James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bo Pelini, Edward Snowden, and the Calculation Problem

I'm making no predictions, but the worst week of University of Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini's career may become his turnaround.

He was on the hot seat:

  • On September 14, The Huskers blew a 21-3 lead and lost 41-21, the worst non-conference home loss since 1961.
  • This was after last season, where Nebraska was humiliated and gave up lots of yards and points in four losses.
  • Which itself was a sign of a lack of progress, and perhaps backsliding, since the 2009 season led by Ndamukong Suh.
Bo was on the hot seat because of this, and only this. The program didn't seem to be progressing.

Then Nebraska legend Tommie Frazier called him out, and his defensive staff, on Twitter. On Monday the 16th, Bo dismissed the criticism in a clumsily undiplomatic way.

Later that day, Deadspin posted a tape of Pelini from two years ago blasting Nebraska fans with lots of f-bombs, the worst suggesting they were "fair-weather" fans.

And that was unfair. As a columnist I read in the 1990's wrote, Husker fans have stuck with the program through "thick, and less thick."

Okay, they're spoiled. Without getting into his mind, that's probably what Pelini was thinking.

In any case, Husker fans may be spoiled, but they're not stupid.

When the story broke, half the national media said Pelini would be fired by the end of the year. The other half said Husker fans want to relive the past, namely the glory years of the mid-1990's.

Meanwhile, locally, the complaint was about the defense. The Frazier twitter "spat" and the "f--- the fans" tape were chalked up to Bo being Bo.

They were also aware enough that the person who leaked the conversation did something far worse than Pelini's rant: he or she was out to destroy the program by exposing a personal conversation.

Unlike Edward Snowden, forced into exile, this leaker won't be punished. The University is unlikely to expose him or her for this amateurish, spiteful, unprofessional act. I know I don't want to know the source; keeping him or her anonymous is the best chance of redemption.

The national media miscalculated on this. That's the problem with "bigness:"  They jump to conclusions about Nebraska and its fans. They said:

  • Husker fans unrealistically want national championships every year
  • They will feel betrayed by Pelini's comments
When the reality is:

  • Husker fans don't expect national championships anymore, but they do expect to be competitive with national powers.
  • They feel more betrayed by Pelini's coaching deficiencies than by his comments or demeanor.
The problem is, the national media made assumptions about local situations they didn't understand. They miscalculated. The good thing about it is that they don't control the local conversation about football.

But it's scary that there are so many, left and right, who do believe in "national" solutions to local problems. They have assumptions, make opinions about them, and turn them into policy.

However misguided the national sports media may be about Nebraska and Husker fans, at least they don't try to do that.









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