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How Much Ridicule Is OK For Those That Didn't Succeed at Nebraska?

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The Des Moines Register reported earlier this week that former Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini had applied unsuccessfully for a job with Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines. It made for a juicy topic for jokes - even here at CornNation.

Pelini then told the Register how disappointed he was that the high school had revealed his job search publicly.

"You can imagine my disappointment. It's just another opportunity to be belittled, harassed on social media."

Which is absolutely true; we did it here.  But it raises the question about whether ridicule has a statute of limitations. Or any sort of limits. Earlier this week, Bill Callahan switched NFL jobs, going from Dallas to Washington as offensive line coach, sparking more comments from Nebraska.

Are Carl Pelini and Bill Callahan still "fair game" for ridicule? What about Steve Pederson, Frank Solich, Kevin Cosgrove, and Craig Bohl?

Here's what the CornNation team thinks:

Husker Mike: Each case is different.  The case against Bill Callahan, Kevin Cosgrove, and Steve Pederson is pretty solid. Pederson's managerial style and legacy of failure in hiring coaches at both Nebraska and Pitt will forever make him a target of ridicule. Bill Callahan's track record in Oakland and Lincoln shows him to be an awful head coach, but his track record in Dallas and New York shows that he's one of the best offensive line coaches around. And Kevin Cosgrove is...well, Kevin Cosgrove.

But some of the ridicule surrounding Carl Pelini is based more on rumor and innuendo from his personal life than his job. Looking back on it, Pelini is right... It's not really fair to him that the Des Moines high school revealed his job search. Ridicule him for what he did as a coach, not for what you may have heard through the grapevine. Same thing for Frank Solich and Craig Bohl.

So make fun, if you want, for what happened on the field. But maybe it's time to lay off the jokes that only have a basis in rumors that might actually be completely wrong.

David: The thing that has come to mind as I've been thinking about this is "Is this what the ‘Greatest Fans in College Football' would do?" Would they hold grudges? Would they make life so hard when things don't go exactly right, when someone tries to do something different than what they want it to be, that they make it a miserable existence? I contend the wouldn't.

I understand that the scrutiny comes with the job, I really do, but it's been a long time since Peterson and Callahan and Bohl and Solich were at the helm. For some, it's been more than a decade, for others it'll be here soon. It's probably time to let it go. It's like you're holding on to the spurned lover. It's not healthy for anybody. This kind of behavior isn't unique to Nebraska fans or even sports, but it's not healthy, it's not attractive and it's not fun. It doesn't make being a fan an enjoyable experience, which is what it's supposed to be, when we're gripping and bickering, all the time. If we're going to make that self-appointed title true, this can't be who we are.

I'm also not saying that some of these people didn't do things to disengender themselves from the fanbase. They did. Pelini somehow turned the team against the fans. Something I can't fully comprehend. I haven't met a fan of the program who doesn't want what's best for the program and for it to succeed.

For reason's I've yet to determine, Pelini got the team to believe the fans were against THEM! With some of the words from Carl the past couple of days, perhaps we're seeing where that comes from.

That sentence may make me hypocrite, I hope not, but the consistency of the "everybody is against me" mentality creates a sad narrative. I never met a fan that rooted against the players or wanted them to FAIL. Take just a second to think about that. It doesn't make any sense. It seems Riley and Co. are changing that mentality. I hope it eventually bridges the gap between the players and the fans, because I think once everyone gets pulling in the same direction, this can be a special program again. For the past several years, that hasn't been the case.

Paul:  I'm as much into the "Damnit Carl!" line of jokes as anyone else in Nebraska, but those jokes, as popularized by @FauxPelini, typically tied Carl to things that he had nothing to do with.  They're funny, and maybe even Carl Pelini was able to laugh at them  But this seems different to me.  This is a real thing, and Carl Pelini is a real person and real dad with a real family.  Whatever the facts of his departure from NU are, he didn't leave for criminal reasons, and for that reason I can't see why his attempts to move on with his life should be impeded.

Bill Callahan is a bit different in my mind.  His arrogance and coaching malpractice set NU on a path that has last more than a decade.  That kind of injury heals slowly in my mind.  The problem is that Bill Callahan isn't very funny.  There isn't enough quirky stuff about him to make for sufficient joke fodder.  When he comes up, it's usually in the context of ‘that rat bastard Callahan', and I'm okay with that.

Bo Pelini, when the dust settles, will be somewhere in the middle.  Like him or hate him, he left the Cornhusker football program in better condition than he found it, and because I'm a firm believer in the idea that there are no former Cornhuskers, only players and coaches from a different era, I think Pelini will eventually be there.  That won't make him immune to jokes, nor should it.

And last and certainly least in my mind...Steve Pederson.  Again, not really joke fodder.  And the wounds from him are even deeper than from Callahan...Pederson WAS a Husker.  He was TO's guy.  There are pics from the ‘95 Championship season with Pederson in them.  His leadership was an act of betrayal that can never be forgiven, and for that reason any chance I get to highlight his manifest failures, I reserve the right to do so.

Pat Janssen: This is an admittedly personal topic for me because it was born out of my Carl Pelini piece the other day. It's also a personal topic because I'm a comedian, and what we can and cannot joke about is often a moving target. Comedians get butt-hurt pretty quickly over these things because there's a paranoia over what we'll be able to say some day, and what we won't.

The ironic thing is I'm not a particularly offensive comedian. I've heard people call the Carl story "low hanging fruit" and "a cheap shot." Objectively, those comments aren't wrong. I've also heard people call it "funny." That's a far more subjective debate. But it's why I chose to write it. I find it funny. I can live with people disagreeing with me about that. It's part of what I do.

When I (or a site like Tunnel Walk of Shame) joke about Carl, we're not speaking about the actual character of Carl. At least I'm not. I've never met the guy. We're playing off the caricature of Carl. And really, when I'm writing on Corn Nation, I'm playing off a caricature of myself (and in a way, Husker fans as a whole). That caricature being that we will forgive anything until you are no longer a Husker (or we don't want you to be a Husker anymore). We did it with the Pelini brothers. We did it with Callahan. And we'll probably do it with Mike Riley and Tim Miles. And that saddens me.

What continues to confound me is the mixture of Stockholm Syndrome and hypocrisy that permeates from the defenders of the Pelini brothers. Why is it off-color and unfair to make fun of their misgivings but completely in bounds to mercilessly go after Bill Callahan, when his only crime was being a poor head coach?  No one thinks twice about launching into a Callahan-based riff, even though he never did anything particularly embarrassing (apart from losing, of course) and hasn't coached in Lincoln for nearly a decade.

If Bo and staff had a couple losing seasons, would we suddenly be less forgiving? Is that really what this is all about? Because if it were just about cracking on individual human beings, none of us would ever make a Bill Callahan joke.

And while I typically hate the "this is what you signed up for when you accepted the job" argument, it's partially true. If you're a public persona, as a politician, an actor, a coach or whatever, it does come with the territory, and when I start to make jokes about those public figures, I'm essentially fair game as well. I would say more, but we will be discussing this topic in even greater detail on the Big Red Cobcast later this week, and I don't want to sound like an idiot who has nothing to say.

Cobcast Ryan: I'm also a comedian and like Pat said I do get "butt hurt" over what's allowed to be said. I admittedly push things pretty far sometimes and can alienate some people with my style of comedy. Also, reiterating what Pat said, my comedic persona is a character, a heightened version of not only myself but of people I know that I find funny in both the "ha ha" way and also "did you just really say that" way.

One thing about comedians I would like to point out is that many of us feel an obligation to make fun of the things that people don't want us to make of. It's not always about grudges, sometimes things just strike me as funny. I like Carl. I also think he's a good coach. Most men make bad decisions involving their nether regions. However that's not the discussion here really, it's more about peoples feelings.

The weird thing about people's sensitivities, to me, is that they seem to cherry pick what to be sensitive about. For example, you can't make fun of, let's say for sake of this discussion, Carl Pelini but you can make fun of Barack Obama. I understand the difference here but read my point before you start yelling, "BUT CARL IS NOT THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD. AMERICA, RYAN, FREEDOM".

I don't think you can be concerned with whose feelings you hurt unless you are concerned with every single person's feelings, otherwise you are really just standing up for what you as a person care about not the person that you are claiming to stick up for. It's not only subjective but it's also a double standard.

Here's an example: let's say that someone knows Carl but doesn't know Pat. They read Pat's article and what their opinion becomes is "go screw yourself Pat". So it's not actually that they care about peoples feelings as much as it is "Hey I know that guy". That will never be a good enough reason for me to stop making jokes.

One last thing. Carl Pelini is rich and getting paid lots of money not to work. It's like an aristocratic welfare. Of course I'm gonna make fun of his coke-addled, temper flared family name. I'm poor.

Ty: Comedy, and stand-up in particular, is possibly my favorite form of entertainment.  I especially love to sit right up front and get picked on.  That, however is immaterial to this conversation other than to say that I follow quite a few comedians on Twitter, with Patton Oswalt being my current favorite.

He recently tweeted a picture that said simply, "Don't you think jokes about Auschwitz are in bad taste?" "No, I think Auschwitz was in bad taste."  It leads to a "too soon?" type of debate.  Are public figures more open to ridicule because of their standing?  This is not a debate we have 10 years ago, prior to twitter and prior to facebook's rise to prominence.

The answer, then, to me, is the same that live stand-ups deal with.  You have to know your audience.  Most Huskers fans would agree that Pedey, Callahan, and Carl are fair game.  They're like pythons in Florida, take a shot if you want to.  However the others?  I feel like there are a lot of people with bad tastes in their mouths about Bohl and Solich in particular.

Pat Janssen: Public figures and infuriating jokes at their expense are not new things, Twitter or no Twitter. Jerry Falwell and Hustler are proof of that. Does that make Jon the Larry Flynt of Corn Nation?

Sorry...I can't stop...I kind of wish we'd just drop the "Greatest Fans in College Football" thing. It's nearly as pompous as "Michigan Man." And it's completely unnecessary. Let's let our merits stand for themselves. The sellout streak? Pretty damn impressive. Our treatment of opposing fans and players? Excellent, and I love it. But what else defines the "greatest fans"? Is it standing and yelling during a key third down play? Because we've probably all been told to sit down a time or two in Memorial Stadium. Is it treating our own fans as well as we treat opponents? Because I'm not sure how well we hold up on that end. Is it, in the same breath we used to trumpet our respect of opposing fans, supporting a coach who verbally assaulted officials? The term "greatest" is a moving target. At the end of the day (copyright Bo Pelini), we all need to be accountable for ourselves and what we deem to be the best behavior as fans and human beings.

Hopefully, we can all push each other to be better, but we all have our own definitions of what makes being a fan great. Like it or not, we're all in the same fanbase, and we can't vote anybody off the island. I'll be grouped with people who don't know the difference between a lineman and a linebacker still proclaiming disgust over the firing of Bo Pelini.

And they'll be lumped with a feminist comedian who likes loose-fitting underwear and writing off-color diaries of press conferences. As the fanbase grows, so does the number of different views and attitudes from our fans. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Oh, right. I was going to save some of this for the Big Red Cobcast. TUNE IN!

Jon: Hmmmm... I'm shaken by the "Larry Flynt" comment. Other guys have covered humor, so I'll cover the ‘guy who runs web site' perspective.

We are in constant search of web hits, and when I say "we", I don't just mean CN, I mean all of media. Over the past few years sites like CN have driven the regular media guys to cover football (in Nebraska's case) on a non-stop basis. That includes searching for anything that might be news, especially if it's negative because anybody who does this stuff knows that you all love negative news more than anything - we all love someone to feel better than.

The regular media guys cover Callahan, Pederson, and the Pelinis. They need hits, or more accurately, they need to not ignore them; this is their livelihood.

The OWH has recently started doing similar to our fanshots where they are linking to articles. A link to a link. I've hated that concept, but maybe now I have to compete with the OWH for stealing our concept in the first place...

For years we've been chasing the regular media for credibility. Now we're in a position where we're supposed to take the high road? I find this troublesome, not because the high road is scary, but because I really don't want to run into Denny Green again. (drum roll, please?)

Mister Mike: One phrase/saying keeps repeating over and over in my head with regards to the Pelini brothers, and in this case Carl; "You made your bed, now you have to lie in it."  The jokes about Carl's character are not based just on rumor or don't have to dig very far at all to find this out.  Hell, the guy had his girlfriend sit with the other COACHES' WIVES (along with his now ex-wife) in the stands during the Minnesota game, 4 years ago for instance.  That wasn't a rumor, folks.  It happened.  Also as Ryan probably knows, jokes about public figures (usually) have basis in fact.

Nebraska fans like to lambast Callahan and his staff for their poor performance on the field and rightly so.  And I know for a damn fact that if "Open Letter to Carl Pelini" was instead an "Open Letter to Bill Callahan," people on Corn Nation would've dog piled on that shit with no remorse whatsoever because...Callahan, even though he's been gone for almost ten years.

But now, now we're supposed to feel sorry for poor Carl because he feels that he's become the ass-end of a bunch of jokes and he feels that it paints him in a negative light?  An image that he himself fostered and help to shape?  G.T.F.O with that noise.  His persona as a public figure is as wide open to ridicule and satire as anyone.  But this "woe is me" attitude he's taking is insulting, as if Nebraska fans interfered with his ability to land a coaching job at a high school.  AD's at high schools have connections too.  They do their homework as well, especially when they'll be hiring someone that will be in the position of molding young men.  Carl was not considered for the job on his own merits and his own track record.  Not because of what Joe Nebraska is writing on f&*%ing Facebook and Twitter.  Further, Carl's thoughts in this matter speaks to how he likes to point the finger instead of the thumb.  Maybe if he had dedicated more time to his craft instead of his other vices, he'd still be employed today.

Brian: Kinda late to the party here, but I'm down with what Mike just said above. Everyone still wants to pile on Bill Callahan, but some people will flat out punch you in the face if you pulled that stuff with Bo Pelini.

Well, one guy left his job because while he was doing things alright, his D was awful and it cost him in the end. The other one had a great winning percentage yet was a complete asshole to not only people but the media and also the fans (but he wasn't talking about you, fan, rather that one over there. You see it. Next to the bookshelf).

I can't feel sorry for Carl. Dude is crying about being in Lincoln, yet stays there kids be damned. I learned how to live 600 miles from my son and make life work for me. It wasn't the greatest thing for our relationship, but my life is better and in the end, I can give more to my son because I'm doing what I want to do and it makes me happy. You've never seen Bill go all "woe is me, it's not my fault" that the Pelini's have done in the last few weeks. That's just my opinion, obviously, but sometimes you have to move on like Bill has and not play the victim like Carl is. Then again, him not getting an interview for a HS job after being a P5 AC and a Head Coach in Florida speaks more than anything anyone can say.

Andy: I'll start with Carl because I was sort of the guy that leapt to his defense a little when the Des Moines job thing popped. Did Carl cheat on the wife and end up divorced? That one seems pretty cut & dried. Did Carl go on a booze, cocaine-fueled rant at FAU or was he the target of a rumor started by one of his coaches and the gal he was cheating with before Carl outed them to save their own jobs? The fact that Carl's resignation was switched to a firing for failure to control a staff member which included a six figure payout and statement saying there was no truth to the drug/alcohol rumors and thanking him for his work there suggests (b).

I only write that 1st long-winded paragraph to illustrate why I thought we maybe piled on Carl a little bit on this one. What put him back in the public eye? A DUI? A bar brawl? A Winston type rant in a public place?

Nothing close. It simply appeared as if the guy was quietly looking for a job somewhere near his kids who are still in Lincoln. Then someone in Des Moines with a burning desire to be an "unnamed source" decided to spill the beans. Pardon me if I didn't think that was a reason to dump buffalo sauce on Carl and ring the dinner bell.

Full disclosure - I'm a divorced dad who gets the shakes when my kids go on a two week vacation, so I might be a little sensitive on the subject. Besides, I thought he did a heckuva job here.

As for Callahan, Cosgrove and Pedey, let the jokes fly. They stained my beloved Huskers in various ways and are therefore not deserving of forgiveness or breaks. See how subjective this is?

I'm on the fence with Bo. He pulled us out of the depths and burned the bridge behind him. He will continue to polarize for years to come.

So there you have it... Some wildly different thoughts on this one.  So what do YOU think?