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This week we are again making my column available Friday instead of each Saturday as we had originally planned.
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 Friday reminder that a new column is available.
November 9, 2007
It probably didn’t do anything to change the minds of crybaby Nebraska Cornhusker football fans or the “why don’t they do what I tell them?” sports commentators. But I thought recent comments from several Husker players - - including a new fan favorite, quarterback Joe Ganz - - should have shut up those “get rid of the coaching staff right now” campaigners.
In response to increasing pressure for Coach Bill Callahan and defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove to either resign or be fired before the final two games of the season, Ganz said: “From a players’ standpoint, we don’t want Coach Callahan or any of these coaches to go, so I don’t think it would help us at all.”
That ought to be clear enough for even the know-it-all sports commentators and the most fanatic of fans to understand. To the extent that their “dump Callahan now” clamor distracts players and coaches from the job at hand, they may make it harder for the Huskers to beat the odds as they play Kansas State and Colorado.
Some other players made comments similar to those of Ganz. Senior safety Ben Eisenhart said: “Suddenly everybody is worried about who their coach is and not what they’re doing on Saturday. There’s definitely nothing to be gained from that.”
Senior wide receiver Maurice Purify put it this way: “It wouldn’t be good. No matter what happens to Coach Callahan, if it’s tomorrow or next year, we still have to play and win games. He’s our coach as of right now, so we’re looking to him, he’s staying positive, he’s keeping on coaching us and we’re playing for the man.”
‘Not the Greatest Fans in the World’
Not all fans, of course, are wailing that the Huskers and/or their coaches have embarrassed themselves, their fans and the state. There are also true fans, who stay with the team in defeat as well as in victory.
A friend who is a longtime Husker fan shared these sentiments with me: “Think about the coaches and players. They feel worse than we do. I don’t want to hear again that we have the greatest fans in the world. Maybe most of them are, but not the rest.”
Amen to that.
It’s one thing to make a rational appraisal of the situation and conclude that, as a fan, you’ve had enough and add your voice - - preferably not by shouting - - to those who think a coaching change is imperative. But, unfortunately, too many fan comments sink to this level:
“Cosgrove should have been fired at half time” of the KU game. And a World-Herald Public Pulse writer opined that Cosgrove should “silently move away in the middle of the night.”
Those Short KU Scoring ‘Marches’
There’s nothing to be said, of course, that will ease the sting of that 76-point record-breaking total rolled up by the Kansas Jayhawks. But a look at the game statistics is interesting.
The figures reveal, for one thing, that while the Husker defense had a very bad day indeed, the Husker offense contributed substantially to the speed with which the Jayhawks rolled up those 76 points. Five Husker turnovers - - four pass interceptions and a fumble - - helped lead to KU scoring five of its 11 touchdowns on “marches” averaging 31.6 yards. Overall, the average Nebraska touchdown drive covered 68.5 yards. The average Jayhawk scoring drive covered 48 yards.
A surprise in the statistics - - surprising to me, at least - - was the fact that the average Nebraska gain per play (6.6 yards) slightly exceeded the KU per play average (6.4 yards). But partly due to those five turnovers, KU had the ball for a little over 35 minutes and ran 90 plays, compared to Nebraska’s 73 plays in a little more than 24 minutes.
Tough Job for Tom Osborne
I wonder if former Husker Coach Tom Osborne, when he agreed to return to the campus as acting athletic director, realized how much fans would expect of him; i.e., finding a new coaching staff and eventually, a new athletic director - - leadership changes which, fans will expect, will return the Huskers to the ranks of the nation’s top football powers.
This longtime fan’s opinion (I went to my first Husker game in 1932): At best, the climb back up may be long and difficult, with no assurance that the Nebraska program will ultimately return to the stature it achieved during the Bob Devaney/Tom Osborne eras.
Journalism I: Don’t Confuse Opinions With Facts
Count this journalist among those many Americans - - the great majority, I believe - - who object when journalists who are supposed to be reporters state opinions as if they were incontrovertible facts. An example from a report/commentary on the NU-KU game:
“KU, despite never punting after its first possession, clearly went easy on the Huskers late or it may have reached 90 points.”
Maybe KU eased up, but the reporter doesn’t know that, so his assertion becomes “clearly” a matter of opinion stated as incontrovertible fact.
Stadium Capacity? As Many as You Can Squeeze In
There wasn’t anything to enjoy in the news media coverage of the Husker-Jayhawk game except, for me at least, this one amusing exception. A newspaper’s summary of records broken included these words: “The crowd of 51,910 was a record for a game at KU’s Memorial Stadium (capacity is 50,071).”
No, Mr. Sportswriter, KU stadium capacity isn’t 50,071. It is at least 51,910, the size of the crowd which you reported in attendance at last Saturday’s game.
* * *
Regular readers will know that I have expressed concern about the impact of stream-flow-diversion-for-irrigation on one of Nebraska’s natural treasures - - the Niobrara River.
Usually the impact is measured in terms of the number of additional permits which have been issued to allow irrigators to divert water from the Niobrara. Or perhaps in terms of stream flow as measured by various gauges along the river. But a recent contribution to The World-Herald’s “More Commentary” page tells the story of the alarming decline in the Niobrara’s flow in people terms - - easier to relate to than numbers of permits or stream flow gauge readings.
Tom Helligso, an Omaha real estate agent who has canoed an average of one trip a year down the Niobrara for the last 35 years, wrote: “Many of my trips to the Niobrara have been in late September. I must comment that the water depth this year was the lowest I’ve experienced.” He offered two examples:
Helligso finished with these words: “We have hundreds, if not thousands, of irrigation pumps already - - but only one Niobrara River Canyon.”
Before irrigation interests respond that providing water to irrigate crops or pastures for livestock ranks far ahead of canoeing in importance, I would point out that since 1991, one stretch of the Niobrara has been designated a “national scenic river” under legislation introduced in Congress by the late U.S. Sen. Jim Exon and an additional 28 miles of the lower Niobrara and Verdigre Creek are part of the “Missouri National Recreational River.”
Both the letter and the spirit of these Congressional designations are certainly violated if increased irrigation helps reduce river depth to the alarming levels encountered by Tom Helligso on his annual recreational canoeing visit in September.
* * *
The words vary from day to day, but the fundamentals don’t change: Marian every morning lets the three most lovable cocker spaniels in the world know that she’s coming to share a new day with them.
It starts with Marian descending the stairs on her way to open the two doors behind which the dogs are sleeping on their pillows in the breakfast room.
One morning it’s, “Good morning, my googooclusters,” repeated several times, of course. (Marian later explains to me that “GooGoo Cluster” is the name of a candy bar that she likes.)
The next morning may involve a singing greeting: “Baby cakes, you’re just the sweetest little baby cakes,” sung, of course, to the tune of “Baby Face.” Or to start another day: “Good morning, wild women of Prairie Avenue.”
When the doors are opened, the dogs respond, of course, by exuberantly leaping on their mistress, to be greeted by additional expressions of affection.
It’s a performance that neither Marian nor I nor the dogs ever tire of.
Any dog lovers out there who would like to share similar stories with other readers should feel free to use the comment section to tell me their story.
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