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Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
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"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
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.)
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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 24, 2008
Continuing with some weekly commentary on college football in general and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in particular, I start today with my views on the Husker performance in Blacksburg, Virginia last Saturday, then some Husker history and finally some political comment.
As to the happenings in Blacksburg last Saturday:
It was another of those weekends when you wonder whether some of the supposed expert commentators—the ones who get paid to be experts—had been watching the same Nebraska Cornhusker game as you had.
I am, of course, talking about the final two minutes of the Huskers’ 16-15 loss to Virginia Tech and the fact that so much of the print post-game coverage and commentary concentrated on the Husker defense allowing the Hokies to escape the “NU noose.”
Relatively little attention was given to the fact that repeated failures by the Huskers to score a touchdown when they were inside the so-called Red Zone were responsible for the Husker defense having to rescue the team from the offense’s having to settle for field goals five times when inside the 20-yard line. Three of those Red Zone incursions carried the Huskers as deep as first downs on the 10, the 6 and the 3 yard lines.
The 6-yard-line incursion resulted in a touchdown pass nullified by a holding penalty, a dropped touchdown pass and 40 yards of penalties which forced the Huskers out of even field goal range.
Yet post-game commentary focused on one very costly defensive breakdown—and this was the most surprising of all—an article criticizing Ndamukong Suh—who played a defensive tackle game that lived up to his future All-American prospects—for alleged indecision in the “moment” he confronted Virginia Tech quarterback Tyron Taylor before Taylor released the game-winning pass.
And why in the world single out Suh for what the commentator thinks was a game-losing mistake. (Remember, it was 3rd down. A sack or disrupted pass could have left the Hokies with a fourth-down opportunity to score.)
How about the two Huskers who made mistakes that cost the team a touchdown that could have assured victory even if the Hokies scored another touchdown? I refer to the dropped touchdown pass and the holding penalty which nullified a touchdown in the third quarter.
There was mention, too, of the Red Zone failures of the Huskers but you had to look hard for the details.
An Omaha television commentator said it about right, it seems to me. He said, with considerable emphasis, that lack of a scoring punch, not the defense, cost the Huskers what would have been a break-through victory against a higher-ranked team last Saturday.
Next some college more football history, largely Cornhusker, of course:
I made notes as I watched a “College Football’s Greatest” program on TV last fall, and recently I came across the notes in my “This might make a column some day” file. I decided “some day” has arrived, along with the college football season. The notes, with some added comments of special interest—I hope—to Nebraska Cornhusker fans.
I was pleased—but not surprised—that “College Football’s Greatest” included a number of Nebraska Cornhusker references.
The “greatest quarterbacks” included Nebraska’s Tommie Frazier, in the company of such other stars as Peyton Manning of Tennessee, Doug Flutie of Boston College, Roger Staubach of Navy, Charlie Ward of Florida State and Matt Leinart of USC.
Among “college football’s greatest wide receivers” was included, quite properly, Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers. Others included Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech’s 2008 squad, Anthony Carter of Michigan, Chris Carter of Ohio State, Keyshaun Johnson of USC, Fred Bilitnikoff of Florida State and Jerry Rice of Mississippi Valley State.
Among “college football’s greatest upsets” was Miami, an 11-point underdog, beating Nebraska 31-30 in the Orange Bowl after the 1983 season. Husker Coach Tom Osborne was depicted answering the question as to why he went for two after-touchdown points rather than one when one would have produced a tie and presumably the national championship. Osborne said, in effect, that he thought the way to win a championship was to win it with a victory. A class decision by a class coach.
Among the “greatest coaches”: Knute Rockne of Notre Dame, described as perhaps the greatest of all; Paul (Bear) Bryant of Texas A&M and Alabama, whose record included five national championships; Eddie Robinson of Grambling State; Joe Paterno of Penn State and Tom Osborne.
Osborne was described as having “put Nebraska football on the map.” (See my response at the end of the column.) The commentator pointed out that Osborne’s record included three national championships, top 15 finishes in 24 of his 25 years as coach and more academic All Americans than any other coach.
Among “greatest plays” was Husker Tommie Frazier’s 70-some-yard run against Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. The announcer said Frazier broke seven tackles.
Red Grange of Illinois was described as possibly the greatest running back ever. (It’s interesting to recall that after losing to Illinois in 1923 and 1924, in the season-opener at Illinois in Grange’s senior year in 1925, Nebraska beat Illinois 14-0, and Grange wound up with a minus 40 yards rushing. The legendary Ed Weir of Superior, Nebraska, the great Cornhusker tackle, was the star of the day.)
As to the broadcast’s description of Tom Osborne as “having put Nebraska football on the map,” I am sure that Tom would agree that the Cornhuskers were “on the map” before Osborne took over the head coaching job in 1973.
Osborne’s immediate predecessor, Bob Devaney, won back-to-back national championships in 1970 and 1971, and Devaney-coached teams won eight Big Eight conference championships.
And the Cornhusker football tradition goes back to long before the Devaney-Osborne era—back to, for example, the 1920s and 30s and early 40s with coaches like Dana X. Bible whose teams won six Big Six conference titles in eight seasons in 1929-36 and Col. Lawrence McCenny (Biff) Jones, whose teams won two Big Six championships in five years and twice beat both Minnesota and Pittsburgh, two national powers who had dominated the Huskers for years.
And there were the 1902 and 1903 teams coached by W. C. (Bummy) Booth. Booth, a graduate of Princeton, directed the 1902 team to a 9-0 season during which opponents including Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas and Northwestern failed to score a point. Booth’s 1903 team also was unbeaten, against the same caliber of opposition. Ten opponents scored a total of 17 points.
But the Cornhusker coach with the best winning percentage of all was Ewald O. (Jumbo) Stiehm, a Wisconsin graduate whose Cornhusker teams went 35-2-3 for a .913 winning percentage in five seasons in 1911-15. His 1913-15 teams won a total of 23 games, lost none and tied one. Stiehm moved on to Indiana University after UNL administrators refused to increase his salary to $4,250 a year.
* * *
The smooth-talking presidential candidate has turned into something less than the just-the-right-words communicator when he speaks from the “bully pulpit” in the White House.
The most egregious example, without question, was President Obama’s charge that the Cambridge, Massachusetts police department (for which read Sgt. James Crowley) had “acted stupidly” in arresting a black Harvard University professor for “disorderly conduct.” He apologized, sort of, the next day, then kept the story going much longer than necessary by inviting the police officer and the Harvard professor for a beer at the White House.
Then there were the comments about Senate confirmation of his choice of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. It seems to me it was clearly the time for him simply to say that Judge Sotomayor had proved her capability as a prosecutor and a Court of Appeals judge and the Senate had concluded that she would serve capably on the Supreme Court and he was sure this would prove to be the case.
Instead Obama played up the “first-Hispanic-ever” angle, speaking of “breaking yet another barrier” thus, in effect, feeding the public feeling that she got the job, at least in part if not primarily, because she is a female Hispanic and there are a lot of Hispanic votes out there.
There was also the case of Obama’s rhetorical overreaction to the fact that his health care overhaul legislation was approved by a congressional committee. He referred to “this historic step.” It was, after all, only committee approval of a matter that faces further controversy on the House floor and certain opposition in the Senate.
The president also referred to the 31-28 committee vote as an “historic consensus” which creates an “unprecedented opportunity for the future of our economy and in the health of our families.”
I believe that to call a controversial 31-28 committee vote an “historic consensus” was an exaggeration not likely to enhance the president’s credibility.
* * *
The timing could not have been worse for the trillion-dollar (some estimates say the cost would go to $1.5 trillion) public health care plan which President Obama and liberal allies are attempting to sell to the American public and a somewhat skeptical Congress:
As USA Today reported the story, “the state that pioneered health care for all is about to take another leap into the unknown: paying for it.”
The story went on to report that three years after mandating that residents get health insurance and requiring employers, insurers and taxpayers chip in, “Massachusetts has yet to control soaring costs that are eating up half its budget.
“So it is considering an equally radical idea: Changing the way doctors and hospitals are paid to reward results.”
The USA Today story said that the Massachusetts experience offers a lesson in how to bring health care out in stages, an approach rejected by the Obama administration, “which is intent on addressing coverage, cost and quality all at once.”
Higher health care costs which resulted from the “insurance-for-everybody” Massachusetts plan fueled a combined $9 billion gap in the state’s 2009 and 2010 budgets “that had to be closed last month, leaving less for education, public safety, the environment and other services,” according to the USA Today report.
“Quality has been an issue, too. Because more people have insurance, some doctors and safety-net hospitals are overwhelmed. A study by the non-partisan Urban Institute found 1 in 5 adults in the state had been turned away by a doctor’s office or clinic.”
There would seem to me to be a message in there somewhere for the residents of the 49 other American states. (I’m assuming that the residents of Massachusetts have already learned the lesson well.)
* * *
Lately, I’ve taken to quoting old sayings which include wisdom which has stood the test of time. For example: A leader should look back from time to time to see if anybody’s following you or, at least, to see if your following is increasing or diminishing. Other examples which seem to me to apply to our in-office-eight-months president:
Look before you leap.
Haste makes waste.
Pride goeth before a fall.
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