay half their size once deflated, and such material take very long to biodegrade, especially in water . Therefore, while it may sound good to call our littering eco-friendly, this is a stretch, as chaos is likely to fall onto the Earth.

Indeed, this chaos is then ingested by wildlife. Once eaten, our latex reduces the animals’ metabolisms, wreaks havoc to their appetites, and leaves many of them unhealthy. Studies specifically show this in quail, chicken and sea turtles, as the latex is proven to have the previously stated consequences. In fact, one study found that of all the colors that balloons may take, there was one color that sea turtles ate above the rest—pink. That’s right, when paled by weather, our red balloons become the most attractive color for these animals, and our mass littering perpetuates their sickness.  

Now, I know what you’re saying. You say that we are not alone in littering. You say that, for the purposes of tradition, everything is fine, as our traditions are sacred and so fun to celebrate. Yes, it is correct that Memorial Stadium does not inherit the consequences of its litter, and celebration itself is not wrong. What I am saying is that the consequences are too large and ridiculous to maintain. After all, Clemson saw these costs and got rid of theirs last year, citing the monetary costs of helium. Indeed, it cost them upwards of $45,000 a year. If First National Bank should no longer sponsor us, such costs will come to our campus as well.

And yes, I understand that tradition is sacred. As far as I’m concerned, Husker football is great and a staple for college football. Believe me, I know. I lived that tradition for three years. But let me be clear, I never once gave my all for one celebration. I gave it for all the ones thereafter. For my family, teammates and hometown. Yes, we have tradition, but realize that it is not just releasing balloons. It is our commitment to working hard, dedication and doing things the right way. And sure, I may have retired from that, but don’t think for one second that I have this tradition twisted. I know what doing the right thing is, and I trust that you know it, too.

Take responsibility for this tradition, and make it sustainable.

Good to see you again.

Michael Decker 

This article was modified at 3:41 p.m. on March 11, 2019 to clarify a sentence to say "tradition is sacred" instead of "tradition is scared."