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Some Remarkable Legislative Comments And Some Questionable Media Performance - 02-04-10

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Today: ‘Big Daddy’ Government Wrong Again, And How Justified Is Cornhusker Title Talk? - 01-07-10

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Close Call For NU Research, Reputation; Thanksgiving Reminder: Count Your Blessings - 11-25-09

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Words Can Lose Their Meaning
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Major News Media Look Bad
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I Doubt That God or Jesus
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‘Pop Star’ Obama Lacks Experience,
McCain Lacks Clear Campaign Strategy
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Will Hospitality, Qwest Center
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Omaha Stars Again
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Omaha's CWS Reputation
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"Bo Brings Emotional Fire to NU Job;
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"Callahan Outclasses Loudmouth Critics;
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As I See It
Harold W. Andersen is a retired Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of the Omaha World-Herald Company. Full biography.

This week we are making my column available Wednesday instead of Friday.

A number of you have told me that you don?t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That?s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)

And, if you haven?t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.

Take Your Choice

November 28, 2007


If you are not interested today in reading some comments about the Nebraska Cornhusker football story, comments which take issue with what you?ve been hearing and reading from some fans and some communications media ?coach/commentators?, I offer this option:  Skip my Husker football comments and proceed to read some of my comments on Hispanic immigration and what to do with those ugly ?Sounding Stone? sculptures which for some years have despoiled the greenery in Omaha?s Turner Park.


Callahan Outclasses Loudmouth Critics;

Tom Osborne Treated Him Fairly


With news of the search for his successor dominating the continuing story of Nebraska Cornhusker football, I think it only fair to offer this appraisal of Bill Callahan as he departs the Nebraska scene:  I believe Bill Callahan, who was fired as Cornhusker coach by former Coach Tom Osborne, now acting athletic director, has consistently showed more class than the loudmouth fans who have called him everything from ?an idiot? to a ?weasel.?  He also showed more class than those communications media coach/commentators who criticized everything from the way he dressed (he didn?t wear red all the time) to where his Lincoln home was located.  (It supposedly looked out of place, just as he seemed out of place as Nebraska coach, in the view of one newspaper coach/commentator.)


Throughout this whole sorry business, Callahan handled himself like a gentlemen, never criticizing his critics, instead giving his best efforts to answer the critics by producing the victories which, at bottom, are really what  the loudmouth critics care about.


Am I saying Callahan shouldn?t have been fired?  No.  I believe it was inevitable.  He obviously never got control of the defensive side of the Huskers? performance, sticking too long with longtime friend Kevin Cosgrove, his defensive coordinator.


But the way Callahan and Cosgrove were treated by some fans and a good many coach/commentators is the saddest part of this sad story.


As to the quality of some of the fans? critical comments, consider this call to a radio talk-show host:  In the pre-Callahan days, the Huskers played so hard that ?we hurt an opposing player on almost every play.?


Or consider the performance of a Husker fan who greeted the news of Callahan?s firing by appearing at the wintry intersection of 72nd and Dodge Streets late Saturday evening, waving a 1994 Husker national championship banner and shouting things like:  ?We?re back!? and ?Run the ball more.?


As for the performance of the communications media coach/commentators, consider this example of what the commentator called ?The Nebraska Way?:


?Nebraska?s identity is grass stains on the pants, a jersey torn in shreds, red claw marks on the running back?s back, blood streaks on the helmet.  A punch in the gut, a tackle head-on.?


A talk-show host, who often resorts to off-color language, at least three times referred to the Husker?s 14-point loss to Colorado as an ?ass-kicking.?  Typically, he insulted a caller who disagreed with some of his comments, angrily telling the caller, ?You?re crazy.?


Another example of news media performance was a story which said Colorado?s ?black shirt? defense had ?stepped up? in the second half.  The story might better have said that the Nebraska offense ?stepped down,? since four of Colorado?s second-half touchdowns followed Husker turnovers, including three pass interceptions thrown by Husker quarterback Joe Ganz. 


As a result of Husker mistakes, Colorado?s three third-quarter touchdowns required an average offensive ?march? of 18 yards.  In the fourth quarter, another Ganz interception resulted in the ball winding up on the Nebraska two-yard line.  That two-yard ?march? to a touchdown consumed four seconds. 


Osborne Knows About Blowout Losses


A number of people described Osborne?s performance as ?brilliant? in the news conference which he held after firing Callahan.  I don?t know whether it was ?brilliant,? but the press conference did include an excellent description of the very fair proposition which Osborne put to Callahan with four games left in the season:  Win all four and you will be asked to stay.  Win three of four and perhaps be asked to stay.  Winning two of four, resulting in a six-six season, would probably mean firing, and winning only one of four (which is what happened, resulting in a five-six season) means you will be fired.


Some of Osborne?s other press conference statements were subject to question, I believe.  For example:  Osborne appeared to suggest that he felt Callahan had not been able to inspire his players to play hard.  Perhaps.  But I wonder if such a statement was fair to those Huskers who were out on the field offensively in the final four minutes of the Colorado game.  In what appeared to be surely a lost cause, Ganz and Marlon Lucky and Maurice Purify led the Huskers to two touchdowns which narrowed the Colorado victory margin to 14 points.  The second of the Husker touchdowns came with 58 seconds left.


This was a team not playing hard?


Osborne understandably chose to put emphasis on the margin of defeat in some of the Husker losses, saying:  ?It isn?t just a matter of wins and losses; it?s how you do it.  If you lose by a field goal and play well, that?s a little bit different than getting blown out three or four times??


I think it?s fair to point out that while the number of blowout losses in a single season is certainly a significant factor, the final loss which sealed Callahan?s fate was by 14 points, less than the 22.5 average margin by which Osborne-coached teams lost four games in a seven-year-long string of post-season bowl losses.


One of those seven bowl game losses was a 1990 season-ending 45-21 beating by Georgia Tech in the Citrus Bowl.  This followed a 45-10 blowout win by Oklahoma and a 15-point home field loss (27-12) to Colorado.  That figures to an average loss of 24.2 points per game in three of the last four games of the Osborne-coached Huskers in 1990. 


So humiliating losses can happen in bunches to even properly acclaimed coaches like Tom Osborne.


Lesson from a Seventh-Grade Fan


The coach/commentators in the media and the kind of fans who have, for one example, called Callahan ?an idiot? could benefit - - although I?m not optimistic that they would benefit - - from reading a letter which appeared in the Public Pulse, written by seventh-grader Taylor Horton who attends Millard North Millard School.


Young Mr. Horton wrote:


?Husker football fans used to be the best fans in America.  Now, many of them are being fair-weather fans just because Nebraska is losing.  In my opinion, the Huskers are the best team and should have the best fans, win or lose.


?We have had worse seasons before.  There may be a bunch of teams in the NCAA that are better, but that doesn?t matter.


?The best part about this season is that an NCAA legend is back as athletic director - - Tom Osborne.  He is one of the best coaches the NCAA has ever seen.


?Just because the Huskers went downhill this season doesn?t mean we should boo them.  They are still good, but they need our support.  We need to preserve our reputation as the best fans in America.?


Tom Osborne is indeed ?one of the best coaches the NCAA has ever seen.?  And he deserves great credit for taking on the job of trying to bring the Huskers back to the winning tradition of Nebraska football - - a job with the downside risk that the coach he chooses may not live up to the fans? and the coach/commentators? expectations.

 * * *

?The Day of the Dead?:

A Lesson in Mexican Culture


I think I now know as much as I need to know about an annual Mexican celebration known as ?Dia de los Muertos? or, in English, ?Day of the Dead.? 


Over the past four years, The World-Herald has had stories of varying length telling of the various ways in which members of the local Mexican community celebrate, in the words of one news story, ?the continuity of life by honoring dead people on their once-a-year return to Earth.?  (Actually a three-day celebration, ?Dia de los Muertos? is  officially November 2.)


We are told that ?some believe the souls of the departed return to Earth for one night to visit and partake in the food.?  But whether they return or not, the three-day event honors deceased family members.


This year?s coverage included a back-of-section 13-paragraph story with a color picture on October 26 and a 41-paragraph story with three color pictures October 31.  Both stories included considerable detail as to the various ways in which the event would be celebrated in Omaha. 


All in all, another interesting example of media coverage which should make Hispanics - - here legally or illegally - - feel welcome in our community.  I?m sure that I?m not the only one who feels that some reciprocity is in order; i.e., that Hispanics make an effort to become, in the case at hand, Mexican-Americans, not simply Mexicans living in America.  That they learn to speak English and celebrate the 4th of July as well as the much-publicized Cinco de Mayo or Dia de los Muertos.


The University of Nebraska at Omaha and Creighton University sponsored activities in connection with this year?s celebration of Dia de los Muertos.  I would hope that those two institutions are also finding ways to encourage persons of Mexican descent to learn about America?s melting pot tradition and think of themselves as Mexican-Americans, not Mexicans living in Hispanic enclaves in the United States.


Mexicans and other Hispanics should not expect to be truly welcomed here if they leave the impression that their primary allegiance continues to be to the country which they left rather than to the new country which offers them a better life.

* * *     

Take a Modern Sculpture

Home For Your Yard


A couple of thoughts occurred to me as I read about the controversy over where to relocate those ugly modern art ?Sounding Stones? sculptures which thankfully must make way for Mutual of Omaha?s splendid near-downtown residential and commercial development.


One possibility:  Drop them into the Missouri River, perhaps in the dark of night lest modern-art extremists seek to intervene. 


But might environmental protectionists object to this disturbance of the home of the pallid sturgeon?


More practical solution, I think, would be to ask the modern art aficionados to each accept one of the creations to display in their yards - - preferably their backyards, unless they live have neighbors who appreciate the ?Sounding Stones.?


Now before I?m accused of suggesting a blanket indictment of modern art, let me make clear that we have a handsome modern art sculpture in our yard.  It doesn?t convey any special message, but it is an attractive arrangement of metal spheres by well-known local sculpture Les Bruning.  It simply looks graceful and attractive, not like those ?Sounding Stones? sculptures which suggest to me something like giant inflated doughnuts or perhaps sections of thick-walled pipe. 

# # #

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