I'm going to be honest. I started writing this post with the intention of re-hashing the old arguments about the "Through These Gates" signs scattered around Memorial Stadium. (Here, here, here, here and here - and that's just here at CN.) But let's be honest - it's all just my opinion and I'm but one in a Sea of Red. But if you bear with me, I'd like to give you some food for thought as we go forward with this year's (and possibly the last) edition of Pelini's Wild Ride.
Coming into this piece, I was (and still am) infuriated that someone took it on themselves to start tossing dirty laundry from two years ago to serve no purpose other than to smear Bo Pelini. Some of you may get hung up on the fact that he said these words. As someone who regularly uses words that would make a pastor blush, usually when dealing with minor frustrations like a piece of equipment not working, I'm not going to get mad at a coach who I knew in 2007 was a little salty for using words like that after a very emotional game. Sorry (but not really).
And Tommie Frazier's comments also rubbed me the wrong way, if only because there are better routes to communication than spouting off online. Yes, he has every right to act like all of us, perhaps more so because of his connection to Nebraska. (Though I think for a guy who failed at Doane, he gets a little too much klout on his "coaching" advice.)
But still. Better ways.
And of course, there is the continued spillover of frustration from Saturday's loss of which I admittedly have been part of.
In the aftermath of yesterday's excitement, I couldn't help but think: this is supposed to be Nebraska? Home of the "Greatest Fans of College Football"? What exactly do those words mean any more, if we can't hold it together when the going gets tough? Are things so bad that we have to resort to a public airing of grievances? Is our honored slogan a myth, as our friend and fellow Nebraska write Jesse Collins so aptly put it?
Because somehow, I don't think Bobby Bowden was talking about that kind of playground gossip when he wrote his letter. I suspect the same goes for Lee Corso or Keith Jackson's admiration of Husker Nation. People complain (frequently) about Bo Pelini ruining traditions. What about this one, the one where Nebraska fans are one of the good guys, the fan base with the right perspectives, the right ideas? Are we going to abandon that over one coach?
That coach has brought Nebraska out of the Callahan era back to a somewhat respectable equilibrium. That coach has, time and again, challenged our perceptions of him with flashes of a huge heart, be it the healing and honest words around the 2011 matchup with Penn State or letting little Jack Hoffman run for 66 yards and a touchdown in the Spring Game. Bo Pelini is not a bad coach. It is both ungrateful and inappropriate to suggest as much. Has he gone as far as he can with Nebraska? Perhaps. But that doesn't excuse losing our shit over every little thing he does or the latest airing of grievances.
I get that we're frustrated. I get that we're annoyed at the bad losses. I get that. As we get caught up in our frustrations and personal opinions about how to "fix" Nebraska football, I fear that we lose sight of the human element in all this.
"But they're compensated for all this."
Yeah, they are. And quite well. But that doesn't make them less human. They have families who have to put up with this in their daily lives. Remember the death threats directed at the coaches (most notably Kevin Cosgrove) in 2007? Yeah, let's not repeat that.
And the players, well, they're not exactly paid to put up with our "passion". And some people get ticked off at the way a players answers a question or maybe something they put out on social media. Folks, they're young adults. Please either look at your own child or remember when you were that young. I'd be shocked if you were tactful at that age. And your job isn't constantly being talked about by anonymous people (HI!) on the internet.
Nebraska football is in a tough, tough place right now. Even Pelini admits it. If that'll yield results, I don't know. I won't pretend to know either. There are disturbing trends, yes. But until the end of the season, a small part of me remains hopeful.
Now, and I'm not sure how real this "threat" is, but there's murmurs of people boycotting the program to spite Bo Pelini, as happened against Callahan in 2007. To those fans, I can only say I'm not sure what you intend to accomplish with that. We don't need to get Perlman's attention this time around.
If, as many have suggested, Pelini doesn't care about fans, an empty stadium isn't really telling him anything. But I suppose he's not your target audience, is he?
"Shawn Eichorst will notice!"
True, very true. He will. But consider that this may sour the pool of potential successors. If Eichorst goes that route at all. (Note: this is not to say Nebraska shouldn't move on - if Eichorst decides to move on, more power to him and there will be coaches waiting to take the job. It just may not be the coaches you're hoping for.)
But you want to know who else will notice? The players. The young men who play week in and week out, risking their health for little more than your entertainment. (You can throw in the education part if you want, but let's be serious here - general chemistry with 200 of your closest friends is not worth being yelled at by Pedantic Steve in Section 36 Row E.)
It's a sad statement when the players mean less to us than the coaches. And that's the message you'll be sending if you can't find a way to support them at Memorial Stadium.
Because here's the thing, and something to keep in mind going forward: the program is bigger than Bo Pelini. The University is bigger than Bo Pelini. It will always be bigger than the coaches.
You want to fight Bo Pelini? Show him he doesn't control your fandom. Be there on Saturdays. Cheer for the players wearing the red N. Ignore the coaches. Don't call into the coaching shows. Don't buy new gear from Husker Authentic. Write your letters to Eichorst. Be vocal, be mad, if that's your thing.
But be there on Saturday. Fill that stadium.
Tell those players, tell those coaches, tell this country what matters in the state of Nebraska.
Memorial Stadium isn't just another football stadium, after all. It is the heart of Nebraska. It represents Nebraska athletics, the bond that brings all of us here at Corn Nation and across the Sea of Red together.
It's time to show that those damned signs aren't just leftovers of a bygone era.
We all know how well Nebraska fans can support the program when things are going well. And we have a well-deserved reputation of being good, welcoming and friendly people.
But what about when things get tough, like they are now?
In our song "There is No Place Like Nebraska", it says we fans stick together, in all kinds of weather.
In the prayer our players say before each game, and a prayer which reverberates across Nebraska message boards before each game, it encourages us to cheer the victor and the loser, no matter the team, no matter the score.
Get there early (parents of small children excused), stay late (again, excusable for small child families) and be loud.
Wear your Scarlet and Cream. (Or, in the case of this weekend, gold to support Team Jack and the fight against pediatric brain cancer.)
We survived 2007. We can do this better. Let Pelini sink or swim by his own records and actions - don't sacrifice your passion for him. And enough of the playground gossip.
Because there really is no place like Nebraska.
Don't let your anger at Bo Pelini or the direction of the football program ruin that.
Go Big Red.
-Salt Creek and Stadium
Class of 2010