Ican’t believe I’m doing this. I’m the last guy who should be writing about Husker football, the last person who should be defending the team’s coach.
In fact, while the typical Husker fan was writhing in agony over yet another blown play in the second half of the UCLA game last Saturday, I was sinking my first-ever birdie on the 5th hole of Spring Lake Golf Course (It was a fluke shot. Instead of using a pitching wedge to get over the berm and the cart path, I figured I might as well use a putter and push the ball onto the green. Instead, the ball popped off the asphalt and rolled 20 feet right into the hole. And everyone saw it).
If there’s one positive by-product for the non-Husker fan who has to put up with the endless Big Red Bullshit that comes with living in Nebraska, it’s that game day opens a lot of opportunities. For example, you can enjoy a round of golf without a foursome behind you breathing down your neck. You can get right into that exclusive new restaurant that everyone’s been talking about that usually has a 90-minute table wait. And shopping is a breeze -- there’s no one in the stores or on the roads on Husker Saturdays. The list goes on and on.
I don’t hate the Huskers or their frothing fans. I simply don’t care if the team wins or loses.
Scratch that. That’s not true. I like seeing the Huskers win if only because it lightens the mood at the clubs the night after a game. People around here are generally happier if Nebraska is playing well and in contention to win some sort of title than if they just got humiliated on national television. The last thing I want is for the locals to turn their backs on the Huskers and begin crowding up the restaurants and golf courses again.
So maybe I’m not the last person who should be defending Coach Bo Pelini and his team. After all, I grew up just like you, surrounded by Husker football. I used to be one of those foaming-at-the-mouth fans... when I was a child, before I began attending UNO and changed my allegiance to my own school (In fact, everyone I knew in J School at UNO back then hated “those pricks” at UNL because they got all the attention).
I vividly remember the cries for Coach Tom Osborne’s head prior to his winning his first national championship more than 20 years after he took over the coaching helm from The Anointed Grand Poobah of All Things Nebraska Bob Devaney. Devaney was straight out of Hollywood central casting -- a gruff, ruffled, take-no-shit head coach with a rugged profile, a boxer’s nose and a winning smile. Everyone loved Devaney, mainly because he was a winner.
The humble, quiet, milk-toast Osborne had mammoth shoes to fill. It took about 10 years of not winning a national championship before they began calling for his ouster. I clearly remember after every loss the cries of “Get Rid of Ozzy” rattling off the rafters of the Maple Street Kmart warehouse where I worked.
It would take another decade before those cries would disappear. It goes without saying that Osborne wouldn’t have survived for 20 years without a title in today’s college athletics climate, where fans and boosters not only expect excellence, but championships RIGHT NOW and every time out of the gate. These days coaches at historically winning programs are lucky to get four years to get their first title before they are forced out. Pelini is in his, what, sixth year and already people are calling for his head.
And now comes the whole Deadspin controversy.
There’s a very good chance that by the time you read this Wednesday or Thursday, Pelini already will have been fired for secretly recorded comments he made in private before a press conference after a come-from-behind victory over Ohio State two years ago. Two Years Ago.
Among them (as if you don’t already know) was a glorious bouquet of F bombs delivered to Omaha World Herald columnist Tom Shatel. Comments that we all know Shatel absolutely loves if only because it gives him the national attention every columnist craves.
Then Pelini took aim at the “fair weather” fans that left the game at half-time, saying they can “kiss my ass on the way out the f***ing door.”
Look, you can’t fire Pelini for the audio clip posted on muckraking sports website Deadspin. First, they took place two years ago in private when he didn’t know he was being recorded. And second, everything Pelini said was from-the-heart true.
The pricks who left the stadium at half-time because the team was down by a few touchdowns were, indeed, pricks. And Shatel isn’t doing his job if he isn’t pissing someone off. Lord knows the OWH isn’t paying him to make friends with the coaching staff.
The only thing Pelini did wrong was to not make the comments at the press conference (but without all the F bombs).
The biggest truth out of his mouth that day: “We’ll see what they can do when I’m f***ing gone.”
I remember as if it were yesterday when Nebraska wrongfully canned head coach Frank Solich back in 2003. A rather prescient executive at my company said it would take 10 years for Nebraska to recover if the program recovered at all. I thought he was out of his mind, but of course he was right
If Nebraska fires (fired?) Pelini, the program will be crippled for yet another decade. No decent coach will want to work for such a fickle program, which means another 10 years of a headless body blindly flopping about the gridiron, searching for direction.
And that’s bound to hurt my chances of getting into the hottest restaurants in town, let alone what it’ll do to my golf game.
Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.