By now, you are familiar with the (NSFW) bomb Deadspin.com dropped on the state of Nebraska, Bo Pelini, and the 2013 season. Having read the article, listened to the audio, and witnessed the media explosion that followed, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the situation. Here are some of my random thoughts as of Monday night:
You have every right to be pissed off. I was upset when I first heard it. It was unsettling. Disturbing. Hurtful. As Nebraskans and fans, we have a deep pride in the program. Over the years, we’ve come to expect that our passion will be mocked and ridiculed by outsiders who don’t understand what we have and why we treasure it. When the barbs come from some east coast media member or fan of a rival school, it is easy to deflect their words because they don’t get it. The quote from former walk-on Todd Peterson says it best: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”
I think that is why Bo’s comments are so hurtful – rarely have such words ever come from somebody on the inside. Yes, Bo is not a Nebraska native or an alumnus, but when the recording was made in 2011, he was in his fourth year as head coach, and fifth season associated with the program. By then, he should have known exactly how we tick – how to make us happy and how to piss us off. That he chose to attack us as fans – regardless of the situation or setting – is upsetting.
I don’t think I’m pissed at Pelini. But I am disappointed. And hurt.
And that may end up being worse.
Some will forgive. Few will forget. There is a segment of fans who have already forgiven Bo. They understand these things were said two years ago, in the emotional heat of a big win after a stressful week (after which I wrote this). They like Bo’s fire, his passion, how much he cares about his players and fights for them. They may say things like “I wouldn’t want my worst moments to be recorded and published”. They believe certain media members have an ax to grind with Pelini. They see his good traits – the way he graduates players, runs a clean program, and has very few guys getting arrested. They like how Bo talks stresses things that Nebraskans believe in – accountability, honor, family, and a no-nonsense black and white approach. They will always love him for what he did for Jack Hoffman and his family.
And yet, even for the staunchest Pelini backer, the biggest of the Bo-lievers, the memory of this tirade will never go away. That audio clip is going to linger in their minds for the remainder of Pelini’s tenure at Nebraska. Nebraskans are generally a trusting people. We are caring and generous, but will defend our own tooth and nail. But when that trust is gone, look out.
The wound may heal, but the scar will remain.
Bo’s profane attack is not a fireable offense – today. As the Pelini tape played across the state and nation, there were several audible sounds beyond Bo’s vast collection of F-bombs. There was the sound of jaws hitting the floor in disbelief. And for many fans, there was the faint sound of a final straw landing on their back. But as shocked as I was to hear the audio, I’ll be even more surprised if the recording gets Bo fired before the season ends. Multiple losses or another blowout may do the trick, but I don’t think a two year old string of expletives is enough cause to make a change mid-season.
Make no mistake, everything else that Bo does or says, every loss or disappointment is now under a much greater microscope than it was yesterday. No, Bo probably won’t be fired this week, but the Deadspin piece will definitely make such a decision easier down the road.
There are so many questions about that tape. There are lots of unknowns here. Deadspin said the tape came from a person who “only recently had come into possession of this audio before sending it our way”. Assuming that to be true (and I’m not sure I do), here is a partial list of things I (and everybody else) would love to know:
- Who made the initial recording?
- As of the UCLA game, was this person still employed by the University or the Husker Sports Network?
- Was Bo aware that he was being taped?
- If the tape changed hands, when did that happen? Why? Who arranged the trade?
- Who released it to Deadspin? Are they a media member? A booster? A disgruntled employee?
- Why release it now? Why not last year after the Big Ten Championship or the bowl game?
- There was some buzz on Twitter that the existence of the tape has been known for over a year. Who knew and when?
I have no respect for whomever made (and kept) that recording. Hopefully we can all agree that whomever recorded Bo – presumably without his knowledge – and then held onto that tape for their own use is a low-life scumbag. I’m not versed on Nebraska statutes to know if any laws were broken, but the law of common decency was clearly broken by this individual. As much as Bo’s words hurt, it is equally as troubling to know that somebody with such low character was working either for the Athletic Department or the Husker Sports Network.
Take away the profanity, and Bo actually has a point. You may not want to hear it, but Bo does state a couple of cold hard truths. There is a fair-weather contingent within the fan base. For most of the Pelini era, the public perception of Bo’s Huskers is based solely on their last game. Even though it is long after the recording was made, consider the first two games of the 2013 season: Nebraska eked by a decent Wyoming team and there is near panic over how bad the season will be. Nebraska follows it up with a blowout of a bad Southern Miss team, and suddenly all is sunshine and lollipops. And when Nebraska is perceived to be “down”, there is a vocal piece of the fan base, media, and message board posters that calls for coaches to be fired, starters to be benched, and changes to be made in Bo’s schemes.
In my opinion, Bo was right to call out the fans who left that Ohio State game. Right before halftime, many fans showered the team with boos. Lots of those fans left at halftime or shortly into the 3rd quarter. Those fans quit on the team that night, and in Bo’s black and white world, that is unacceptable. Looking back on what I wrote after that game, I was pretty hard on our fans too. I didn’t use any expletives, but I was in row 47, not coaching on the sideline against my alma mater.
And finally, Bo was right: the night’s biggest play was made by a “f_______ wide receiver playing cornerback”.
Now what? We all wake up on Tuesday and realize it wasn’t a horrible dream. So what happens next? What does the fallout look like? Even before the loss to UCLA, I was expecting a lot of tickets to be available for Saturday’s game with South Dakota State. Now? I would not be too shocked to see empty pockets in the stands.
As for the rest of the season? Who knows how this will impact the team. Surely they are little fragile after the UCLA game, and the increased scrutiny on their coach won’t help. In my opinion, it goes one of two ways: either they completely and totally collapse in a 2007-esque ball of horror or they go into the famed Pelini “bunker mode” and do just enough to win the Legends division.
And the off-season? In a sentence I did not think I would type 12 hours ago: short of a Big 10 title or BCS bowl game, I do not see how Bo Pelini coaches this team in 2014. I’m currently not against him as a coach, nor am I calling for him to be fired (yet), but I feel the damage done by this tape is going to be too much for Shawn Eichorst and Harvey Perlman to look past when the season ends.
Whether or not you choose to kiss Bo Pelini’s “ass out the f_____ door” is completely up to you.