Husker Hot Takes – 10/22/2014

22 Oct

A heaping helping of hot takes to get you through until Halloween…

Bo Pelini thinks the ESPN / SEC relationship is “bad for college football”.
I won’t argue Bo’s point, as it remains to be seen just how much ESPN’s love affair with the SEC impacts the game.  But I hate to see the coach give fuel to the message board conspiracy theorists who believe every announcer hates Nebraska, and ESPN disrespects the Big Ten and every other conference north or west of Columbia, MO.

Look:  You and I may sometimes forget it, but I guarantee that ESPN always knows the “E” in their name stands for “Entertainment”, not Ethics, Equality, or anything else.  ESPN wants viewers (which leads to higher cable fees and more ad dollars).  They get those viewers by promoting and talking about winning teams.  And right now, the SEC (as a whole) is widely viewed as a winning team.

This is nothing new.  Before their love affair with the SEC began, ESPN fawned all over USC.  And Texas.  And Boise State.  And other top programs before that.  As some of those teams have fallen on hard times, ESPN quickly moves on to the next big thing.  For the most part, this is decided as much by the results on the field as it is by any financial implications ESPN may see from a team or conference’s success.

Remember, ESPN has a big, big stake in Texas’s Longhorn Network, so if the “ESPN only promotes what they own” conspiracy were 100% true, we’d hear a lot more about Texas than we do.  But since Texas is 3-4, and is far from the dominant team they used to be, ESPN’s focus is elsewhere.

I realize all of this gets confusing when SportsCenter is passed off as a news program employing traditional journalism like you’d find on the evening news.  In reality, SportsCenter is little more than highlight packages and talking heads providing their own opinions (or, for the tin foil hat crowd, the opinions given to them by ESPN executives) under the branding of Coors Light, Lowe’s, or some new movie.  SportsCenter is a news program much like The Daily Show is a news program:  Some of the things they say may be news to you, but you’re going to get a heavy dose of opinion and commentary that is anything but impartial.  It’s up to you to determine what is factual and what is not.

As for Bo, he’s perfectly fine in his opinion, and I respect him for speaking his mind and reminding everyone that the SEC is closer to the rest of college football than some would have us believe.  Pelini can continue to do his part by repeating what his team did in January:  beating an SEC team in a bowl game.  That is what will sway the perceptions of the SEC’s dominance and the B1G’s ineptitude

Dougie McWildcat’s Appearance Angers Some Fans

Former Creighton standout Doug McDermott appeared in a video wearing a purple Northwestern shirt at the battle for NU.  McDermott said he .had taped the thing a couple of months ago, and was not aware that it would be shown during the Nebraska game.  He also said he was rooting for Nebraska in that game.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on both of these (even if I think he should have expected the video to be shown when Nebraska came to Evanston).

Personally,  I don’t really care if McBuckets wants to support Northwestern, Notre Dame, or North Dakota State.  He was born in Iowa, went to college at a school without a football team (insert Jaysker joke here, if you wish), and now lives and works in Chicago.  He is under no obligation to support Nebraska because he went to college within our borders.  If he wants to, great.  If not, I won’t lose sleep over it.

But as a fan of all* Husker teams (and not just the winning ones), I love that he appeared on-screen at the Nebraska game in Wildcat purple.  Let’s face it:  there are Nebraska football fans who root for Creighton instead of Nebraska basketball.  These folks have a variety of reasons for doing this (Creighton alums, Omaha residents, like a beer with their hoops, want to watch a winner, attracted to Jesuit sports, whatever) but those really aren’t important in this context.  My point is these fans exist, and their existence rubs some Husker fans the wrong way.

*Admittedly, “all” is an exaggeration.  While I do want all Husker teams to be successful, to say that I am a diehard cross country fan or longtime supporter of the swimming team would be a lie.  That said, I do actively support NU teams beyond football and men’s basketball (notably, baseball, volleyball, and women’s gymnastics) – even when they are not competing for championships.  For me, it’s more about supporting the team and the university more than it is about identifying myself as a fan of a successful team. 

By having McDermott appear at a Husker event, in the colors of a third school, the folks who root for Creighton and Nebraska had to be a little conflicted, and possibly feel a little awkward.  I like that.  I’ve never understood the idea of a la carte fandom, picking teams from different schools to fit my needs.  So I like that some of these people – call ‘em “Jayskers” if you wish – may have been a little uncomfortable during that video.  Kudos to Northwestern for realizing that red + blue = purple.

Pelini Continues to Push for Recruiting Reforms
In addition to his previous suggestion to eliminate National Signing Day, Bo also wants schools to be able to pay for a parent to come along on their child’s visit.  I love Bo’s quote from Monday’s press conference:

“I look at it from a parent standpoint. If a 17, 18-year old kid, is getting ready to make a life-changing decision, his parents should be with him,” Pelini said. “Because most kids, there are a small percentage of kids who are ready to weed out and make their decisions for the right reasons, but you have a large majority of kids who aren’t ready to make that decision because they don’t know what’s important yet. They should have their parents with them. They should have their parents with them to say, ‘it’s not about the uniforms here, bud.’”

Yes, if you want to be cynical about it, Bo is pushing these reforms because he’s lost some talented recruits in part because Mama didn’t want them going so far away from home to play in the middle of a cornfield.  But what he is saying makes perfect sense.  Where you go to college is a big decision in a kid’s life – often the biggest decision an 18-year-old kid has made in his life.  Having Mom and Dad there to provide guidance and recognize the things that a school like NU can provide (tutoring, training facilities, mentoring, etc.) is huge.

Besides, as adidas has proved time and again, it is clearly not about the uniforms here, bud.

Back in Blackshirts
Tuesday afternoon, several members of the Nebraska defense took to the practice field as Blackshirts – the first time the coveted practice jerseys have been issued in 2014.  Not to take anything away from the strong defensive performance in the second half of the Northwestern game, but it sure seems like the timing had more to do with the increased questions about when (or if) the Blackshirts would be issued that popped up in the last week.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the Pelini method of issuing Blackshirts arbitrarily after a midseason game.  Call me a stodgy traditionalist if you must, but I believe the Blackshirts should be issued towards the end of fall camp every year, not in late October.  Period.  If they need to be yanked after an ugly performance, that’s fine, but I disagree with using them as a carrot that the team may or may not reach.

As for the number issued, I don’t have a problem with issuing more than eleven jerseys, especially if you have a handful of key contributors that technically don’t start (such as a nickel back or third down pass rusher).  But I don’t think you need to give the entire two-deep a Blackshirt either.

I’d like to see Pelini and Papuchis embrace the Blackshirts tradition more, and make it a more integral part of the team.  That said, you know NU is having a good season if the logistics of issuing Blackshirts is a topic of conversation.

Husker Baseball gets a jump start on Halloween
The baseball team wrapped up the fall Red/White intrasquad series with all of the players and coaches in costume.  I could describe the awesome variety of costumes, but some of them really need to be seen to be appreciated.  Besides, how often do you get to see somebody in an inflatable Stay Puft Marshmallow Man outfit get an at bat, hear the announcer say “now pitching, Thing 1″, or see a group of costumed baseball players recreate the De’Mornay Pierson-El to Tommy Armstrong, Jr. trick play (with Superman playing the role of Armstrong)?

I love the idea.  The players looked like they were having an absolute blast.  Ditto for the coaching staff – although I’m sure Darin Erstad had to be roasting inside a full Chewbacca costume on an unseasonably warm and sunny day.  It was fun to see the guys show off their personalities and put on a good show for the several hundreds diehard fans who came out (as well as those of us who work downtown and were able to take in a couple of innings over the lunch hour).

Plus, these are the types of things that help a program gain positive national exposure and help make Nebraska look good to recruits.  I hope this becomes an annual tradition.

Chicken Dance of Joy

21 Oct

It was with great joy that I learned that chicken sandwich giant Chick-fil-A will open their first Lincoln location sometime this year.  I love me some Chick-fil-A.  I love the chicken, the waffle fries, the sweet tea, and their sauce.

Oh that sauce…it’s one of those magical condiments that makes anything else taste better.

Plus, it will be a nice upgrade from the other chicken-only chain in town:  Raisin’ Canes.  This may be sacrilegious to some, but for a place that only does chicken fingers, the chicken at Canes isn’t all that great.  Heck, I’d argue the chicken is middle of the pack in the food they do serve:

  1. Cane sauce.  It’s an odd BBQ-ranch hybrid, but it works.
  2. Fries.  A good mix of crispy, crinkly, and salty.
  3. Sweet tea.  Until Chick-fil-A arrives, it’s the best sweet tea one can get in Nebraska.
  4. Texas toast.  Good, but not great.
  5. Chicken fingers.  It’s not that they’re bad, but they’re definitely not a standout.
  6. Cole Slaw.  I’m not a cabbage and mayo sauce guy, but the Cain’s version is not very good.

Don’t mind if I do.

The biggest challenge will be getting to eat there.  The location particularly close to home or work, and given the way Lincoln loves its chain restaurants, the place will probably be packed for months and the drive-thru line will be 15 cars deep – even on Sundays.*

*Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays.  Get it?

Like anything else, there is some bad that comes with the good.  Aside from a dramatic spike in Chick-fil-A commercials, we’ll also get a front row seat whenever the next political controversy involving the chicken chain arises.  The conservative Christian company leadership will be favored and respected by many Nebraskans.  Personally, I just want to enjoy a #1 combo without having to weigh the sociopolitical implications of my lunch choice.

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 10/13

16 Oct

We’re back for another B1G season!  Throughout the 2014 season, I’ll be ranking the Big Ten schools 1-14.  To see where your team was ranked last week, click here.  As always, if you think I’m right, wrong, or clinically insane, let me know in the comments.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Michigan State.  The Spartans did what the top team is supposed to do:  win.  I’m not real sure what to make of Purdue hanging 31 on Michigan State, but we’ll let that slide.
  2. Ohio State.  It’s really too bad that Ohio State was off this week.  If they would have traded bye weeks with Penn State, the weekend’s Big Ten schedule would have been composed only of “original” Big Ten teams as Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers were all off.  But since the conference struggles with scheduling, I’m not that surprised.
  3. Minnesota.  By knocking off the Wildcats, Minnesota has claimed the title of “Surprise team in the West”.  I expect the Gophers to hold that title for the rest of the month (Purdue this week and at Illinois), before a grueling November schedule hits.  Until then, let’s reward the Gophers with the #3 spot.
  4. Nebraska.  This is a critical game in Nebraska’s season.  Coming off of a loss and a bye week, Nebraska needs to beat Northwestern to stay in the hunt for the division title.  But this series is known for close, competitive games (a cumulative difference of 1 point in the last three meetings).  The edge might be if Nebraska has home field advantage in Evanston like they did in 2012.
  5. Wisconsin.  The Badgers took care of Illinois and are rewarded with a week off before welcoming both of the new schools to the league.  This is about the time where Wisconsin really starts to hit stride.

    English: Big Ten Conference logo since 2010.

    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  6. Northwestern.  Admittedly, I am probably punishing Northwestern a little too much for a seven point loss to Minnesota, but I’m just not sure what to make of Northwestern.  The “Battle for NU” should be a close, competitive game.
  7. Rutgers.  Rutgers enters into the hazing portion of their Big Ten initiation tour with their next three games at Ohio State, at Nebraska, and against Wisconsin.  This is where Rutgers can validate this relatively high ranking or watch it plummet.
  8. Iowa.  I still maintain that Iowa v. Maryland sounds more like a December 30th bowl game than a Big Ten Conference clash.  The Hawkeyes are in need of a good challenge, and I think the Terps could provide it.
  9. Maryland.  Let’s see how Maryland reacts to their first conference smack down as they host Iowa.  This is one of those games that helps provide clarity in the middle of the pack.
  10. Purdue.  It may seem strange to promote the Boilermakers after giving up 45 in a loss, but in a head-to-head match up with any of the schools below, I’d probably pick Purdue.
  11. Penn State.  A loss to Michigan really hurts.  Yeah, Penn State probably got screwed by the refs on another call.  (That sound you hear is Husker fans still bitter over 1982 muttering “karma”).  Regardless, these are the games that Penn State needs to win.
  12. Indiana.  Bad news: the Hoosiers get beat up by Iowa.  Worse news:  they play Michigan State this weekend.  Worst news:  on Monday, they lost their starting QB for the season.  How long until basketball season?
  13. Michigan.  A much-needed win should calm the fires over the bye week (until Sparty drops gasoline over everything).  Although I’m not a fan of the show, I appreciated Michigan’s QB corps showing their excitement for the return of “The Walking Dead”, by limping around for three hours Saturday night.
  14. Illinois.  Simply put, the Illini are the worst team in this league.  For my money, it’s not even close.


Thought of the Day – 10/14/2014 – Doors

14 Oct

When I go out to the local Big Box store, I’m always fascinated by the people who refuse to open a door for themselves.

Nothing is more American than walking out of your way to use an automatic door.

Sorry, Whites Only

14 Oct

Last weekend, we took the kiddos on a mini-vacation to an indoor water park – one that my son excitedly referred to as “Grape Wolf Lodge”.

Everybody had a lot of fun.  The five-year old loved the water slides, the 2-year-old liked dumping buckets of water on people, and the 1-year-old enjoyed playing in the water.  Family fun for everyone, and something we’re likely to do again.

But one thing from the trip is sticking with me.

In the room, they had a little promotion for Shutterfly.  There was a sample of a photo book and a coupon to create your own for free.  As you likely know, Shutterfly photo books are a digital scrapbook where you upload pictures to create a very nice looking book.  I’ve created multiple Shutterfly photo books, as I make one at the end of the year showcasing pictures of the kids from each month.

Our kids love books, and love looking at the Shutterfly books I’ve created, so naturally they spent some time in the room flipping through the sample book.  The sample book was a scrapbook of a faux-family’s visit to Grape Wolf:  Here are the water slides.  Here we are hugging the costumed characters.  Here is somebody swimming in the pool.  Here are the kids and their new friends in some group activity, and so on.

I didn’t think too much of it until I was flipping through with our one year old.  That’s when I noticed something odd.  As I was going through the various pages, I was only seeing white faces in the pictures.  Friends and regular readers know that all of our children have at least one birth parent of color.

About halfway through the book, I semi-jokingly said “Let’s look for the people of color in this book”.  I kept flipping pages and wasn’t seeing anyone who wasn’t lily-white.  Not finding anybody, I started over at the beginning.  This time, I looked closely at each photo (probably three or four per page) and carefully scanned the group activity photos for any children of color (black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, hell – anything other than white).  I kept coming up empty.

Finally, about two-thirds of the way through the book, I found a woman of color.  I couldn’t really tell her ethnicity (African-American?  A Latin America country?), but she was definitely not white.  This was good.

But wait…what is this woman doing?  Oh, she’s giving little Susie an ice cream cone.  The lone person of color in the sample photo book is an employee.  That is not so good.  But at least she looked happy to be serving ice cream to all those white kids at White Wolf Lodge* for minimum wage!

*White Wolf Lodge, where your ice cream choices are vanilla, vanilla chip, vanilla mint, and white chocolate!

Now, let’s clear some things up:  I’m not “outraged” by this.  I’m not sharing this to raise a stink, or bring negative attention to Shutterfly or Great Wolf Lodge – two companies whose products and services I will continue to use.

And yes, I have mocked ads and publications that use awkward diversity pictures – you know, that group shot of the black kid, the Asian kid, the Indian kid, the Hispanic girl, etc. all hanging out in front of the student union instead of in their own racially segregated groups?  (In the past, I’ve derisively called that a “United Nations” photo).  Trust me, I’m not saying that there needs to a specific quota of minority children per Shutterfly demo book.

I’m under no illusion (or conspiracy theory) that non-white, non-employee faces were intentionally excluded, or that either of these fine companies is racist.  I’m pretty sure that the only color they really care about is green (which helps to explain the expensive prices at the lodge:  $4.99 for a side of fresh fruit at the pool bar?  Really?).

But it sure would be nice if my kids, or the dozens of other non-white kids we saw last weekend, could see themselves represented in the sample “My Awesome Vacation at Grape Wolf Lodge” photo book – even if they’re just hanging out in the background.  I don’t want them to think that the only way they could ever return to Grape Wolf Lodge (without their white parents) is as an employee.

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 10/6

10 Oct

We’re back for another B1G season!  Throughout the 2014 season, I’ll be ranking the Big Ten schools 1-14.  To see where your team was ranked last week, click here.  As always, if you think I’m right, wrong, or clinically insane, let me know in the comments.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Michigan State.  The Spartans had an excellent game plan against Nebraska and executed it very well for two or three quarters before they got bored and almost lost the game.  Still, I didn’t any reason to knock them from the top spot.  Sparty probably won’t be challenged for the rest of the month.
  2. Ohio State.  Hello, Maryland.  To welcome you to the league, we’d like to light up your scoreboard with 52 points.  The Bucks get a week off to prepare for the other B1G newbies.
  3. Nebraska.  It seems odd to move a team up in the rankings when they a) lost and b) looked poor for most of the game in doing so.  In theory, I agree, but it helps that the team in front of them (Wisconsin) lost to a team that is not as good at Michigan State.  The Huskers also get a week off to prepare for the NU-NU grudge match.
  4. Minnesota.  Minnesota’s lone loss (a 30-7 beating at TCU) looks a lot better after TCU knocked off Oklahoma.  The game with Northwestern should provide some clarity as to which West division upstart is a legitimate threat.
  5. Northwestern.  So let’s get this straight:  the Wildcats allow Melvin Gordon to rush for 259 and a touchdown, and they still win?  If Northwestern is going to contend for the West title, they’ll earn it in their next three games (at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Iowa).  Get past those and they can coast to Indy.
  6. Rutgers.  I’m still not real sure what to make of Rutgers.  Four of their six games have been decided by a touchdown or less, which means they are a few bounces away from 6-0 or 2-4.  The game with Ohio State in two weeks should provide some answers.
  7. Maryland.  TheTerps got thumpedgood by Ohio State – probably out of anger inspired by Maryland’s ugly uniforms.  They get to lick their wounds for a week before taking on the Hawkeyes.

    Maryland, the Big Ten has a strict dress code. These things are clearly in violation. (image via Washington Post)

  8. Wisconsin.  So let’s get this straight:  Melvin Gordon rushes for 259 yards and a touchdown and they lose?  Look for the Badgers to take out some frustrations against Illinois.  And considering how bad the Illini rush defense is, don’t be surprised to see Gordon put up 300 yards.
  9. Iowa.  Having successfully defeated the bye week, Iowa turns their attention towards the Hoosiers.  The loser will definitely find themselves in the double digits of these rankings.
  10. Penn State.  For a team with the depth issues that Penn State has, a bye week is a welcome chance to rest and heal.  Unfortunately, their schedule has them off, at Michigan, and off again before six straight games to end the season.  That is rough.
  11. Purdue.  Look at you, Purdue!  Last year you had to wait until late November before you won a conference game.  If you could play Illinois every week you’d make the Rose Bowl!
  12. Indiana.  It’s Hoosiers v. Hawkeyes in the battle of “which team is a potential cellar dweller”.
  13. Michigan.  I’m not sure what is more surprising:  that Michigan almost won, that Brady Hoke is still employed, or that the Wolverines made it through a game without any scandals.
  14. Illinois.  Having lost to Purdue, Illinois’ best chance for a conference win will be hoping that Penn State is so beat up on Nov. 22 that they can steal a W.  Until then, I’m not seeing much hope for the Illini.

Spartan Offense

10 Oct

Thanks for stopping by!  While I am very grateful for those who take the time to read my work, I would greatly it if you read this one on HuskerMax.com.  

Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

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