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NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Angst and Adulation of Bo Pelini

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Brett Baker
If you had told me prior to the 2011 season that Nebraska would rally from 21 points down in the second half against THE Ohio State University to beat the Buckeyes, I would have downed a celebratory shot, danced a jig and reached for my iPad. I'd need to use the Orbitz app to scout trip prices to Indianapolis for the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. Sadly, that's not what I did last Saturday night.
No, this win, while exhilarating, was not what one dreams of when envisioning victory. This was a depleted Buckeye squad that owned Nebraska for the better part of the game. Don't get me wrong, I respect the comeback as much as the next guy.
Those young men in scarlet and cream did themselves and their school proud, but let's be honest. The Cornhuskers should have rolled THAT Ohio State Unveristy football team. After a deep exhale and a few high tens following the game, I gathered my stuff from my buddy’s place and headed home with my daughter.
Before I got there, heck, before I got halfway to my doorstep, my Twitter feed started to fill with chatter about some kind of "moment" between the Huskers head coach Bo Pelini and Omaha World Herald reporter Dirk Chatelain.
Apparently, Bo had taken exception with Dirk's article from the day before. This was an article that was critical of both Taylor Martinez's play and of Pelini's handling of his sophomore quarterback.
Fellow Husker Locker contributor Brian Towle had sent the piece to me shortly after it was posted online and I'll be perfectly honest - I thought Dirk nailed it and I've said as much long before now. Evidently, Bo did not share that sentiment. Brian also said that "the gloves were off." Apparently, this is a sentiment that Bo shared.
As I began to piece together the events of that postgame press conference, I thought, “We should have seen this coming.” Nebraska fans should have seen it coming because personally, I think Bo was ready to pop before Saturday. During his brief meeting with the media on Thursday, he went out of his way to tell the assembled members of the press how little their work affected him or his players.

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Angst and Adulation of Bo Pelini

He went on to say that they neither read, watched, nor cared what was written or said about them. He said this in a manner as to belittle the people who were there to do their jobs. I recognized this behavior the moment I saw it.
Having covered San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich for more than a decade now, I'm more than familiar with the snide, back-handed manner in which a perfectionist and condescending genius can regard the media.
Popovich can be charming and playful during one session with the media, then dismissive and sarcastic the next. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps he does it because he can. When you are the biggest fish in the nation’s seventh-largest pond, you don't really have to worry about pleasing the media when you have brought four NBA championships home.
Spurs fans love him because he wins, so they don't need for the media to love him. The thing about San Antonio is that it's a softball media town. It's not Philadelphia, Chicago or New York.
There is no adversarial relationship with the press because sadly, most of them are fans more than they are journalists. What they also know is that to cross Popovich is to risk being shunned, mocked or cut out of the process more than they already are.
I see a lot of Gregg Popovich in Bo Pelini.
Over the past few days, a number of people have taken sides in the fallout of the Pelini & Chatelain brouhaha which is ridiculous, but to be expected. As I was sorting through the aftermath, I asked a friend of mine (a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist) for his take on Chatelain's piece.
Since he's not a Nebraska fan, I figured he'd be a fair barometer of where the piece really fell. He said that while it was critical, it was far from unfair.
To some Cornhusker loyalists, anything other than complete and total support of Pelini is nothing short of treason. Then are those that remember what The Nebraska Way used to mean. I know it's beyond reasonable to expect another coach to match the level of success established by Tom Osborne.
NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Angst and Adulation of Bo Pelini

However, I don't think it's beyond reasonable to expect the head coach of any University of Nebraska athletic team to carry themselves in a manner that honors Osborne and the way he has presented himself for the more than 40 years he's been associated with the University.
This is where Pelini fails. He says he doesn't care about what the media writes or says, but his actions betray his words. If he didn't care, then this wouldn't be an issue. He would have let Chatelain's article pass like a leaf blowing in the wind, but he does care, so when he says he doesn't, he's being disingenuous. Why? What's with the tough guy facade that's used to bully people who want nothing but a few minutes from him? Why not be honest? Why not be civil?
On the day before Dirk's article was published, Bo had the perfect opportunity to tell the media exactly what he thought - That he was, in fact, worried about what had been written and said in the days following the loss to Wisconsin, but he chose not to. In essence he lied, not only to the press, but to himself.
Unfortunately, he chose an inopportune moment to be honest. He, not Dirk, turned the buzz after the Ohio State game into a hot button topic for Husker Nation.
A man in charge of his feelings that had a grasp of the situation would have asked Dirk for a few words in private after the press conference, but Bo isn't in charge of his emotions. That much is obvious. His past is his past. The evidence is there.
Defend him all you like, but you know it to be true. If you or I behaved like he does in our place of employ, we would be out of a job in short order.
That being said, I do recognize that working in a newsroom, office building or a warehouse isn't anything like being the head football coach at a legendary football program. That doesn't excuse his sideline explosions, though.
Others like to justify Bo's behavior by saying it proves that he has his players’ backs. Tom Osborne had his players’ backs and he never ranted and raved. He did what he believed to be right and took the slings and arrows of the nation for his actions. I'm specifically referencing the Lawrence Phillips saga.
Pelini can't even begin to imagine the glare of that spotlight, yet Osborne handled that level of scrutiny with a grace and poise that few will ever possess. However, it's a grace that we can all strive for. Yes, even Bo Pelini.
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