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January 7, 2010
Let’s start today with some heavier news, then switch to some football commentary, including the Big Red variety. Isn’t that the duty of a Nebraska-based media commentator these days?
First, the unnecessarily unhappy story of the way Big Daddy government has again screwed up federal home ownership policy.
When the liberal New York Times makes a federal government failure its lead front-page story, you know there has been a major mistake. The headline read:
“U.S. Loan Effort Is Seen As Adding To Housing Woes” The subhead read: “Little Permanent Help.”
If you’re thinking that we have been here before and that too-liberal mortgage lending policies, encouraged by the federal government were the mistake that led to the present economic recession, you’re absolutely right. And here we go again, apparently, as described in The Times story:
“The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.
“…Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.”
Perhaps this time the potentially disastrous mistake will have become evident early enough to avoid anything approaching the economic disaster which the same basic policy ignited in 2008. But the chance of economic common sense trumping welfare state do-goodism is never a safe bet.
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Still on the serious side of the news:
I believe State Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine is talking good sense when she suggests that this year’s 60-day session of the Nebraska legislature, held in an election year, is not the best time to decide long-term street and highway financing policy.
Fischer, chairman of the Legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, says this session can be used to further define the problem and discuss the options. This in the face of suggestions that the Legislature increase the state gasoline tax five cents a gallon or put together a highway improvement program financed by borrowing money backed by bonds.
None of the news stories which I have seen answer the obvious question of what specific tax increases would be necessary to finance the bonds or the additional question of how much the bond approach would cost in terms of interest on the bonds.
There is a good deal of talk about the importance of finishing what is referred to as the state’s “expressway system,” a network of four-lane divided limited access highways. We are told that there are 174 miles of unfinished expressway in the 600-mile “system.” Where are these 174 miles? What is the population of the cities that would be served? And, most important of all, what is the estimated traffic volume that these four-lane highways would serve?
Incidentally but importantly, the expressway system was created by the Legislature in 1988, not proposed by the State Highway Department as an essential part of the state highway system.
* * *
Speaking of things it would be interesting to know more about:
What is the current financial performance of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Mavericks hockey program? How do revenues and costs compare?
In the program’s early years, when the Mavericks played to capacity crowds in a smaller arena in the Civic Auditorium, we were told, with a certain degree of understandable UNO pride, that the program one year made close to $1 million, a profit which helped finance money-losing Maverick sports. Then the program moved to the larger Qwest Center arena, where costs are higher and crowds not proportionately larger if as large.
The last story I remember reading about Maverick hockey finances as played in the Qwest Center was that in the previous year Maverick hockey had just about broken even financially.
Since then, crowd sizes have been unimpressive, and the UNO athletic program has taken on some presumably increased salary costs. Deposed head coach Mike Kemp was retained as “associate athletic director.” And a new head coach was hired at a salary based on his reputation for coaching national championship-caliber teams. The new head coach, incidentally, took a leave of absence to coach a national team but we were told he would return in early January.
A detailed report of UNO Maverick Athletic Department finances, not just the hockey program numbers, seems to me to be clearly in order.
Closing thought: A local sports commentator has persistently suggested that UNO should be making plans for its own hockey arena. The question of financing is another matter, of course. But I wonder if anyone connected with the UNO athletic program, including new Athletic Director Trev Alberts, has considered this fact:
Hockey and beer drinking go together (so do basketball and beer drinking, as testified to by the size of the crowds that watch the Creighton Bluejays play in the Qwest Center arena).
The only suggestions I have seen as to a site for a UNO hockey arena focus on the former Chili Greens golf course south across Center Street from the UNO campus. University of Nebraska policy is that beer not be sold on university property, and the proposed UNO hockey arena site would is on university property acquired for possible UNO campus expansion.
* * *
Let’s turn to a Nebraska collegiate sport which makes money—in fact it underwrites all the rest of the school’s athletic teams—a team which includes Nebraskans, in contrast to the UNO Maverick hockey roster, and doesn’t allow drinking in the same arena where games are played—an arena which has been sold out for more than 300 consecutive games.
I’m talking, obviously, about the University of Nebraska Cornhusker football team, which has just finished a season (10-4) on the most upbeat note in nine years.
So upbeat (a 33-0 blowout of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl following a 1-point last-second loss to No. 2-ranked Texas for the Big 12 championship) that fans and sports commentators (who should know better) have been talking optimistically about even greater things in 2010.
Initial reaction by some print and broadcast commentators was positively giddy as they looked to 2010—without, to this day, giving an adequate detailed explanation of the intricacies, advantages and disadvantages and 2010 prospects of the “Wildcat” offense which the Huskers successfully unveiled in the final game of the season.
Headline writers entered in enthusiastically, as in: “Husker steamroller a scary sight for Big 12.” One commentator referred to the Huskers as “the favorite to repeat as Big 12 North champion and be one second better in the conference championship game in 2010.”
Being “one second better” would, of course, mean the Huskers would win the 2010 conference championship.
A few days later, the same columnist seemed to temper his optimism on the one hand while raising an even more optimistic possibility on the other.
This time he wrote that the Holiday Bowl game indicated that the Husker offense “might” be catching up with the defense—a defense which, incidentally, loses half of its starters this year. (Another columnist’s comments the same day appeared under this headline: “Can Blackshirts keep backbone?”) There was also the comment that the Huskers “look like” potential Big 12 favorites. A few days earlier there was a flat prediction that they will be favorites to be Big 12 champions.
But after this note of cautious optimism rather than outright championship predictions, there was the commentator’s suggestion that at the end of the regular season Husker fans might be hearing “the other two words mentioned.”
I assume we are supposed to figure out that the commentator’s “other two words” are “national champions.”
I know that nobody is perfect, but I’m still hoping for a flawless big-game coverage performance by print or broadcast media. In the case of the print media, that won’t happen until a cameraman or two is sent up to the television-camera level to take some overhead shots which put a play in much better perspective than do sideline shots.
So many of the sideline shots look like every other sideline shot. And without good captions—which are frequently lacking—you don’t know whether the typical three-player-struggle (one ball carrier, two tacklers) was for a gain or a loss or how it figured in the flow of the game.
But while I continue to hope for improvement (including better writing, as in not substituting “he’s” for “he has”) let me give you the worst examples of any sports commentator performance which I heard during the multitude of bowl games.
The worst was clearly the performance by Fox commentators during the Florida thrashing of Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl. The commentators left you with the impression that if it had been within their power, the game would have ended with the canonization of both Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Coach Urban Meyer.
Tebow had a record-breaking day against a totally outmatched Cincinnati team. Nothing that happened that day—or during the totality of his college career—justified, as I see it, this kind of language from a Fox commentator: “One of the greatest if not the greatest players in the history of college football.”
And this language in regard to Urban Meyer: “Certainly one of the best coaches of all time.”
And this appraisal of what Florida football became during Meyers five years as coach and Tebow’s four years as quarterback: One of the “all-time great college football dynasties.”
To me, one of the great college coaches of all time would have shown better character, a bit of compassion, in the closing seconds of the 51-24 Cotton Bowl victory over Cincinnati.
With 31 seconds left, a better person than Urban Meyer (who didn’t gain stature by reversing his “I’m quitting” decision in 24 hours) would have told his quarterback to “take a knee.” Instead, Meyer either directed or allowed his quarterback to try for another touchdown with a score of 51-24 in favor of his team.
I have seen more than one example of a coach showing the decency of ordering his quarterback to take a knee in the closing seconds of a game in which his team’s victory was decisively assured.
As to Coach Meyer and Quarterback Tebow in the past five years having helped establish or continue to build one of the “all-time great football dynasties” at Florida:
You don’t build a dynasty in four or five years.
The “Florida Gator football” website says the Gators have played intercollegiate football since 1906 and have compiled a record including:
--3 national championships. (Nebraska: 5)
--8 conference titles. (Nebraska: 43 in the same 1906-2009 time period.)
--27 consensus All-Americans. (Nebraska: 43.)
--654 victories. (Nebraska: 740 in the same period.)
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