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.
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.