A to Z Challenge

Why I Write (Y)

There is a question I’ve heard a handful of times over the last three years:

Why do you write your blog?

Obviously, it’s not for the money.  To date, I’ve made around zero dollars from feitcanwrite.com and my writing for nocoastbias.com.  I do get a little bit from HuskerMax.com, but it’s best if I think about how I’ve spent my earnings (a nice meal for my wife and a new DSLR camera for me) as opposed to what I make per hour.

So no, I don’t write for the money.  It’s not that I’m opposed to being paid (and if you need any freelance writing done, drop me a line), but with three kids, a mortgage, and car payments, it will probably be a while before I quit my day job.

It’s not about the fame/notoriety/attention either.  Don’t get me wrong:  I am an avid checker of my site statistics to see the number of pages views and followers I have.  I like it when you guys “Like” a post (either here or on Facebook).  I love it when you comment or share something I’ve written.  Those interactions mean a lot to me.  Although they are not a primary motivation, I love knowing that people connect with, enjoy, or even disagree/hate what I’ve written.

But I’m realistic enough to know that there is a ceiling.  I’m not going to be stopped in the middle of Target by somebody saying “are you the guy who writes that blog?”.  While I’m currently adding about five new followers a week, I suspect that many of them are spam accounts*.

*Unless, like David Hasselhoff, I am wildly popular in countries that do not speak English.  That is certainly possible as the song “Feit” is obviously a huge hit overseas.

I think it would be really cool to have something go viral and be shared thousands of times across the country, generating tens of thousands of hits.  But that is something that just happens – not something you set out to do.

So why do I write?

I write because:

I enjoy it.  This is the closest thing to a hobby I have.  Besides, other pursuits (golf, hunting, woodworking, building ships in glass bottles, etc.) don’t interest me.

I sometimes need it to clear out my head.  I’ve talked before about the little guy in my head who feeds me all of my good lines.  There are days when that dude has a lot to say.  Left unchecked, he fills up my brain with thoughts and ideas and snarky bullet point lists.  Eventually, these things take up so much of my internal processing that I struggle to focus on other tasks.  If I don’t get them jotted down in a post or in my virtual notebook, they go spilling out of my ears and are lost forever.

I like to share my opinion, and possibly shape how something/someone is viewed.  I don’t go political very often, because I believe political opinions are too ingrained.  (I could do 5,000 words telling you Party X is wrong and Party Y is right, but it won’t have any impact on how you view the situation).  But on other topics – specifically, Nebraska Football – I love having a platform to help shape how something is viewed.  I enjoy the opportunity to call out fans for overreacting, praise players for small things that might go unnoticed, or provide a voice of reason among the talk radio and message board extremists.  I like that a lot.  I’ve also been an advocate for adoption on this site, and I cherish being able to share our experiences and my opinions.

It is a good outlet for my creativity.  I don’t paint, sketch, or doing anything related to arts and crafts.  Writing allows me to stretch my brain, look at the world from (hopefully) a unique perspective, and have some fun.  I enjoy the creative challenge of writing a post with exactly 1,000 words or starting each sentence with a different letter of the alphabet, or coming up with silly things like rejected tributes to Tom Osborne.  Those things are great for my brain and they get the creative juices flowing.

I’m good at it.  There, I said it.  I try to be pretty humble about my writing, but let’s be honest here:  there are some horrible blogs cluttering up the internet.  I like to think that I am one worth following and reading.  I wrote my first Husker piece because I was unsatisfied by the other offerings on the web (a polite way of saying that I thought they all sucked).  I knew I could do something better, so I did.  I realize that I’m not going to win very many awards (aside from the virtual blogging awards that remind me of chain letters), but I’m okay with having an ego about the things I write.  I make a conscientious effort to only publish things that I’m happy with – and willing to put my name/reputation on.  The rest lives in my Drafts folder awaiting revisions or a trip to the trash can.

And there you have it.  I doubt there are too many surprises in there.  There may other reasons why I write tucked way down in my subconscious thoughts, but unless my loyal readers are going to chip in for a psychiatrist, that is where they will stay.

As always, I thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing.

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

How a Dime Made Me Rich (X)

Authors note:  I’m realizing that I never wrapped up the A-Z Challenge I started in April.  Since I want to finish what I start – even if it takes longer than anticipated – we’ll get it knocked out.

*   *   *

If I’m faced with a coin flip option, I am always going to pick heads.

Always.

With very little exaggeration, I can say that almost every good thing in my adult life can be traced back to a single flip of a coin.  God only knows where I would be today, what I would be doing, and who I would be doing it with if I had said “tails”.

And it all started with a very lucky dime.

*   *   *

For much of this story to make sense, we need to set the stage.  The year is 2002.  My buddy Tony is marrying the love of his life, and I’m serving as his best man.  The wedding is in a small town, about three hours away.

I’m technically single, but I spend more time hanging out with my ex than the people on How I Met Your Mother.  I know there is zero future there, so I’m hoping to meet somebody new.  Unfortunately, I’m quickly realizing that I probably won’t meet anybody at this wedding – for whatever reason, there are not a lot of single ladies at this event.

One of the other groomsmen (Chad) in the wedding party is also single, and we’ve joked that we’re going to have to fight over any eligible bachelorettes.

Early on in the reception, the battle commences.  Chad and I are introduced to Michelle by a mutual acquaintance.  Jokingly, it is pointed out that Chad and I represent all of the eligible males at the wedding, and Michelle is one of a few single females.  Somehow, it is decided that in order to settle it like gentlemen, there should be a coin toss to see who has the “right” to pursue Michelle that evening.*

*Trust me, this conversation was much more innocent, and not nearly as sexist as I’m making it sound.

One problem:  nobody has a quarter that we can flip.  Finally, we track down somebody* who has a dime and commandeer it for the official flip for Michelle’s hand.

English: A Silver Roosevelt Dime from 1953.

Heads or Tails? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the coin was flicked in the air, I called – you guessed it – heads.  The reveal showed Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s handsome face.  I had won.

*The identity of the dime’s original owner has been long forgotten, but whomever it is, I owe you ten cents.  After I won, I held onto your dime.

If this were Hollywood, this would be the part where the time lapse montage begins, possibly accompanied by “Meant to Be” by The Nadas, showing how we bonded and fell deeply in love that first night.

But O’Neill, Nebraska is a long way from Hollywood.

Over the course of the evening, I did my best to talk to Michelle, get to know her, and be as cute and charming as I could possibly muster.  This was made difficult by my best man duties (toasts, dances, doing the YMCA with the other groomsmen, and leaving to pull a prank in the honeymoon suite) as well as the fact that I really suck at flirting.

Towards the end of the night, she’s getting ready to make the drive back to Lincoln.  I ask for her phone number, and she tells me “I’m in the book”.*

A fairy tale ending, no?  I told you O’Neill, Nebraska is a long way from Hollywood.

*If you think that is a lukewarm reaction, you should know that when her roommate asked if she met anybody at the wedding, my future wife replied with “nobody I’m going to marry”.  

She likes to remind me of this when I’m being difficult.

*   *   *

The following week, I was going out of town on a business trip.  As I was packing Sunday night, I looked up her phone number in the phone book, and tossed it into my suitcase.  After an appropriate number of days, I called her.  We talked for a long time and I was able to secure an actual date.

I have often said that I have zero idea how somebody like her fell for somebody like me, but against all odds, I pulled it off.  Don’t believe me?  Here are some “highlights” from our dating life:

  • Our first date was to a “Cajun Festival” that was woefully short on food, but long on loud music that made it tough to talk.  I struggled to hear half of what she was saying.  I did a lot of smiling and nodding.
  • When I tried to kiss her goodnight, I ended up kissing the area between her upper lip and her nostrils (I thought she was taller).
  • One of our first dates involved eating Long John Silvers.  In my car.  In the parking lot of Super K.*
  • The first time I professed my love for her, I was on a business trip in DeKalb, Illinois.  I called her from a payphone, drunk, somewhere around midnight.  I left a message on her work voice mail.  In my defense, I had tried to call her house, but her sister – also in a lack of sobriety – kept answering and telling me to “never to call again”.  I may or may not have thrown up at some point in the next hour.
  • And so many more….

*How I remained single into my late twenties is really anybody’s guess.  I was such a remarkable catch.

*   *   *

Michelle and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary in April.  Our first ten years were a whirlwind of laughter, tears, fun adventures and quiet nights at home.  We have endured the loss of family members, jobs, and our fertility, and have been blessed with three amazing children and a commitment  that is stronger than ever*.

*Mainly because neither one of us wants to be a single parent of three.  (Just joking, kids)

Obviously, it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows.  We’ve had to learn a lot to get to this point, and I know that I still have lots to learn, and much to improve upon as a husband.

But I’m pretty damn proud that our first ten years went by in the blink of an eye.  It bodes well for the next ten, and the ten after that, and so on.

Which is a damn good return on a ten cent investment.

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(Author’s note II:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

 

NFL Draft Walk Up Music – Four Ways (W)

For the first time, players chosen in the first round of tonight’s NFL draft will take the stage to walk-up music they picked.

There are just so many ways I can go with this.  So many, in fact, for me to decide upon my favorite.  Therefore, I give you NFL Draft Walk-Up Music four ways:

I – Friendly Suggestions for the Projected* Top 10 Picks

*based on USA Today mock draft

1.  Houston Texans.  Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina  

“Tears of a Clown” – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles  (honorable mention:  “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman)

2. St. Louis Rams.  Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

“Mrs. Robinson” – Lemonheads

3. Jacksonville Jaguars.  Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

“Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow”* – Sammy Davis, Jr.

*Aside from the whole Sammy Davis, Jr. for Sammy Watkins angle, there is no real reason for this song, but can’t you just picture The Commish getting his groove on to this funky track?

4. Cleveland Browns.  Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

“Flirtin’ With Disaster” – Molly Hatchet

5. Oakland Raiders.  Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Songs like “Return of the Mack”, “Mack the Knife”, and others are too predictable.  So how about this big Mack classic?

6. Atlanta Falcons.  Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – Pomeroy

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

“Born to Fly”* – Sara Evans

*Disclaimers:  I abhor country and/or western music, but “Mike Evans” doesn’t lend itself to a lot of musical ideas.  Also, if anybody in the Top 10 would go with a country song it would be a guy from Texas A&M.

8. Minnesota Vikings.  Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Whenever I hear “Blake Bortles”, my mind goes to the Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers from the 1980s.  As classic as the “We thank you for your support” commercials were, they don’t really lend themselves to NFL Draft walk-up music.  So we go to Plan B – as in Bruce.

9. Buffalo Bills.  Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan

“Levon”* – Elton John.

*Close enough

10. Detroit Lions.  Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

“I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” – Gilbert and Sullivan

*   *   *

II – Rejected Walk-Up Songs

Because some songs, regardless of their eternal awesomeness, just don’t work for a setting like the NFL Draft.

  • “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – Cindi Lauper
  • “Baby Got Back” – Sir Mix A Lot
  • “Loser” – Beck
  • “Dancing Queen” – ABBA
  • “Ironic” – Alanis Morrissette
  • “Little Green Bag” – George Baker Selection
  • “Wake Me Up When September Ends” – Green Day
  • “It’s Raining Men” – Geri Halliwell
  • “Cold Hard Bitch” – Jet
  • Anything from the “Frozen” Soundtrack
  • “Just a Friend” – Biz Markie
  • “Brown Eyed Girl” – Van Morrison
  • “F*** You” – Cee Lo Green
  • “You Know I’m No Good” – Amy Winehouse
  • “99 Problems (But the Commish Ain’t One)” – Jay Z

*   *   *

III – Under the Radar Walk-Up Songs

The odds of any of these being used are slim to none*, but they would get noticed more than the draftee’s double-breasted aquamarine suit with purple pin stripes – and in a much more positive light.

*Oddly, as a white guy in my late 30s, my musical tastes differ from soon to be professional athletes in their early twenties.

  • “Celebrate” – Rare Earth
  • “Feels So Good” – 311
  • “If I Had A Million Dollars” – Barenaked Ladies
  • “Skills to Pay the Bills” – Beastie Boys
  • “Runnin’ Down A Dream” – Tom Petty
  • “Honor” – The Nadas (below)
  • “The Fixer” – Pearl Jam
  • “Just Got Paid” – ZZ Top

*   *   *

IV – Michael Sam Long Distance Dedications

I realize that Michael Sam, the Missouri linebacker who is poised to be the first openly gay player in the NFL, is not likely to be picked in the first round, but in compiling this post, there were several tracks that made me think of him and the adversity he is likely to face this year.

Disclaimers:  I have nothing but respect for Michael Sam, his athletic ability, and the gigantic microscope he now has to live under just for being the man he is.  I mean zero disrespect to Sam – or any other member of the LGBT community.  We’re just having some fun here.  If this list offends you, I apologize and refer you to the Duran Duran track below.

  • “I’m Gay” – Bowling for Soup
  • “Your Little Secret” – Melissa Etheridge
  • “Break on Through” – The Doors
  • “Come Out and Play” – Offspring
  • “Strong Enough” – Sheryl Crow
  • “It’s Not Unusual” – Tom Jones
  • “Pride (In the Name of Love)” – U2
  • “Relax” – Duran Duran
  • “Living in America” – James Brown

*   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Letter V, Letter V. Whisper Words of Wisdom, Letter V (V)

I love playing Words With Friends.

And I’ll be honest, I like to think I’m pretty darn good* at it.

*Unless, of course, I’m playing my buddy Emo.  E kicks my butt.  Regularly, and with military precision.

I know multiple ways to play a Q without an U, I can dominate triple words, and I treat S and blanks like the winning lottery tickets they are.  Heck, it’s like I wrote the definitive guide* on How To Win at Words With Friends.

*Definitely the definitive guide on this website, and likely the best one that Bing can find.

But there is one thing that trips me up and leads me into a mild state of panic:

The two V tiles in every game.  I dread getting a V.  I struggle to play them, and it feels like I’m stuck with them for round after round until dump them for a relatively low point play.

v   v   v

I wish I knew what kind of voodoo vex  the letter V has placed on me.  When I view one in my rack, my vision enters a vortex of vertigo, a volley of vulgar words invade my brain.  I vary on if I want to vomit or feel like drinking a vat of vegan vodka.

Why such venom and vitriol for V?  Why does it create a void on my vibe, a virtual volume of viruses than visit me like visions of seventy-five vomiting virgins?  How to voice the very bad vibes of V?

Invariably, it is because my visions of V (playing very valuable words like Valence, Voyager, Varactor, or Variant) vanish into vapid voids of three-letter words (Van!  Vat!  Vet!) and four letter words that end in -AVE, -IVE, or -OVE.

In other words, I want to be on the V varsity, where my Vees and vowels combine to vaunt the velvety velour of my verbal vitality.  Instead, my plays are vanilla and reveal a virtuoso virility somewhere between an MTV veejay and a piece of veal.

Maybe it is my vanity, but I’d like to believe that I have the mental vitality, the voracity of vocabulary to vend my Vees with valor and velocity.

Stupid V

Is there a vaccine for my barely visible V vocab, or do I need to vary the voltage valve on my vanity?  Is there a vehicle to veer me away from the three-letter void I vanish into?  A viral video I can view?

Perhaps if I took my Visa to a vendor of verbs I could alter the vector of my V viscosity.  Is there a personal V valet  I can hire that works for Velveeta, vitamins, and vegetables?  Can I balance on the verge of vulgarity and only play words like vagina and vulva?*  Am I being to vague?

*Sorry Mom.

This is what vexes me.  I value the vast volume of vertical space on my Words With Friends board.  Therefore I vow to vastly boost my V valor with a veritable variety of vigor, Eddie Vedder vinyl, and box vino from a vintner in a villa by Valentine, Neb.

I’m vying for victory, as well as the vase of virtual violets bestowed upon the victor via a visage of violins and violas.

Or, if I ignore all of this I can play “ROVE” for like eight points.  That’s pretty good, isn’t it?

v   v   v

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Thought of the Day – 4/30/2014 – Umbrellas (U)

Now that springtime has officially (and finally) arrived in Nebraska, we have been getting a lot of rain.

Yesterday, I was out running errands over lunch when it started raining hard.  I almost always have an umbrella in my car for such a situation, but for some reason I could not find it.

This left me with two choices:

1) Use my daughter’s mini Hello Kitty umbrella that is very pink and definitely not designed for use by a grown man.

-or-

2) Do a mad dash through the parking lot, knowing that my afternoon would consist of sitting in meetings with damp clothes.

Besides, if you don't have the galoshes, what's the point?

Besides, if you don’t have the galoshes, what’s the point?

24 hours later and I think my jeans have almost completely dried.

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Greatest Huskers, By the Numbers: 19 – 10 (T)

This is my countdown of the greatest Nebraska Cornhuskers to wear each jersey number, 1-99.  For background on the project, click here.  We’re going to start at #99 and work our way down to #1.  For each number, I’ll list the best player to wear that number, some of the other memorable Huskers to don that jersey, as well as a personal favorite of mine.

As we near the home stretch, we get into the teens.  Lots of defensive backs, I-Backs, and as one might expect, lots and lots of quarterbacks, including one of the most famous players in school history.  A guy so popular and beloved, fans still wear his #15 jersey years after he graduated:  Beau Davis.

19

Best Player:  Kyle Larson, Punter, 2000 – 2003
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite:  John Klem, Split End, 1999 – 2002

Comments:  The pride of tiny Funk, Nebraska, Larson was one of the greatest punters in school history.  A three year starter, Larson averaged over 43 yards per punt, which put him second all time at Nebraska, with 30% of his kicks going over 50 yards.

As a senior, Larson set the school record for yards per punt (45.12), was a consensus All Big XII pick, an All-American, and one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s best punter.

When you see that John Klem was a “split end”, you would likely assume that he was a receiver.  Maybe he was a “possession” guy or a maybe a deep threat, but certainly a guy who would catch his fair share of passes.  John Klem played in, by my rough count, 32 games at Nebraska over his four seasons.  He caught one pass.  For nine yards.  In the fourth quarter of a non-conference game with Nebraska up by 45.

Frankly, this is what makes me love John Klem.

Klem was a blocker.  Period.  With apologies to recent standouts like Quincy Enunwa, Niles Paul, and Kenny Bell, Klem is one of the best blocking receivers to ever play at Nebraska.  Part of the reason is there was little deception in his game.  My buddy Husker Luke figured it out early on:  when Klem is on the field, it is going to be a run.  Even if it’s 3rd and 9, if Klem was out there, it was likely going to be a run.

How effective of a blocker was John Klem?  Consider this from his junior season (2001):  He played major minutes in Nebraska’s first 11 games, and NU was undefeated.  After a torn ACL against K State knocked him out for the remainder of the season, Nebraska lost their final two games by a combined 99-50.  I’m not saying the 2001 team wins a national championship with a healthy John Klem, but it would have helped.

18

Best Player:  Jon Bostick, Split End, 1989 – 1991
Other notables:  Jim Anderson, Quincy Enunwa
Personal Favorite:  Brook Berringer, Quarterback, 1992 – 1995

Comments: Jon Bostick was one of the finest split ends Nebraska had in the ten years before the champion era began.  He earned All Big 8 honors as a senior, working opposite of talented tight end Johnny Mitchell, but Bostick was more than just some guy who benefited from relaxed coverages.

I love the story on this Huskers.com page that talks about how Bostick had to be pulled out of a redshirt four games into the 1989 season.  In his first game (against Oregon State), his first catch goes for a 60 yard TD.  Bostick followed that up with 176 yard and four TDs in his next two games.

I will always have a great fondness and appreciation for Brook Berringer’s career. He was easily the finest passing quarterback at Nebraska in the twenty-five years between Dave Humm and Zac Taylor, but he was also deceptively good running the option. Sure, I always thought Brook looked a little stiff on his options, but compared with Tommie Frazier, anybody is going to look less than fluid.

I sometimes wonder if Brook gets enough credit for the role he played on the 1994 championship team – not only running the team while Frazier battled blood clots, but also for keeping Nebraska within striking distance in the Orange Bowl so Frazier and Cory Schlesinger could do their thing.

I was a student at UNL when Berringer died, just a few weeks before the NFL draft, and his passing really shook me. It was sobering to realize that a guy who seemingly had everything (talent, brains, looks, a desire to give back) could be taken far too soon. I commend the University for that they’ve done to honor Brook’s memory and his legacy.

 

17

Best Player:  Reggie Cooper, Safety, 1987 – 1990
Other notables:  Ciante Evans, Dan Hadenfeldt
Personal Favorite:  Todd Peterson, Wide Receiver, 2004 – 2008

Comments:  Reggie Cooper may have been a player ahead of his time. At 6’3″ and 210 pounds, he was a man among boys in the defensive backfield. Cooper used that size and speed to earn four letters, All Big 8 honors twice, honorable mention All-America twice, and finish as the leading tackler among defensive backs. The game may have changed since Cooper’s day, but there will always be room for a guy like him.

Todd Peterson also had prototypical size at his position. As a 6’4″, 215 pound wide receiver, he gave his quarterbacks a big target and sure hands. And while Peterson had an excellent career (top five in school history in receptions and receiving yards), he’s a personal favorite for how he did it.

Peterson walked on to Nebraska in 2004, the same year that new coach Bill Callahan infamously took an axe to the storied walk-on program – choosing to pursue highly touted recruits over in-state guys from Class C-1 schools.

But Peterson’s talent was too much to deny. He made it on the field as a redshirt freshman, and was starting by the end of the season. From there, he became a reliable presence and kept several three and four star recruits on the bench. Additionally, Peterson was equally strong in the classroom, and was a leader in community involvement.

16

Best Player:  Maurice Purify, Wide Receiver, 2006 – 2007
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite: 
Mike Stuntz, Quarterback/Wingback/Safety, 2001 – 2005

Comments:  Sixteen is the final number in the countdown to have never produced a first team all conference selection, although it certainly seemed like Maurice Purify would be the one to break that barrier (he was second team All Big 12 as a junior in 1996).

Purify was big, fast, and strong. Arguably, he was one of the most physically gifted receivers Nebraska has ever had. Purify excelled in deep routes, short routes, and his specialty: the jump ball. His 9 yard catch of a Zac Taylor lob at Texas A&M capped a huge comeback and helped the Huskers win the Big XII North division crown in 2006.

I’ve always been fascinated by the guys who participate in the biggest of plays on the biggest of stages. Is it foundation for a strong career, or is it a pinnacle that is never approached again? Mike Stuntz is a good example of the latter.

Recruited as a quarterback, he made it on the field as a true freshman in 2001. As a wingback, he threw one of the most famous passes in school history: Black 41 Flash Reverse to Heisman Trophy winner Erich Crouch. In 2002, he moved back to quarterback, he was 10-25 passing for 100 yards.

From there, Stuntz bounced over to defense seeing mop-up and special teams duty. Aside from Black 41 Flash Reverse, his biggest claim to fame was dating the “hot tutor” from the Tommy Lee Goes to College “reality” show.

15

Best Player:  Tommie Frazier, Quarterback, 1992 – 1995
Other notables:  Bob Churchich, Alfonzo Dennard, Vince Ferragamo
Personal Favorite: 
Frazier

Comments:  If I were to call Tommie Frazier the greatest Husker player in the last 50 years would you disagree?  What about the greatest of all time?  Still no?  Certainly you could make a case for a handful of other guys (the three Heisman winners, Suh, Bobby Reynolds, or Train Wreck Novak), right?  Or you could try to break down Tommie by citing his stats – especially his career completion percentage of 49.5%.  But Touchdown Tommie Fraz-ah would still win.

Because that’s what Tommie Frazier did.

He won.

A Big 8 best 33-3 as a starter – a mark that would have been even higher if he didn’t miss seven games due to blood clots – you knew that when #15 went under center, or more appropriately, started running the triple option, that Nebraska was going to win.  Oh those option plays.  For my money, Tommie’s position coach Turner Gill is the only one who came close to matching Frazier’s mastery of Osborne’s signature play.  Frazier had a true gift for knowing when to pitch or when to keep as he glided down the field.

As good as Frazier was in regular games, he was even better in bowl games.  True, his bowl record sits at 2-2, but consider that his first bowl loss (in the 1993 Orange Bowl) was as a true freshman.  The blame for the second bowl loss could be placed on a number of people (i.e. some dubious missed calls, two defensive penalties that allowed FSU to score with 1:16 left, or the right leg of Byron Bennett), but there is no way Frazier could be blamed for giving his team every chance to win a National Championship.

From there, Frazier’s big game dominance took off.  It took most of the first quarter of the 1994 Orange Bowl to shake off, but Frazier all but willed Nebraska to Tom Osborne’s first National Championship.  In 1995, he was even better.  Frazier used and abused Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators, racking up 199 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including one play known simply as The Run.

The only regret I have about Tommie Frazier’s career is that he played in an era where Heisman voters viewed the award not as it should be (college football’s most outstanding player), but as “who will have the best NFL career”?  This led to one of the greatest injustices of the 20th Century as Eddie George stole Tommie Frazier’s Heisman.

14

Best Player:  Jerry Tagge, Quarterback, 1969 – 1971
Other notables: Dennis Claridge, Gerry Gdowski, Barron Miles,
Personal Favorite: 
Barron Miles, Cornerback, 1992 – 1994

Comments:  Before there was Tommie, there was Jerry.  Jerry Tagge was the quarterback on the first two National Championship teams in school history (1970 and 1971).  Like Frazier, all Tagge did was win, compiling a stellar record as a starting quarterback, and playing his best games on the biggest stages.  In the 1971 Orange Bowl against LSU, Tagge was an impressive 12 of 15 passing against one of the nation’s best defenses.  It was his QB sneak from the one yard line that clinched the championship.

Tagge earned All Big 8 and All-America honors after the 1971 season, and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.  Although his accomplishments may have been overshadowed by those of Frazier and other famous Husker QBs, Tagge should be remembered for setting the standard of excellence.

Pure and simple, Barron Miles was a play maker.  An excellent cornerback, Miles had a knack for the ball and always seemed in position to make a big play.  Over his career, he had seven blocked kicks, 19 pass break ups (including six in one game) and numerous “wow” moments.  My favorite Baron Miles moment was in 1993 at Oklahoma State.  The Cowboys were punting from their own end zone when Miles came streaking in for the block.  He ended up catching the ball just off the foot of the punter and rolling onto the turf with a momentum shifting touchdown.

13

Best Player:  Carlos Polk, Linebacker, 1997 – 2000
Other notables:  Zac Taylor
Personal Favorite: 
Polk

Comments:  From the mid 80s through the mid 90s, the best Blackshirts were usually lined up at outside linebacker/rush end. The four-year career of Carlos Polk marked a shift, as the best Blackshirt was usually the guy anchoring the middle linebacker position. I’m talking about guys like Polk, Barrett Ruud, Lavonte David, and to a lesser extent Phillip Dillard, Steve Octavien, and even another #13 from a defensively challenged era: Corey McKeon.

But let’s focus on Polk, a bruiser with deceptive speed and a strong nose for the football. A four-year contributor, he was a two time All Big XII performer, and an anchor on one of the finest defenses in school history (1999). He was named first team All-America in his senior season.

12

Best Player:  Turner Gill, Quarterback, 1981 – 1983
Other notables:  Dave Humm, Jarvis Redwine
Personal Favorite: 
Gill

Comments:  Keep in mind, we’re only here to talk about Gill’s playing career, which is kind of too bad considering Gill coached three of the finest quarterbacks in school history (Frazier, Scott Frost, and Eric Crouch) while being a valued lieutenant to both Osborne and Frank Solich, before taking Buffalo from laughingstock to conference champion. Of course, Gill is not short of accomplishments as a player.

Let’s start with the biggest one: he had the keys to one of the greatest offenses in NCAA history and operated it with the skill and precision of a race car driver. Take a moment to truly appreciate this: The 1983 Huskers, quarterbacked by Turner Gill, averaged 52 points and almost 550 yards of offense per game. Gill became the first Husker quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. His greatness stretched back to his first start when he set a (then) school record with four touchdown passes in a game against Colorado.

Gill was named All Big 8 three times, finished fourth in the 1983 Heisman Trophy vote.

11

Best Player:  Matt Herian, Tight End, 2002 – 2006
Other notables:  None
Personal Favorite: 
Matt Turman, Quarterback, 1993 – 1996

Comments:  Matt Herian was another player ahead of his time. The guy with the tight end size and wide receiver hands and speed, today’s NFL is full of guys who have the same skill set as Herian.

He exploded onto the scene as a freshman, catching seven passes for 301 yards (an absolutely ridiculous 43 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. Yes, you read the correctly: 57% of his freshman year receptions went for touchdowns.

Unfortunately, Herian is also a starter on all-time “What Could Have Been” team. During his junior season in 2004, the first in Bill Callahan’s West Coast Offense, Herian was a putting together another excellent season when he suffered a nasty leg injury against Mizzou. Herian sat out the entire 2005 season, and came back for the 2006 campaign, but he just wasn’t the same player. I believe the sky would have been the limit for a healthy Herian.

To fully appreciate Matt Turman, we must put ourselves in his shoes the morning of October 15, 1994.  The greatest player in school history (Frazier) is out.  His backup, a legitimate NFL prospect (Berringer) is out too.  That leaves you, a 185 pound walk on from a Class C school to try to guide your 6-0,#2 ranked team to victory at #16 Kansas State, a team that had a very stout defense.  Granted, his moment of greatness consisted mostly of handing the ball to Lawrence Phillips and getting out the way, but still, Matt Turman – a.k.a. The Turmanator – may be the least likely guy to ever lead a championship-level team to victory.

10

Best Player:  Bret Clark, Safety, 1981 – 1984
Other notables:  Charles Fryar, Keithen McCant, Mike Minter
Personal Favorite: 
Roy Helu, Jr., I-Back, 2007 – 2010

Comments:  Bret Clark was an excellent safety for Tom Osborne’s early 80s teams.  Clark had a great talent for breaking up passes, tying the school record for pass break ups (8) in his sophomore and senior seasons.  He finished his NU career holding the school record for PBU.  During his senior season, Clark led the team in pass break ups, interceptions, and fumbles recovered.  A two-time All Big 8 player, Clark also earned All-America honors as a senior.

Roy Helu, Jr. is one of my favorite I-Backs from the last 20 years.  He combined speed, power, vision, and a love for hurdling over defenders to become one of the most vaunted rushers in school history.  Two memories of Helu stand out:  2009 at Kansas, Nebraska is in a dogfight until the Huskers decide to put the game on Helu’s shoulders.  Despite several nagging injuries, Helu picked up 85 yards and two critical touchdowns on Nebraska’s final two drives.

And then there is his masterpiece:  2010 versus Missouri.  On NU’s first play, Helu went 66 yards for a touchdown.  Later in one of the most complete quarters of football Nebraska has ever played, Helu went for a career long 73 yard TD run.  When it was all said and done, Helu had 307 rushing yards (and 317 all-purpose) breaking Calvin Jones’s twenty year old record of 294.  It was one of the most dominating performances I’ve had the pleasure to watch at Memorial Stadium.

Previous:  29 – 20

Next:  9 – 1

 

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Feit Can Eat: Sebastian’s Table (S)

What if I told you that I went to a new restaurant and the best thing I ate was the brussels sprouts?  I’m guessing you would take that as a sign to never, ever eat at that restaurant.

But, in the case of Sebastian’s Table, a Spanish tapas style restaurant in Lincoln, that would be a very big mistake.  The sprouts, like just about everything else these serve is eyes rolling back in your head, want to lick the plate good.

Sebastian’s Table is one of the latest ventures of Ground Up Restaurants, a Lincoln group that is bringing kick-ass food to a city with an unhealthy love for chain restaurants.  First, there was the GUP Kitchen food truck, the must-try Honest Abe’s Burgers and Freedom, and the delicious Sasquatch! bakery (as well as the recently opened Sasquatch Cafe, located in a glorified coat closet in the Well Fargo building downtown).

I'm guessing he's related to the Dos Equis guy.

I’m guessing he’s related to the Dos Equis guy.

Sebastian’s is not a true Spanish tapas restaurant where most of the food is traditional (or derived from) Spanish dishes.  The best example of a true Spanish tapas restaurant in Nebraska is another favorite:  España in Omaha.  Instead, Sebastian’s is probably best described as a tapas style restaurant (i.e. small plates of food) with cuisine that may not necessarily have Spanish influences.

For those unfamiliar with the tapas concept, it’s very simple:  select one, two, or three items per person.  These dishes are meant to be shared with those at your table.  The items come out as they are prepared, so it is not like a standard restaurant where somebody’s food sits under a heat lamp while the rest of your order is finished up.

The Food

Simply put, the food is excellent.  Sebastian’s menu isn’t huge, but the flavors certainly are.  Let’s start with the aforementioned sprouts:  They are quartered and mixed with hazelnuts, piquillo peppers, and an orange gastrique.  Then the works is cooked until the brussels get a caramelized char.  And now my keyboard is covered in drool.

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Trust me, my poorly lit cell phone phone does not do them justice.

Another favorite is the beef skewers.  Thin pieces of fork-tender tenderloin grilled to perfection and topped with chimichurri, all resting on a smoky romesco sauce.  My biggest gripe is you only three in the serving, which invariably means Mrs. Feit Can Write and I have to battle over the last one.


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Heaven on a stick

 

As I mentioned earlier, not everything is Spanish per se.  One of the more popular items is their version of a spinach and artichoke dip.  The Sebastian’s version has rich smoked Gouda, parmesan cheese, spinach, and herbs and is served with some delicious bread.  It is rich, gooey, and packed with flavor.

In our two visits, we have only had one dud.  The Risotto Espanola, a risotto with a definite paella influence, has shrimp, chorizo, scallops, and chicken mixed with a tangy sauce.  It’s not that the dish was bad, it just wasn’t what we were expecting.  To her credit, our server recognized this and offered to replace the dish with something else.  We ended up with the Chorizo and Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese, and were as pleased with the fine service we received as much as we were with the bowl of creamy comfort we received.

Sebastian’s Table also does desserts, with a mixed assortment of seasonal items, a daily pie special from Sasquatch! bakery, and a rotating bread pudding.  I come from a long line of bread pudding connoisseurs, and the chocolate peanut butter bread pudding from our first visit certainly held its own.

The Drink

For Mrs. Feit Can Write and myself, one of our favorite parts of going to a Spanish restaurant is a glass (or three) of sangria.  In this regard, Sebastian’s Table does not disappoint.  There are two house made sangrias (a red and a white) on tap at the bar.  Both are very delicious and pair nicely with the various dishes.  Additionally, they have a monthly rotating sangria that features some unique flavor combinations (the March version, “Gusts of A Thousand Winds” combined pineapple, peach, pomegranate, ginger, and Sriracha into a delicious glass of sweet and spicy heaven).

Sebastian’s also has a vast wine list, local craft brews from Nebraska Brewing Company on tap, and a menu of unique craft cocktails, including the Dead Man’s Wallet, which takes rye whiskey, ruby port, lemon, and house made cinnamon syrup to create a one of kind flavor profile.

The Atmosphere

The vibe is laid back, yet classy.  Sebastian’s Table is located in an old two level building.  The smaller main level contains the bar and kitchen.  The individual tables are up a single flight of stairs.  You’re not going to find a TV turned to ESPN, and in our two visits, we have not seen very many kids.  Sebastian’s Table is perfect for date night, a night out with friends, or a fun change of pace.

Check, Please

Prices at Sebastian’s Table are reasonable to slightly above average.  Some folks may balk at paying $8 for three steak skewers (“especially when I can get a big ol’ sirloin and sides at Applebee’s for the a few bucks more!”) or $9 for my beloved brussels sprouts, but the prices aren’t bad considering the quality and taste (not to mention supporting a local business).

To be sure, you can get a bad case of sticker shock if you order a bunch of tapas, drink several glasses of sangria, and generally live it up (been there, done that, spent over $100 for two people).

But you can also have a very good, and very unique meal, a delicious cocktail or glass of sangria for less than $20 per person – especially if you go on Tuesdays when the sangria is bargain priced at $2 a glass.  Even in a chain-friendly town like Lincoln, that’s pretty good.

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Rejected Carl Pelini Children’s Books (R)

Last week, former Nebraska Defensive Coordinator) made some of his first public remarks since resigning as the head coach at Florida Atlantic University over allegations of marijuana and cocaine use.  This follows rumors of marital infidelity from his time at Nebraska.

Fear not friends.  Despite a rough end to 2013, Carl is doing well.  He’s visiting various college and pro teams in hopes of getting back into coaching, but more importantly, he finally found some time to finish up his novel.

Seriously.

We all know that the thought of a disgraced football coach writing a novel is comedy gold – especially said coach is the big brother of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.

My No Coast Bias colleague Chris Hatch has already checked in with some excellent excerpts and cover art from Carl’s book.

“Hey! You! Read my $%#@%W book!” (photo courtesy HuskerLocker.com)

Since I a) have only read children’s books in the last five years, and b) really suck at Photoshop, I figured I would speculate on the children’s books Carl is likely working on for his next release:

  • The Very Horny Caterpillar
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Crack Cocaine
  • This Little Pelini Went to Jail
  • Where The (Girls Gone) Wild Things Are
  • Green Eggs and Weed
  • Cloudy With A Chance of Mistress
  • Pot the Bunny
  • Chicka Chicka Bang Bang
  • For the slightly older readers, a four-part Harry Potter-esque series:  Coach Pelini and the Chamber of Dirty Secrets / Coach Pelini and the Goblet of Four Loko / Coach Pelini and the Half-Stoned Punter / Coach Pelini and Genital Warts at Hogwarts
  • The Little Pelini That Could
  • Llama Llama Invisible Pajamas
  • Puff the Magic Defensive Coordinator
  • Old Pelini Had A Gram (E I E I O)
  • Pot Goes The Weasel
  • Where, O Where Has My Little Bo Gone?
  • Humpty then Dumpty

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While you’re here, I’d appreciate a quick vote in my poll to see which Incomplete post I should finish next:  Vote here.

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

 

Quiet (Q)

The older I get*, the more I appreciate and desire quiet.

*My next birthday will have a zero in it.  I get closer to grumpy old man status every day.

Partially, this is due to having three kids ages five and under, all of whom fail to grasp the concept of “indoor voice”.  At any given moment, one of them is yelling/talking very loudly, another is crying or whining, and the third is trying to rest.  So.  Much.  Noise.

I spend such a significant portion of my day shushing them that I’m afraid they’ll grow up thinking Daddy has a slow leak.  I’m also very much afraid that during some contentious work meeting, I’m going to break in with a twenty second long “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”.

Shh--Daily Image 2011--April 2

I may install this floor in one of the rooms of my house. (Photo credit: Rochelle, just rochelle)

In my life, it often feels like quiet trails only “sleep” and “money” on the list of Things I Don’t Get Enough Of.

Certainly, much of this is self-inflicted.  I love the big personalities my kids have, and I don’t want to discourage them from expressing themselves – or try to shut them up with a movie* whenever they start getting too loud.

*Especially since the movie of choice in our house is Frozen, which leads to two guarantees:  1) my five year old daughter live-performing the movie line-by-line and song-by-song, 2) I end up with one of the songs (usually “Let it Go” or “Love is an Open Door”) wedged in my skull for the next five hours.  Heck, just typing the words “let it go” has been enough to put that song in my head on a continual loop.

Gone are the days when I looked forward to going out with friends to a noisy bar or when I would crank the volume when a favorite song came on.  Now, I find myself looking for ways to have a few blessed minutes of peace and quiet – even if it means making a last minute run to the grocery store, washing bottles, or some other chore that I would otherwise like to avoid.

I think when my birthday rolls around, I’m going to ask for noise-cancelling headphones…and wear them during most of my waking hours.

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

NCAA Pay for Play (P)

If you follow college sports – especially football or men’s basketball – there is one topic that continues to come up:  The notion of somehow compensating the athletes for the revenue they are bringing into their schools, their conferences, the NCAA, and all of the other entities who make a profit off of amateur athletics.

This compensation, be it in the form of stipends, income from the sale of their name/likeness, an actual “salary” from the schools, or anything else, would be in addition to the items student-athletes already receive (namely, a free education, room, board, and a healthy collection of athletic apparel).

I’ll be the first to admit there is a lot of hypocrisy in the current system.  I recently bought my daughter a replica Nebraska jersey with the number 80 on it.  Why number 80?  Let’s be honest:  it’s not because of Billy Haafke, Jamie Williams, Santino Panico, or any of the dozens of Huskers to have worn #80 over the past 125 years.  It’s because of the current #80, wide receiver Kenny Bell.  I like Bell as an athlete, and respect him as a person.  Plus, my daughter’s hair can do a spot-on impersonation of Bell’s glorious Afro.

That jersey cost me $24.99 at a store owned and operated by the University of Nebraska, located right across the street from Memorial Stadium.  That store had racks of #80 jerseys in home red, road white, and the black alternates from 2013 in every size from 12 months to 3XL.

This fall, I suspect there will be hundreds of fans in #80 jerseys at every home game.  I’m guessing very few of them will be wearing #80 to honor Husker greats Todd Frain, Jeff Jamrog, or Jermaine Bell.  They will wear those #80 jerseys because of Kenny Bell.

And as you probably already know:  Kenny Bell will not see a single penny from the sale of #80 jerseys.  That is just one example of a broken system.

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Recently, one day before his University of Connecticut Huskies won the NCAA Basketball Tournament, guard Shabazz Napier told reports that “some nights I go to bed starving” because they don’t have enough money to buy food (and NCAA rules and the demands of in-season competition mean they cannot work) and they are unable to get extra meals from their school’s cafeteria/training table.

Yes, just last week the NCAA announced that all student-athletes, even walk-ons, will have access to unlimited meals and snacks, but Napier’s comments give credence to the notion that a “full-ride” scholarship may not cover things you and I consider basic.  For some, this is incredibly galling considering the NCAA Tournament brings in close to a billion (with a “B”) dollars in revenue, not including the billion (with another “B”) dollar TV contract with CBS.  Mark Emmert, the head of the NCAA, makes over a million dollars a year defending a system that – depending on your perspective – is either flawed or blatantly takes advantage of athletes under the guise of “amateurism”.

So should we give scholarship players a bigger slice of the pie, right?

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Sure, it would be great if we could get some money for athletes, especially if we knew players were having to decide between paying the rent or eating dinner tonight.

But here’s the thing – and there really is no way of getting around it – for the majority of people, college is a time of poverty.  Tolerating a bunch of loud, obnoxious, dirty roommates so you can afford a place to sleep.  Subsisting on peanut butter sandwiches and ramen noodles.  Taking out hefty loans with horrible interest rates.  Busting your ass at a low paying, dead-end job.  And on and on.  Financially, the college years are brutal for most kids – especially those whose parents are unable to help out.

So why can’t we get some more money in the hands of the players – especially the ones who are creating the excitement and interest that helps the college sports machine print money for schools and coaches?  Forget the antiquated notion of “amateurism” or the Utopian ideal of the “student-athlete”.  The main reason schools cannot pay players is there is absolutely no way to do it fairly, evenly, and without opening up a Pandora’s Box of corruption.  Heck, the reason the NCAA rules are so bizarrely strict – where eating too much pasta is a potential violation – is largely to avoid improper benefits to players.  When you open the door to paying players, schools – and more appropriately, their boosters – will likely exploit whatever system gets put in place as they seek to pay the best players to come to College Town, USA.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s look at the popular suggestions for how we can supposedly better compensate players:

A flat stipend.  Every player at Big Football Tech gets X dollars per year in addition to their scholarship to cover the “full cost of attendance”.  The biggest question here is “How much?”, which spawns a list of follow-up questions:

  • Does everybody get the same amount?  Clearly, a star player like Johnny Manziel can have a pronounced financial impact on his school (even if the exact number is debatable).  So does Manziel get more than his fellow starting QBs in the SEC?  What about his teammates who helped Manziel earn those awards – the receivers who caught his passes, the linemen who blocked for him, the scout team defenders who helped prepare him for games?  Should they get the same amount?  And if not, how do you distinguish the levels/tiers?
  • Is there a cost of living adjustment?  Being a college student costs more in Los Angeles (UCLA, USC), Chicago (Northwestern), or the Bay Area (Stanford, Cal) than it does in Lincoln, Nebraska; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; or Waco, Texas.  Every wanna-be Trojan knows that $3,000 goes a lot farther in Troy, Alabama than it does in LA.
  • Does this essentially create a free agent system for incoming freshmen, where traditional recruiting is replaced by bidding wars?
  • What about athletes in other sports?  At schools like Duke and Kansas, the basketball team is more successful and can bring in more money than the football program.  Should those players get a cut?  What about the athletes competing in non-revenue Olympic sports, or teams like baseball where the equivalency of 11.7 scholarships are divided among a 27 man roster?  Surely those athletes face the same financial shortcomings as the football players.
  • How is it administered?  Does the NCAA dole out the cash?  Do the schools hand it out?  Or do we cut to the chase and let the stereotypical shady booster hand out envelopes full of unmarked bills?
  • Would this system make it harder or easier for additional under the table payments by “bag men“?

Own and sell yourself.  Next up, we give players the ability to market their name/image on jerseys, participate in paid autograph sessions, and promote products and local businesses while still a student-athlete.

In theory this makes sense – if somebody wants to pay $20 for Johnny Manziel’s autograph, buy their kid a #80 Husker jersey because they like Kenny Bell, or trade a tattoo for a Terrelle Pryor jersey, those players should get a cut, right?  But the potential for corruption abounds.

  • The defensive starters attend booster dinners where they sign autographs – at $100 a pop.
  • During recruiting, a coach promises Johnny Five-Star that if he comes to Football University, he’ll make $50,000 from jersey sales in his first two years.  If Johnny Five-Star is a bust, the citizens of some third world country will be wearing his jersey for the next decade.
  • Every car dealer in College Town USA has an endorsement deal with a star player who drives around campus in a new SUV for appearing in a couple of TV spots.

Make athletes paid “employees”.  Northwestern University players are attempting to organize a union that would make players “employees” of their schools, and make them eligible for medical coverage, four-year scholarships, and possibly compensation in addition to their scholarships.

Aside from the uncertainty over how this would impact public schools, the possibility for strikes/lock out, if the scholarship and other benefits would need to be taxed as income, and just what happens if a football player doesn’t want to be in a union, there is the minor hurdle of a prolonged legal battle before any college football union would ever truly start up.  Let’s circle back on this one in five to ten years.

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Where do I stand on all of this?

I don’t have a ton of sympathy for the Shabazz Napiers and others who bemoan how athletes are being taken advantage of and can barely afford to eat.

For tens of thousands of college students, college is a time of poverty, of working full-time while attending classes, of going to bed hungry, and waking up knowing that the things you do that day put more money in somebody else’s pocket than in your own.

But can we please stop with the notion that these guys are being taken advantage of?

First off, there are the things that scholarship athletes get that the general student population does not:  free education, books, housing, food, and clothing.  You can discount those things all you want, but they all have a very real financial benefit.

Secondly, there is the notion that guys are going hungry.  What is the real reason guys are going hungry?  Is it because they are being limited in the amount of food they can consume at the dining hall / training table?  Or that the cafeteria is closed when they’re done with practice, meetings, and study sessions?  Or is it because they’re not spending their money wisely*?  Regardless of the reason, all of those are things that can (and should) be corrected without the need to issue scholarship athletes a stipend.

*Yes, I am suggesting that some guys may be going to bed hungry because they are managing their money poorly.  Since I have no tangible proof, I won’t imply that players are blowing their food money on stereotypical extravagances (cars, tattoos, jewelry, designer clothes, etc.), but I will suggest that if players were better at managing and budgeting their money, they might have a full tummy at bedtime – even while recognizing that a 300 pound defensive tackle has greater caloric needs than the average college student struggling to make ends meet.

At the extreme risk of being hypocritical, I’ll concede that being financially responsible and fiscally conservative is a rare trait in most college aged kid – regardless of if they can dribble a basketball – but considering the laundry list of professional athletes who have blown through million dollar contracts and signing bonuses, maybe athletic departments should to do a better job of helping their athletes create and stick to a budget that allows them to eat and pay the rent.

The other thing that rubs me the wrong way about the paying players debate is the often alluded to notion that the athletes are indentured servants who are being taken advantage of by rich (white) men who sit in ivory towers unaware of the real struggles being faced.

While I am a (decidedly not rich) white man who may very well be out of touch, there is one that I’m pretty sure of:

Nobody is coercing these guys to go to college and deal with these harsh conditions.  I may not be familiar with the recruiting pitches being done by college football and basketball coaches, but I’m pretty sure none of them are forcing players to go to college against their will, or to remain at Big Time State University, starving, while their coach makes $4 million a year and the school’s TV deal brings in another 20 million.

For a basketball star like Shabazz Napier, there are ways to get to the NBA without ever stepping foot on a college campus.  Sure, it would be tough (if not impossible) for a guy to get to the NFL without spending a couple of years in college, but considering that most NCAA student-athletes go pro in something other than sports, the guys with NFL/NBA talent are the exception and not the rule.  The players with the next-level ability have to decide:  do they use college athletics as an unpaid stepping stone to becoming a high draft pick?  Is the potential for a big day pay worth putting up with a year or three of poverty?

For those of us who were not student-athletes, we likely faced a similar decision.  Do I work an unpaid internship over the summer, knowing that the experience and skills I gain should help land a better/higher paying job upon graduation?  Or do I work a paying job outside of my career field where the only benefit is a paycheck that allows me to buy name brand peanut butter?  The only differences between the athlete and the average student is the student’s internship likely will not lead to a six figure salary and it definitely didn’t come with your tuition paid for.

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So where does all of this leave us?  What can the universities do to ensure their student-athletes aren’t going hungry or living in a cardboard box behind the stadium?  And what can the players do to help ensure they have enough spending money to put some gas in the tank, go on a date, or not have to live in a run-down dump with five other guys?  Here’s what I’d like to see:

  • Mandatory budgeting classes for all student-athletes.  You can argue that these are things high school graduates should know, but where is the harm in ensuring these kids know how to manage their money?
  • Make all athletic scholarships good for five years.  Many fans are familiar with the story:  Johnny Five-Star signs with big time SEC school, but after disappointing freshman and sophomore seasons, the coach decides to free up a scholarship by forcing Johnny to quit, transfer, or declare a bogus injury.  I propose that when a kid signs a letter of intent to play ball for your school, they are guaranteed five years of academic benefits, even if Coach decides that their athletic scholarship would best be used by another kid.  This stays in place even if the guy goes pro early and wants to come back to school after he washes out of the pros.
  • Provide full medical coverage for the full life of the scholarship.  Similar to honoring the “student” part of a student-athlete scholarship, allow  players to have access to team doctors and trainers while their five year academic calendar is ticking.  This would not be applicable for guys who have medical care from a professional league’s union.
  • Stop selling replica jerseys and shirts with the numbers of active players.  There is no plausible excuse for why school (and the NCAA) should make money off the uniform number of a current star player when the player doesn’t see a dime.  Instead, sell jerseys of guys who have exhausted their eligibility.  If I paid $24.99 for a #80 jersey with no name on the back this year, the odds are good that I would probably pay $29.99 for a #80 jersey that says “BELL” on it next year (Bell is entering into his senior season), especially if that extra five bucks is going to a guy who represented my school with talent and class.

 

 

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While you’re here, I’d appreciate a quick vote in my poll to see which Incomplete post I should finish next:  Vote here.

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

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