Two lawyers hold the heart of Nebraska in their hands

Harvey Perlman, Shawn Eichorst, and Bo Pelini are in the center of a figurative tornado. But first, you need context because what I am trying to convey is not obvious, and to some of you may be totally incomprehensible.

Let me start this way: Nebraska, geographically speaking, is huge, but there are very few people that inhabit the immense space. Indeed, there are literally more cows than people. The few people who live here are by and large the salt of the earth. And that comes from someone like me who was born and raised in Ohio and Florida even though I have lived here now for about 50 years.

The people of Nebraska love football and the Nebraska Huskers. “Love” is not too strong a word. When the stadium in Lincoln fills up it becomes the third largest city in the state. Nebraskans have packed that stadium to capacity for 51 years. No other school comes close to that record. The fans have reason to fill the stadium. Nebraska’s football record is impressive: three Heisman trophy winners, five national titles, 43 conference championships, 49 bowl appearances, and a national leader in academic All-Americans.

But what is truly remarkable to me is that Nebraska fans are not rabid partisans. They treat opponents and their supporters with genuine respect. Here is what a Georgia fan wrote in that regard:

They’re too nice to dislike. Nebraska fans have a national reputation for being among the classiest in college football, and for being especially gracious to opposing fans. Every Cornhusker fan with whom I ever have come into contact seemed to be a genuinely nice person. They’re polite to the point of being rude. I mean, really, people; we’re trying to hate y’all over here. Do you mind?

Here is what Jim Mora, the coach at UCLA, said after UCLA beat the hell out of the Huskers this year:

First of all I want to start by saying a very heartfelt thanks to the Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, Head Coach Bo Pelini, to the Husker Nation, their fans, their students and their players for the compassion they showed us this week. I thought it was an incredible gesture they made here, and I think it kind of shows the class here at Nebraska. The fact that they would put a No. 36 decal on their helmets [for a Bruin player who was tragically killed], and they would have a moment of silence, and their student section cheered us when we took the field and encouraged us on, you just don’t find that at many places. It is just a true testament to the people here at Nebraska and how much they care about football. We are very, very appreciative about that.

So, there you have the context. I wish I could do better.

After Nebraska lost badly yesterday to Iowa, leaving the Huskers 8 and 4, there is a raging debate about whether our head football coach, Bo Pelini, should be fired. Pelini is a passionate coach known for recruiting kids of great character who graduate with something other than concussions, his loyalty to his players and coaches and his volcanic eruptions on the sidelines and at press conferences.

As Kenny Bell, the wide receiver, who will surely play on Sunday, said yesterday after the loss: “I would play for Bo Pelini against Satan himself and a team of demons at the gates of the underworld.” On the other hand, after Pelini got a penalty for swinging his hat too close to an official during yesterday’s game and erupted during the post-game press conference with a variety of provocative statements (e.g., an official’s call was “chickenshit”), one of the leading sports writers in Nebraska observed, “I just saw a man set himself on fire.”

So, it comes down to two men, Harvey Perlman, the Chancellor (head) of the University, and Shawn Eichorst, the athletic director, whether Coach Bo will be around next year. So what? Perlman and Eichorst are dealing with something that binds a tiny group of truly good people together in a common pursuit. That intangible connection may seem unimportant to others in bigger, more diverse places. But “each other” are two of the most important words in these High Plains.

Perlman and Eichorst are both very good lawyers. For some reason, that makes me feel better. Although I don’t know what they will decide, I believe they will do the right thing.

RGK

8 responses

  1. Lorin,

    I am not certain what you mean by “Jewish.” I don’t know whether Harvey or his folks practiced the Jewish faith. That said, I think some people might refer to Harvey as Jewish. He grew up in a small town about 40 miles from Lincoln.

    Harvey is a world class legal scholar regarding intellectual property. I admire Harvey and like him very much. He does not tolerate fools. As a consequence, it never occurred to me to ask him whether he is “Jewish.”

    All the best.

    RGK

  2. When we have a natural disaster, it usually involves flooding or six feet of snow; when Nebraska goes 8-4, it’s worse than Armageddon. Know too many Bugeaters.

    It’s not Bo Pellini’s fault that he didn’t have Colorado on the schedule.

    Memo to Husker Nation: Dr. Tom is retired! And in the BSC era, you can’t schedule four games against Directional Louisiana Teachers’ College (okay, South Dakota State counts). In the past twelve years, you have lost at least three games every year, and lost four or more for ten years straight. You even lost to Colorado (the horror! the shame!).

    Solich didn’t work (he did okay with Dr Tom’s recruits, but was 7-7 one year). Callahan didn’t work. (5-6 and 5-7). Pellini has won 70% of his games at the helm. And yeah, sometimes, a competitor’s temper gets the best of him (remember Ndamukong Suh?).

    Who are you going to replace him with, and why do you think that the new guy will be any better?

    Truth be told, Nebraska’s recruiting has never been that great. Would you rather live in Lincoln or Austin? Los Angeles? Miami? Boulder? [We used to love Husker Nation here; I’ll spare the old jokes about Lincoln and indoor plumbing.] Those extra 50 unofficial football scholarships every year have helped, but you’re never going to have a Top Ten recruiting class.

    It’s like trying to succeed John Elway here. Some very good QBs have wandered through here (and no, Tim Tebow was not one of them!), but Elway’s shadow always hung over them. Storied programs like Michigan have had their problems, too.

    I wouldn’t can Pellini just yet … but then again, I’m not in Lincoln. 🙂

  3. The “small town” you refer to is York, Nebraska. I grew up 20-some miles away on a farm between Sutton and Henderson. When I was a kid, I always thought of York as a big city. After all, York had stoplights, a Pizza Hut, and a movie theater!

  4. Kevin,

    I apologize. York is a big town.

    Before Keller, my son, was born, I remember when Kearney got a McDonalds. We would pack the kids in the VW on Sunday morning, and drive the 40 some miles from Lexington to Kearney to partake of Ronald’s delights.

    I know what you mean.

    All the best.

    RGK

  5. Judge Kopf – At least the Bo Pelini situation is capable of being resolved by a decision whether to keep the coach. Compare that to the open-ended dilemma of determining whether Michigan Coach Brady Hoke should have gone for the win or the tie against Ohio State. I have already heard more experts than I needed discuss that quandary. The majority seemed to be in favor of going for the win – and then losing anyway! Elaine Mittleman

%d bloggers like this: