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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.
First, a reminder:
Attractive, hardbound copies of “Life With Marian”—a book which a good many readers have said they would be interested in owning—are still available for purchase (for $22.50) at The Bookworm in Countryside Village. If more convenient, you can now also send a check payable to Harold W. Andersen for $26.66 (includes tax and postage) and mail to me at P.O. Box 27347, Omaha, NE, 68127. A copy will be sent by return mail.
September 10, 2008
Let’s start with the most important subject—presidential intrusion into school classrooms. (Yes, Husker fans, even during the season, there are subjects more important than Husker football.)
Has there ever been a more ego-driven, “I’ve got the answer to everything” president? The latest example: Obama’s decision to broadcast a live televised presidential “pep talk” into schools across America.
The president’s theme was “preparing and succeeding in school” and challenging students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning.
The original announcement included “lesson plans” to accompany the speech. The plans, available online, originally recommended that students “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.”
The announcement of a presidential speech to be televised into the nation’s classrooms, coupled with the suggestion for “help the president” letters written by the students to themselves, created a predictable storm of criticism.
The “help the president” letters suggestion was quickly dropped from the proposed lesson plans. But the fact that it was there in the first place raised in some people’s minds a continuing question as to White House motives.
In any case, it seems to me that “Big Daddy” government is going too far when it projects a live-television presidential message—whatever the subject—into classrooms across the country.
Some school districts, to their credit, decided not to interrupt the school day for the talk.
Rather than televising a presidential “pep talk” to children in their schools, isn’t it more appropriate and productive if we concentrate on encouraging good teachers and encouraging parents not only to give occasional “pep talks” but also to express some firm admonitions when appropriate, all of this coupled with praise for performance by both teachers and children when merited?
I speak from experience. I’ll never forget what happened when I brought home a note from my third grade teacher saying that I was too often not paying attention and was failing to live up to my educational capabilities.
My mother responded with a memorable “pep talk,” including a very strongly-worded admonition about making the most of my capabilities and opportunities—a message which served me well during my educational years and all the years that followed.
My continuing feeling of gratitude embraces not only my mother, Grace Russell Andersen, but also Dorothy Edwards, my third grade teacher nearly 80 years ago at the long-since-replaced Florence Grade School at 31st and Tucker Streets in far-North Omaha.
* * *
If you are not interested either in Nebraska football or Tiger Woods’ performance in the Deutsche Bank Championship golf tournament last Monday, I suggest you excuse yourself and come back next week. But first you might want to take a look at the final item in today’s column. It deals with the “Ego Age,” and I tried to make it both perceptive and a bit amusing.
* * *
Let’s take a closer look at that 49-3 Nebraska victory over Florida Atlantic University in Lincoln in last Saturday’s season-opener.
I saw some different things than did at least some of the TV and print reporters/commentators who descended on Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
I was surprised (amazed?) by the fact that I had to look in the italicized statistics to learn that the hapless Florida Atlantic University Owls had rolled up a total of 358 yards against the Husker defense.
Four other Big 12 teams (Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas) also hosted “patsy” opening day foes—the kind that come to town prepared to take a sound licking in return for a significant (to them) slice of the gate receipts for a game in a major college stadium. The K-State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas visitors gained total yardage ranging from 211 to 291, compared to the 358 yards gained by the Cornhuskers’ season-opening patsy.
This made it all the more puzzling when I read this appraisal by one of the myriad of reporters/commentators covering the Husker game: “People are looking for the Blackshirts to carry this team, and they didn’t disappoint on opening night.”
The same commentator called the win over Florida Atlantic “one of the better starts in recent years” and referred to a tackle by Husker Ndamukong Suh as “an All-America play.” Another print commentator referred to the Huskers’ “swarming defense.”
You wonder whether some of the reporter/commentators were watching the same game as Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini was.
In his Tuesday press conference, Pelini said the Huskers defense played “soft” and Suh played “average.” Pelini said further:
“A lot of guys didn’t feel proud of the way they played.” The coach’s bottom line:
“We did not play defensively the way I expect them to play, period.”
If you consider punting as, in effect, part of the defense, there wasn’t anything to encourage the Huskers in this important category either. The average of three Husker punts was 32.3 yards. (I had to look that up in the statistics, too.)
The road ahead is a long one, both literally and figuratively. Remember that four of the games against what are likely to be among the Huskers’ strongest opponents are on the road. I’m speaking, of course, of Virginia Tech, Missouri, Baylor and Kansas.
I should add that one development Saturday may make the Huskers’ path a bit less difficult than it appeared before the season started.
Pre-season, one of the toughest tests for the Huskers appeared to be their visit to Virginia Tech September 19. But consider this paragraph from the Associated Press report of Virginia Tech’s 34-24 loss to Alabama in Atlanta last Saturday.
“Alabama held a staggering 498-155 edge in total yards against Virginia Tech’s touted defense.”
Too early, of course, to make any predictions with any feeling of confidence. But a combination of good coaching, strong team spirit and a plethora of talented underclassmen, including some red shirt freshmen, plus some very talented seniors—even that combination, given the schedule that lies ahead of the Huskers, makes me think that achieving something as good or better than last year’s 9-4 season record will be tough.
The Huskers may be a year away from being realistically favored to be champions of the Big 12 North Division. I hope, of course, that I’m wrong but I can’t forget those 358 yards given up by the Huskers to their season-opening patsy.
Now as to Florida Atlantic Coach Howard Schnellenberger. I don’t think a couple of one-sided whippings of a team coached by Schnellenberger make up for what Schnellenberger’s University of Miami Hurricanes did to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Orange Bowl the evening of January 2, 1984.
Schnellenberger’s fifth-ranked Hurricanes beat Tom Osborne’s top-ranked Cornhuskers 31-30 in what a “College Football’s Greatest” television network program last year described as one of “college football’s greatest upsets.” Osborne was praised for going for two points and a victory rather than calling for a placekick point after touchdown and settling for a 31-31 tie—a tie which probably would have given the Huskers the national championship.
So there is something of a measure of revenge in handing a Schnellenberger-coached team a 49-3 defeat in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln last Saturday evening. Just as there had been a measure of revenge in Osborne’s Huskers defeating the Schnellenberger-coached Oklahoma Sooners 39-0 in 1995.
But mention a Schnellenberger-coached team in a game against Nebraska, and I’ll wager that most Husker fans will continue to mention first that 31-30 upset which cost the Huskers the 1983 national championship.
* * *
NBC golf commentators were, predictably, gaga over Tiger Woods’ final round Monday in the Deutsche Bank Championship golf tournament in Norton, Mass.
Tiger was very near the end of the round when the broadcast began and he had indeed played a remarkable, comment-worthy front 9 and the first few holes of the back 9. He wound up with a 63, the same as two others had shot in earlier rounds.
There was a great deal of TV talk about what Tiger had almost done. Typical comment: “He had everyone talking about a potential 59” after a first-round 29. (He shot a front-nine 30, hardly the first time that has been done in tournament play.)
As the network televised some of Tiger’s earlier shots, we heard comments like this: “How pure is this putt and how close was it to a 29.” It seems to me that “a pure putt” goes in the hole.
Another comment, after the telecast had switched from replay to live play: “He hits a good putt, but he missed it. It was a fine putt.” I’ve never considered a putt was worthy of praise as a “fine putt” when it didn’t go in the hole.
Tiger’s 63 earned him a tie for eleventh, five shots short of Steve Stricker’s 17-under 267, a victory which allowed Stricker to replace Tiger at the top of the FedEx Cup standings.
Tiger Woods is a splendid golfer, of course, and shoots some remarkable rounds, especially when his putter is hot, as it so often is. But I like to see him beaten from time to time by a pro among those who grind it out on the tournament tour without picking the tournaments which they choose to play in, as Tiger so frequently does.
* * *
It has occurred to me that what is frequently called the “Information Age,” with its remarkable capability of electronic collection and transmission of virtually unlimited volumes of information, has a close relative—not necessarily a sibling or child but at least a first cousin.
I’ve decided to give the name “Ego Age” to this previously unnamed member of the “Information Age” family.
Evidence of the existence and continuing rapid expansion of the “Ego Age” is all around us, especially among young people. They expend incredible amounts of ego and time on such things as My Space and Facebook and first-person singular “texting” to people who then respond with first-person-singular electronic text messages.
This phenomenon might also be called the “I, Me, Mine Age” but “Ego Age” rolls more easily off the tongue, I believe. And remember, as this title catches on, you heard it first here.
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