Tony and Kelli Britten flank Tim Miles after a historic upset of Michigan State.
By Randy York
A week ago, Kelli Britten, 28, and her husband Tony, 29, drove back home to Lincoln after spending a serendipitous weekend in East Lansing, Michigan, where they saw their beloved Husker basketball team upset then No. 9 Michigan State, 60-51. Kelli and Tony had no idea they would end up in Michigan the Sunday after Valentine’s Day, but both felt, once again, that good things happen when good people think of something crazy, seize the moment and then, almost immediately, turn their instincts into memorable moments.
"We had such a great time! We’d do the same thing again in a heartbeat," said Kelli, who joined her husband for a postgame picture with Tim Miles in what she considers a truly special moment. "What a huge win for Coach Miles and his team – upsetting the No. 9 team in the country on their home floor! It’s hard to describe how excited we are about the future of Husker basketball with Coach Miles at the helm. He’s building something special, and to be a part of such a pivotal game in his career was something that we will always remember."
A week after the experience, Kelli still marvels how quickly it all came together. The young professional couple views life inherently different than most, especially since they don’t have children. One of their joint goals is to visit the State Capitol in all 50 of America’s capital cities. At this point, they’ve only visited six Capitols, so they mutually embraced the idea of seeing Lansing and then attending the big game in East Lansing.
Nothing like a 2-Hour Warning for an 11-Hour Drive
Here’s how the weekend unfolded: The day after they celebrated Valentine’s Day, Tony made a quick observation and followed it with a simple question: “Nebraska’s on a roll. Want to see the Huskers play tomorrow?” he asked his wife.
"Sure," Kelli replied. "Who do we play again?"
"Michigan State," Tony said.
"Aren’t they rated?" she asked.
"They’re in the Top Ten," he replied.
"That’ll be fun," Kelli said. "What time’s the game?"
"Two o’clock," Tony said before pausing and then adding: "Eastern Time."
Both looked at each other and smiled. “The game’s in Michigan,” Tony explained. “We need to find a map, rent a car and get going.” He made that statement at noon last Saturday, and 2½ hours later, the Brittens were on the road again, heading to East Lansing in a rental car.
Who Needs Advance Warning When the Idea’s Good?
Kelli, who oversees North America marketing for a Lincoln manufacturing company, cherishes good ideas, especially when implementation is instantaneous. She loves it when her husband, an intelligence officer at the Lincoln Correctional Facility, surprises her.
When she nods yes, there’s no need for conversation.
Instant action is all that matters. “We had to leave that afternoon without even knowing where we would stay or how we would get tickets to the game,” Kelli told me. “That’s part of the fun, but we know how to plan ahead, too. We’re going to Denver and Salt Lake City this July to see Colorado’s and Utah’s Capitols, and we’re both looking forward to that. There’s never a dull moment in our house. We went to Vail last November and didn’t have any plans except where we were staying. We drove through a blizzard to get there and left for Vail the day after I got back from a work trip to Florida. We feel very fortunate to have the energy and the flexibility to do something like that. We decided it’s better to do things now instead of wish we had done them later.”
Life on the road can be a wonderful adventure. You can hit a target you didn’t even know you were shooting for and still feel the excitement of seeing something meaningful and historical.
For this couple, serendipity is a welcome mat for two hearts that beat together, travel together and have fun together wherever they go. To them, karma is detection and coincidence is discovery. Neither likes planning every step and then missing some of life’s most wonderful moments. They thrive on the twists and turns that are often better than what you had in mind in the first place.
Budget-Minded Travelers Splurged on Game Tickets
Don’t misunderstand. “We’re frugal, sometimes even super cheap,” Kelli said. “We use Groupons and even pack our lunch most of the time. We got a good deal Friday night at a Hampton Inn in Schererville, Indiana. We rent cars whenever we travel to save miles on our own. This time, though, we decided to splurge on game tickets. We didn’t want to travel that far and sit in bad seats, so we bought two tickets for $250 (total) and ended up sitting in the 28th row in the lower level.”
For the record, driving from Lincoln to East Lansing, Mich., one way is 725.5 miles and requires an estimated travel time of 10 hours and 45 minutes – not exactly ideal for someone who brings up an idea 24 hours before tipoff. “We had great seats, but we were surrounded by nothing but Michigan State fans,” she said. One Spartan fan put his arm around Kelli and told her that she and her husband might be the only ones wearing red in an arena lit up in green. Kelli stood her ground. “We’ve never been to a Nebraska basketball road game where Nebraska didn’t win,” she said. “When we travel, we bring good luck with us.”
She simply couldn’t resist defending herself, even though Tony advised her in advance to show good sportsmanship etiquette because they would be the only Huskers on the radar screen. That wasn’t quite true, though. “Walter Pitchford is from Grand Rapids, (Mich.) and he had family and friends who were in the Breslin Center with us last weekend,” Kelli pointed out. “While we were driving to East Lansing, my husband kept saying: ‘If we win this game, this will be the best vacation yet, and we can see history first hand.”
Whim to Most is a No-Brainer to Support the Huskers
What’s amazing is Tony and Kelli Britten had just returned from a five-day trip to Oregon and Washington State when he opened the door for a unique Valentine’s present. “We do a lot of fun things on the spur of the moment,” Kelli said. “In the four years we’ve been together, we’ve visited 21 states. For both of us, it was a no-brainer to make the trip to East Lansing on a whim and support our Huskers.”
Unfortunately, like so many other tried and true Husker fans, the Brittens missed the opportunity to buy season tickets inside Pinnacle Bank Arena. But they make up for that mistake watching the Huskers on television and listening to games on radio.
One week after they were celebrating live and in living color in East Lansing, they were back in Lincoln with friends and watching every minute of Nebraska’s relative rout of Purdue at PBA. “Coach Miles was so gracious to take a few minutes and allow us to congratulate him. Then he took the time for a photo with us. I joked to Tony that the photo might make our Christmas card this year. He said that’s probably taking everything a little too far.”
In other words, as much as this couple embraces serendipity, all whims are not alike.
Can One Good Deed Be the Groundwork for Another?
They didn’t drive to East Lansing to bring attention to themselves. They drove to support a coach they both believe is worth following – whether they have tickets to games or not. And let’s not forget the ultimate footnote. After the Brittens watched the Huskers upset the Spartans on an unforgettable Sunday afternoon, they drove to Kalamazoo, Mich., where they spent Sunday night. In this particular whirlwind trip, there was no time to see Lansing’s State Capitol, so serendipity may have to point Tony and Kelli Britten back to East Lansing on Oct. 4, 2014, instead.
Driving to East Lansing again creates the opportunity to watch Nebraska play the defending Rose Bowl champion Michigan State Spartans. If that happens, here’s hoping this young couple books football reservations early, arrives early, saves money and becomes the ultimate motivator again. The Brittens can tour Michigan’s Capitol on Friday, Oct. 3, then wear the same red shirts they wore inside Breslin Arena to Spartan Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 4.
Who knows? If Nebraska wins again, maybe someone will come up with a small Bo Pelini memento to celebrate the occasion. Good luck charms, after all, are worth their weight in gold…each time, every time…Go Big Red!
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Voices from Husker Nation
Love this article. I am proud to say Kelli is my daughter. She and Tony are so much fun. Thanks for your excellent story. Great job! Sarah Johns, Lincoln, Nebraska