Nebraska Nice–part two

Mike Riley, the former head football coach at Oregon State, was hired to lead the Cornhusker football program. See here from ESPN.

Big deal, you ask?

Remember that Nebraska has one state-wide newspaper, the Omaha-World Herald–sometimes called the “Weird Herald.” Remember also that Nebraska has fewer people in the entire state than the folks (like my brother) who populate metropolitan Cleveland.

Now, take a look above the fold of the front page of the OWH today,

December 5, 2014

December 5, 2014

Today, I learn that Mack Brown, the former football coach at Texas, said the following about Riley yesterday, “If I get to heaven and Mike Riley’s not there, I’m going to know I’m in the wrong place.”

It seems that this sentiment is the national consensus–Mike Riley is a nice guy, who is classy and respectful of everyone. ESPN sideline reporter Sam Ponder had perhaps the biggest compliment: “Handful of coaches I’d want my kid to play for/learn from … Mike Riley’s top 5 for sure.”

I wrote a snarky piece when Nebraska fired Bo Pelini. It was sarcastically titled, Nebraska Nice.

It turns out that I was right, sorta. Nebraska is nice. That makes me glad (and sheepish for writing the earlier post).


PS Why you ask is all this football crap relevant to this blog? If you don’t know the answer to that question, then you have no clue why I write this damn thing.




The spring game

Photo credit: MATT RYERSON/Lincoln Journal Star

Photo credit: MATT RYERSON/Lincoln Journal Star

This afternoon the Nebraska Cornhuskers will hold a scrimmage called the “spring game.” Between 40,000 and 50,000 people will pay ten bucks to watch this annual event in Memorial stadium. Radio will broadcast the “game” live throughout all of Nebraska, and the Big Ten network will carry the game on a tape delay this evening. Joan will listen to the live play on radio and, later, watch the “game” on TV. She will be keying on the offensive line and scream filthy words when the pulling guard misses a cut block on the middle linebacker.

I won’t be attending. As expected, my immune system is now officially compromised* and my hair is beginning to fall out. That is to be expected. I am supposed to avoid crowds and particularly sick people and wash my hands like an obsessive-compulsive. Despite my minor affliction, it is all good. How could it be otherwise? Nebraska football is back in our lives.** And the river of life flows on.***



*For those who want to know the numbers, here they are: WBC – Blood L 1.4; RBC Count – Blood L 4.01; Hgb – Blood L 10.6; Hematrocrit L 33.9; MCH L 26.4; MCHC L 31.3; Neutrophil % L 27.8; Lymphocyte % H 59.0; Basophil % H 2.8; Granulocytes / Bands – Blood L 0.4.  (Key: “L” is low and “H” is high.)

**We have season tickets for the fall. We give the tickets away as gifts to friends, family members and my staff. If you are ever out this way, let me know and you can have two tickets free of charge. (I am entirely serious about this offer.) Once in  your life, you must go to a Nebraska game.  It is Americana at its best. Situated right downtown, the packed stadium of 90,000 or so shuts down the capital city of 250,000. Everyone, everywhere wears red even though the wearer may not be attending the game.

***Keller, our son who is now in Australia, played in Memorial stadium when his high school team won the large school state championship.  Seeing his visage on the big screen was one of the highlights of my life.


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.


A really bad job that someone must do

At Thanksgiving dinner with Joan’s side of the family yesterday, I learned something. Because her family is very accomplished, I always learn something.

Today, Nebraska plays Iowa in football. The game is the last game of the year unless Nebraska makes it to a bowl game. The football stadium in Lincoln (where we live) will be packed. Over 90,000 people will attend. Although Joan and I have season tickets, we won’t attend. We will watch the game on TV ’cause I am such a fanatic that there are not enough psychotropic medications in the world to calm me down during the game. Since my attendance spoils it for other folks, we use the season tickets as gifts.

Sitting in our seats will by one of Joan’s sisters and her husband. While they too have season tickets, their children are in town and so the family will also use ours. Mary and Mark were at the doings last evening. Mary is a nurse, specializing in oncology. Mark is chief of gastroenterology at the medical school. He knows a lot about gastric fluids.

Our seats are a part of a block of seats handed downed from Joan’s dad to the seven siblings. So, Joan and her brothers and sisters have had sat in the south stadium for a long, long time. They know the people around their seats. One evidently is a hard drinker. And that brings to my to the reason for this post.

Some years back, Mark was in the south stadium. While you can’t legally drink at the stadium, that does not stop a lot of people. That day, the hard drinker was drinking hard. He got agitated at one point and stood up. Mark sensing disaster, stood up too. At that point, the man vomited a rather prolific amount of gastric fluids. Thankfully, the stream did not directly hit Mark, but landed where Mark had been sitting seconds earlier.

The man was down and out. Security came and helped him leave. A single person followed the security people. That fellow wore a hazmat suit. What followed amazed everyone in the section. In just a few seconds, the hazmat guy began and finished an expert clean up, making sure to put everything he picked up or used in a bio-hazard bag.

Mark thanked the fellow profusely, and remarked that the mess was pretty awful. The fellow responded nonchalantly, “It wasn’t bad at all. You should come with me to the student section.”  That, dear readers, is an example of a really bad job that someone must do.

Go Big Red (and sometimes yellow).



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