“There is no place like Nebraska.”
I bet when Harry Pecha, University of Nebraska Class of 1924, penned those words decades ago he never thought that Nebraska football fans would boo their beloved Cornhusker football team in 2017.
At this writing, the Huskers are 2-2 on the gridiron, NU Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst is out of work, and $1.7 million richer, and Nebraskans are apparently falling victim to a sweeping national trend of incivility.
Pecha probably never would have envisioned national protests over the playing of the National Anthem at sporting events or the daily barrage of criticism of the President of the United States. After all, he wrote: “We’ll all stick together in all kinds of weather.” He wasn’t envisioning a world where we gripe about everything and especially about those who don’t look, act or think like us.
The mighty Huskers are the victims of a sense of entitlement, a society that is given to speak its mind – whether right or wrong – as long as everyone else agrees with the message. Heaven forbid those who don’t agree with that message. Yes, this Husker football team may not be the most talented bunch to take the field and the coach may be one of the nicest guys and worst coaches we have seen in a while.
But it is Husker football, the activity that occupies the collective mind of Nebraskans between sessions of the Legislature. In a world where we rant daily about politics, it just somehow seems OK to belittle a bunch of overpaid coaches and young men trying to play football.
There is a generation of Nebraskans who know nothing but success on the college football scene. Many have forgotten the Bill Jenning’s era of “three plays up the middle and punt” that ruled the day before Bob Devaney showed up in Lincoln in the 60s. Having a football team that goes to a post-season bowl game has been a given ever since 1962 when Nebraska went to New York’s Gotham Bowl and beat the Miami Hurricanes 36-34.
That’s what started it all. Yes, coaches have come and gone and Nebraska has had its share of conference and national championships and bowl game victories. The money has flowed freely into the coffers of the University of Nebraska Athletic Department.
But the success has brought its fair share of bad decisions. Most diehard Nebraska fans can rattle them off. Depending on the age of the complainant, it started with the firing of Frank Solich as coach, or the hiring of Steve Pederson as athletic director or the hiring of Bill Callahan as head coach or the firing of Bo Pelini as head coach or the hiring of Mike Riley as head coach.
The next round will come with the hiring of a new athletic director – there are some Nebraska natives with football awards and savvy who look promising – and/or the staying or leaving of the head football coach. And then there’s always the basketball coach and who knows what could happen if the volleyball team doesn’t finish in the Top 10. For that matter, can soccer be far behind?
Will the national turmoil ever settle down? Will Nebraskans ever return to civility “where the girls are the fairest and the boys are the squarest”? Will the booing stop?
Let’s try. Let’s do this for Harry Pecha.
Let’s “all stick together, in all kinds of weather.”
J.L. Schmidt has been covering Nebraska government and politics since 1979. He has been a registered independent for 18 years.