[Insert your favorite mental image of Huskers success here]
***Warning: long winded and moderately personal***
Change at the University of Nebraska.
Bo Pelini was fired.
As an amatuer writer, I've mostly blogged about the National Football League. Specifically, the Kansas City Chiefs, and recently, the New York Giants. However, thinking about the college Skers' and their coaching change, my instant reaction was to say:
Bo knows fired.
For the younger crowd, "Bo Knows" refers to old Nike ads regarding dual sport icon, Bo Jackson. It's a cheap dig at Pelini's name, but I mean no ill intent. It's just the thought that popped into my head from those commercials in my childhood, can you believe Bo is 52 years old now? Wow.
As someone that was born in Grand Island, I realize the affinity and loyalty that Nebraska fans have for the BIG RED. At 34 years old, I was a teenager when the Huskers won back-to-back championships (should've been a three-peat -- Florida St. -- and you know it), it was an amazing time to be a fan.
In those days, I used to love sports in a much more pure way, I still had hope for my own pro sports career. Limitless potential within my own mind, my own delusions of running out the tunnel in Lincoln, being led to greatness by Tom Osborne himself.
Nebraska football was a part of who I was. When Brooks Beringer died in a plane crash in 1996, it felt like a family member was lost. I know because I soon lost my real brother on his 18th birthday in 1997, it still hurts. Regardless of the pain of life and death, in the '90s, I was in love with a winning team, I was a part of something that made thousands of people immensely happy on Saturday's. Football was the one thing in Nebraska that brought not just your family together, but the neighborhood.
People smiled and talked to each other when the Huskers were playing. They were laughing and joyful when they were champions, I'll never forget it.
As someone that moved away from Nebraska, I found it hard to love the Huskers with as much happiness without the success. And sure, people can call me a bandwagon fan, but I'll love the Huskers with all that I am until the day that I die.
More, it's the failure in my own life. Never making it to play college football myself, I wish I knew football as a teenager the way I do now from an x's and o's standpoint, I feel I could've been much better. Nevertheless, not making it sucked, bad.
As a result, I took jobs I didn't want, I experimented with things athletes would never do publicly. I got in a lot of trouble with the law, I didn't care about anything. I didn't just lose my innocence, I burned it alive. Some might say that I never had innocence to begin with, but what I did have I didn't respect or care about, I only cared about getting my way, and on any given day, that could mean doing anything.
To me, Nebraska athletes already have my life trumped in the football dream department... they made it. I did not.
But the Nebraska Cornhuskers are not me, and this is about Bo Pelini being fired, but it's also about what I think fans want out of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. My story was to give you a glimpse of what I experienced in life as a Husker fan growing up. I felt WIN, I felt hope... in the 90's, even my high school team was winning State titles. And, the Chiefs had Joe Montana for a brief glorious run. Football life was so full of greatness for me then.
Players like Tommie Frazier, Grant Wistrom, Will Shields and Neil Smith were heroes to me, but they didn't make me a good human being. I failed at that, as much as Bo has failed to win games that mattered.
Side-by-side comparison of my life to Bo Pelini? He wins hands down, Bo Pelini has been a more successful human being than I have been... this isn't debatable. I get that.
Yet, regardless of my own personal success and failure. I still love the Nebraska Cornhuskers and want to see them win again.
In my own head, I feel like I could coach Nebraska and win, but that will never happen. Still, I feel I would take them back to greatness. Why? Because I want it so very badly.
These days, I don't follow Nebraska as relentlessly as I did when I was a youth, I love the NFL and I spend too much time dying hard with the Chiefs. Tonight, I'm actually going to Chiefs - Broncos. WOW!
That awesomeness aside, watching both teams struggle in my adult life has been difficult. For five years, I waited on people in Omaha and Kansas City, respectively. I watched other fans go through a rung of emotions as they watched the Chiefs and Huskers struggle to win.
If the Chiefs and Huskers won, tips and smiles were plentiful. But with losses, came depression within the community and a sense of overall hopelessness. Football is just a game, but wins and losses effect communities on a personal level.
With the recent firing of Bo Pelini, that depression will be back for some, but so will be the hope for others. The kind of hope fans have in the first quarter of a football game. The one that says, we can WIN this.
Ouch. Why again? Why can't Nebraska get their winning ways back? Why couldn't Bo Pelini be the man? Why couldn't he beat Wisconsin? WHY? WHY? WHY?
It's a fit. I'm familiar with fits, I've been throwing them my whole life. Especially if Nebraska fails to convert on third down, or failed to win. You fans know Nebraska Cornhusker anger, the "why can't you f%$&*#g win" anger. The what the heck happened to my champion SKERS' anger that fuels the parade of happiness within the people that are celebrating Bo knows fired.
As you consider calling those people out, understand the different roads fanatics take to get to their conclusions. Do you know their personal journey with the BIG RED? It's possible they don't have one, but what if they do? Should fans respect other fans and their individual stories, or does stuff like that not matter?
For me, this day is strange... my second reaction was to say, if Tom Osborne is still breathing, make him the Head Football Coach. But that's probably not realistic, it's just my hope searching for the best solution.
People will say, Tom's too old and he's retired, even as a AD. Let Tom be. I get that, but I'm selfish and I want what I want when I want it, so there it is. And here's a point:
Bill Snyder is 75, Tom is 78. Why not?
Since Tom got out of coaching, he's done it all, public office, AD of Nebraska... but sometimes you should stick with what you're great at. Tom is a great football coach and he's the only one with the keys to championship engine that Nebraska fans want.
That's how fan delusion works, you ask yourself why not, no matter how silly the idea may be. Especially, if you're as selfish as I am. Because why not...
Comments by fans of the Huskers are so different from what I've read, I've read people that were mad that Bo was fired, like Nebraska just made a huge mistake. And, that's the funny thing about belief, if you believe and want Bo Pelini to be the answer long enough, you'll convince yourself through delusion that Bo Pelini is the answer.
For people like that, this time is painful. They believed in Bo Pelini, because they wanted it to work, for Bo's passion, for the players on the field, for the city of Lincoln, for the state of Nebraska and for Husker Nation. Or if you're like me, just because you simply want your team to win and must have what you want at all costs or... FIT.
I apologize for being so selfish humanity. If this story is insensitive, I'm sorry, I know you love Bo Pelini and I hope you find a way to feel better about the situation.
Hopefully, with this shiny new firing, comes a truly great Head Coach that can turn the program around and win in the Big Ten (and not just beat Iowa).
Husker fans, I don't know who that coach is. I know you want answers, I know you want the perfect replacement and national titles. At least, I know that's what I want. I want the glory days of BIG RED back.
But those days are gone, my early youth is gone, heck Tommie Frazier is 40 years old. Which comedically means that our Husker glory days are over the proverbial hill. Sad. Depressing.
It's certainly true that Bo Pelini coached well at times, but it wasn't GLORY days good, here are some tidbits from the four letter:
The Cornhuskers won at least 9 games every season under Bo Pelini, a streak that is tied for second longest in the country. Only Oregon has a longer active streak. But Pelini's teams have struggled in other key areas:
It seems selfish to fire Bo, he won 67 games in seven seasons and only lost 27, that's not that bad. But this is Nebraska Football, people expect and want greatness. They want national championships and undefeated seasons. They don't want huge losses to Wisconsin where guys named Melvin gain 400 rushing yards against the famed once upon a time, Blackshirts.
It's definitely selfish, but fans want to win, even if we don't necessarily deserve it. Football is an escape of life, when the escape is a failure, it makes it seem pointless. The point is to win.
With Bo Pelini gone, hope is temporarily restored. But it's a fragile thing, there's no easy fix, success takes a perfect storm of events. Occasionally those events are triggered by a firing, but firing a decent coach also seems akin to taking good money out of your wallet to buy lottery tickets. There's a chance you'll come out ahead, but you have to take note of the obvious gamble. Along with the possibility you'll end up worse off.
So, Bo knows fired.
Who's the next Nebraska Coach? Will it work? Is this statement shortsighted from the Nebraska AD?
"I didn't see enough improvement in areas that were important for us to move forward and play championship-caliber football,'' athletic director Shawn Eichorst said at a news conference. "We weren't good enough in games that mattered against championship-caliber opponents.''
It's definitely shortsighted, but it's a Nebraska Football attitude that is refreshing. "Let's WIN!" is a sentiment fans have been hearing from the school since the ‘90s, that sentiment and attitude alone isn't the answer. The school must execute at a championship level.
Only, it might not be possible. Tom Osborne's run was magic, it was a perfect blend of time and space mixed with BIG RED. It's not coming back.
That doesn't mean Nebraska will never win again, it's possible. But the dominance of the ‘90s is just that, back in the ‘90s.
It will take a new era of new blood and new tradition to succeed. There's no easy dynasty. There's no perfect fit coach. There's no sure thing. And likely, Nebraska will fail again.
However, just as likely is that Nebraska will win it all again. At least in my delusions, after all, it hasn't happened yet and the future is wide open. And remember, I want what I want when I want it, and I want Nebraska to win, so that's what I'll believe will happen, even if thousands of words and justifications in my head are pointing to sure failure. My selfishness will always prevail over logical reasoning (sorry bout' that Earth).
When Bo Pelini was hired, I was excited, I thought he was the man, I wanted him to be the GUY, I loved his passion and I wanted his success. It didn't happen. It sucks.
Now the Huskers will begin their new search, and fans will search for new hope. Some will say they hate the school and will never watch again. But even those fans will be peeking through their fingers at this next regime. It's Nebraska football and no matter how high the pain pile gets, underneath it all is the glory days. You never stop yearning for the past, even if you shun the now.
So for all Nebraska fans, players and coaches involved in the schools rich tradition, good luck on this transition to the NEW.
Nebraska needs the next great college football coach and I for one, hope that they find him. And by him, I mean Tom Osborne, sorry, that's delusion talking again.